Be it art upcycled art installations, nature photography, or slow fashion, a new crop of creatives are pushing for sustainability and environmental awareness through their craft. This inspiring behavior among young Filipinos comes as no surprise. A 2018 study by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. showed that Generation Z (Gen Zs) in the Philippines, compared to their Southeast Asian counterparts, ranked environmental concerns as their top passion.
As we celebrate Earth Day, let us take a look at five young Filipino minds who dabble in the social design and environmental conservation efforts to inspire us on how we can give back to communities and the planet through creative expression and passion.
Issa Barte, 24, is a digital artist and climate activist who uses storytelling to fuel both her work in the arts and non-profit projects on environmental conservation. This development studies graduate from De La Salle University founded For the Future, a youth-oriented non-government organization that promotes change for a better tomorrow with projects on reforestation, typhoon relief, and providing aid to communities in far-flung areas.
Last year, she partnered with European eco-friendly beauty brand Bioten and Filipino artist Nadine Lustre to pledge support in growing 88,000 trees at Sitio Yangil located at Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales. Barte also gave a TEDtalk on “Resiliency and the Filipino Spirit” that emphasizes why stories matter and how these can make a difference.
Bricx Martillo Dumas
Bricx Martillo Dumas is a visual artist who uses digital art and non-fungible tokens (NFT) as a medium to promote sustainability and environmental awareness. In 2021, this 31-year-old artist won first place in the global DigitalArt4Climate competition at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland. Beating 207 other entries from 57 countries, his artwork “Nexus” shows a hand holding a blue-colored drink in a plastic bag with a straw and a cigarette whose smoke evaporates into tiny leaves.
Hailing from Leyte, Dumas draws inspiration from art styles like surrealism and fauvism, employing vibrant colors and emotional intensity in both traditional and digital artworks. Passionate about Filipino culture and youth education, he uses his talent to raise awareness for climate change through the digital space.
Fashion is not all glitz and glamor. It can be a medium for promoting sustainable practices, and this is what Jann Bungcaras, an emerging Cebu-based slow fashion designer, has been doing over the years. This Gen-Z designer has a namesake genderless sustainable fashion brand that uses various narratives to promote slow-fashion and custom pieces that are handmade from textile waste.
Bungcaras does not practice mass production, making his garments both ethical and personal. His ready-to-wear products are limited to the recycled materials available, and he is hands-on in every step of the production. For his “Adam’s Dominion” collection, Bungcaras became a semi-finalist of the Redress Design Award 2020 and the People's Choice winner of the 2020 Redress Design Award, the world’s biggest sustainable fashion competition. His brand is also the first Filipino brand chosen to showcase its collection at the prestigious DON’T WALK show where the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton once took part.
Leeroy New is the definition of a multidisciplinary artist. He is an outspoken sculptor, street artist, fashion designer, production manager, theater artist, and jeweler, among everything else. Known internationally for his contemporary public art, he weaves in sustainability in his production design by turning discarded waste into eye-popping and, often, colossal art installations.
Among the recent installations of this millennial artist is the FLOTILLA, which are vessels made from assorted discarded plastic containers and PET bottles, for the 2022 Sydney Biennale; and ANITO, which he describes as a “manifested spirit of the surrounding natural environment taking the form of a tentacled bamboo and plastic hybrid,” as part of the 2021 Busan Sea Art Festival. He also did Mebuyan’s Colony at the Arete Ateneo, the creative hub of Ateneo de Manila University.
Jose Gabriel "Gab" Mejia
Gab Mejia is a Filipino conservation photographer, environmental storyteller, and engineer. He is a National Geographic Explorer and an Emerging Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers that covers stories on the climate crisis, endangered wildlife, travel, and the intersectionality of nature and culture. This Gen Z lensman became popular for capturing the struggle between development and conservation. He is the first Filipino to receive the President’s Youth Award of the World Wildlife Fund.
With his environmental advocacy, Gab continues to capture photos of nature and wildlife to promote conservation efforts across the globe. His numerous stories have been published in National Geographic, CNN, Nikon, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other local and international media platforms.