Communing with Nature in the open fields
Syner-G means Synergy
Chit U. Juan (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — Our 11-year-old baby ECHOstore is happy to announce that we have officially begun managing the stores of the late Gina Lopez called G STUFF at Rockwell Power Plant Mall in Makati and in Alabang Town Center.

Native delicacies in Tublay

Gina used to be our customer at ECHOstore Serendra when we first started in 2008 and would come all the way from Quezon City to grab a thing or two. On one occasion she told us in typical Gina fashion, “Throw out that microwave oven!” and we did.

Gina Lopez and Jeannie Javelosa join other women in raising their hands to the biggest tree in the area

Gina had always been an inspiration to the ECHOstore owners (we call ourselves the ECHOtrio) and just last year she called us for a meeting at Rockwell’s Chef Jessie restaurant to introduce who would be other mentors for her “I Love Foundation”– a foundation that worked with village economies and loving organizations, a.k.a. partners. You can figure out how the acronym “I Love” was concocted Loving Organizations in Village Economies. And we, the ECHOtrio, pledged to adopt two communities – Tublay, Benguet and Busikong Multi Purpose Cooperative in Upi, Maguindanao. We went to these places with Gina (by chopper, by plane and by land) in 2018 and in 2019 and we started our work training the community in food preparation, coffee and weaving. Upi then was adopted also by Go Negosyo and to Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar’s credit, Go Negosyo did a lot for Upi under Gina’s guidance, too.

Lopez and the ECHOtrio with community leaders in Tublay

To Tublay we went together and went to the tourist spots, hugging the largest tree, scaling mountains to view waterfalls where I saw Gina rappel her way down, which I could not do – but she did. The idea was to make the place an eco-tourism destination, training tour guides, training the community women to cook local produce into new menu offerings and discovering tourist-worthy locations like waterfalls, caves and other natural scenes worthy of a trek and a new walkable tour.

Along the way, Gina would also check where the mentors (that’s us) and the community could work together. We, as the ECHOsi FOUndation, started to rediscover Tublay’s weaving masters and have put them to work to continue their weaving traditions and upgrade the weaves to being commercially viable. I was also tasked to give my thoughts on Tublay’s coffee, so we trekked to coffee farms and saw the potential as organic highland coffee. Reena Francisco, our resident foodie, taught the women how to make pickles, salad and bread from their seasonal vegetables. Tublay is now a work in progress to become an organic source of food, a source of weaves and an eco-tourism destination.

Her G Stuff stores were stocked with virgin coconut oil (VCO) products from the community in Palawan, and she had her lines of aromatherapy and more similar to ECHOstore but not exactly the same. So now, we have a constant supply of VCO from Brooke’s Point, a facility she established and planned to replicate in other parts of the country.

Under a centuries-old tree is balm to the soul

When Gina passed, we had a meeting with her family and checked if we could help manage the stores to continue promoting Gina’s legacy projects. It was not a hard decision for us to make – after all, we (Gina and the ECHOtrio) have always been aligned in our mission.

Gina has touched many communities even before the Quest for Love project started. These have products which can find their way to G Stuff retail stores and now also to ours. Further, as the communities share the same challenges of market access, lack of training and access to equipment like weaving looms, we now have taken on the task of talking to the other partners like local government units (LGUs) and loving organizations (LOs) to continue Gina’s dreams and plans for places like Tublay. This is a community that has been so receptive to change and improvements that helping them comes easy to all of us – the University of Cordilleras as LO and ECHOstore’s founders as mentors. That’s the formula: community+LO+Mentors = a successful sustainable community built on eco-tourism, organic agriculture and sustainable livelihoods.

Last month, the ECHOtrio again went to Chef Jessie at Rockwell, just over a year since Gina called us to the same venue, and this time it was to seal the partnership with her brand G Stuff represented by Susan Afan and Josine Reyes of the non-profits who have since handled her business affairs.

So now we will merge our products in all our stores, G Stuff and ECHOstore, we will promote and continue to develop products from our communities, health and wellness favorites and other popular items we have both developed. ECHOstore will now be present in Rockwell and Alabang via G Stuff and Gina’s favorites will be stocked in our ECHOstore branches, initially in the Metro Manila area and online www.echostore.ph.

It’s a wonderful and exciting union of like-minded souls which we hope to share with all our customers and friends. It is also a continuation of her legacy and our pledge to keep moving these communities towards sustainability.

It has not been long since she left, but we know she is smiling knowing we, in our small way as retailers and foodies, will help keep her memory alive.

SYNER-G MEANS SYNERGY SYNERGY
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