Stand Up for good
BIANCA ESPINOSA / 45YRS OLD
Owner of Galatea Tours Siargao, specializing in island hopping and SUP tours
Occupation: Tour operator and guide; Marine Biologist in a past life
First traveled to Siargao: 2011
Permanently moved to Siargao: 2016
Residing in: General Luna
Favorite island activity: Stand Up Paddleboarding and snorkeling
Business/Designation: Owner of Galatea Tours Siargao, specializing in island hopping and SUP tours
Interview and artwork by Jof Sering
Stand Up For Good, a project initiated by friends and SUP (Stand Up Paddle) Tour business partners Bianca Espinosa and Tala Tuparan, organizes a number of programs for the benefit of the island’s local communities. One of the highlights is a campaign to educate local women on reusable menstrual pads and to help them make the switch. (bye bye sanitary pads that take a forever to decompose). Here, Bianca tells us more about the project.
Felice: Congrats for your work on the island, Bianca! Could you tell us why you started this project?
Bianca: Tala and I had planned to launch this project during the Earth Day celebration with WWF (World Wildlife Fund) April of this year. The event was cancelled due to the lockdown but we thought there was no reason to cancel the reusable menstrual pad project too. In fact, we felt there was more reason to pursue it, since the need to survive and acquire sustainable habits during this crisis became absolute necessities.
F: What was your AHA! or light bulb moment of this project between you and Tala?
B: This idea came to be when Tala, my friend and business partner, opened up Paraiso Refillables in General Luna. It’s a small refilling station that covers beauty and home products. When she started looking for products that would reduce waste, she came upon the reusable pads. We both started using them and were so happy at how quickly we reduced our waste that we wanted to encourage others to switch too.
F: How does the menstrual pad project work?
B: The program is in its early stages. We’re informal about it for now, since we cannot organize ourselves officially due to COVID-19 restrictions. I visit Mam-on Island quite often because I bring tourists there for island hopping. I see the potential of the island for tourism and would hate to see it overrun with garbage from tourism-related activities. In my own little way I want to help the islanders conserve the beauty of the island. This project is just one way I can help. And because I have become friends with the caretaker Elsie and her family, they have become my connection to the community. Mam-on Island is a small barrio, with about 50 families only. It was easy for Elsie to gather the women. We showed them the pads, explained how to use them and enumerated the benefits of switching to these reusable pads. It didn’t take much to convince them that switching to reusable pads was a good thing. Some of them have already been using cloth napkins in the past, so it didn’t take much to convince them that the switch was a good thing especially in terms of saving money.
With reusable pads, they don’t need to spend money buying disposable sanitary pads. We’re aiming to provide a set to all the women in the island. So far we’ve distributed a set of three pads to 46 women, thanks to donations from our friends. The pads themselves don’t cost much, but the impact they have on the environment is a hundredfold! Hopefully this little project will help continue changing the mindset in reducing single-use plastic in various ways.
F: Who are the women that you wanted to reach out to?
B: We wanted to reach out to the women in smaller islands first. Mam-on island is a community of 60 families. Given our limitations during the quarantine, it was a good way to see how the women would react to the project. It turned out well because the project was well-received.
F: Why do you think it’s important to switch to reusable napkins and what kind of impact would it have on these island barangays?
B: For obvious reasons it’s a way to reduce the waste produced in places that don’t always have proper facilities to dispose of sanitary products. And it’s an important part of alleviating poverty. Why spend 5 pesos on a disposable napkin when you can put that money towards savings for fixing your house or sending your child to school? Last but not least it uplifts the overall health and wellbeing of these women in the most basic way.
F: How did the women react to the project?
B: They understood immediately how switching to reusable pads would benefit them and their families.
F: How were you able to gather them and explain in a manner that would connect to their mindset?
B: I have a connection to some women in the community, who helped me gather the other women. But to be honest it didn’t take much effort because they really saw how helpful this one object would be in their lives. For them, it’s big savings because they don’t have to buy disposable pads anymore.
F: How many reusable napkins in a day would one normally would have to use?
B: Personally I use five pads. We gave away three pads each to about 25 women because that’s all the supply we could find at that time. Some women wanted to be able to buy more for themselves, but supply has been limited due to the lockdown.
F: What are the pads made of? Like the material, why did you chose these certain pads?
B: They are made of highly absorbent material that’s quite comfortable. And very easy to wash as well. It would be ideal to produce the pads in Siargao so they are accessible to more women. ATElier by Nature Kids of Siargao, another NGO on the island, is currently in product development with the reusable pads.
F: What would you like to happen with this project in the future?
B: Because we could only purchase limited pads, there were some women who were not able to receive their share. And with production stopped due to the lockdown, we are still looking for more pads to purchase. And we have more women who would like to donate if given the chance. But the larger objective would be to expand the project to the other island communities; to be able to produce the pads locally in Siargao to give livelihood to local sewers; to promote the switch to more women; to make people be more conscious about their “disposable lifestyle”, and hopefully change habits for the good of our environment and our own well-being.