Petite, Powerful, Persistent
If you are looking for a present-day role model for the climate crisis, true Pinay beauty, and Boholana Jammy Ungab comes to mind. She is the founder of Plastic Free Bohol and the creator of Marikit Swimwear, a crocheted bikini line that she makes by hand. Some of her friends lovingly call her the “Princess of Bohol” not only because of her commanding presence but also because of her relentless efforts to advocate for cleaner seas and more sustainable life choices. In this article, we share some of Jammy’s insights on being a full-time ocean warrior.
It wasn’t always a life of veganism, organic cotton outfits, monthly beach cleanups, and going zero-waste for Jammy. For 7 years, she was an 8-to-5 “corporate slave” to an online marketing company. Hungry for a more fulfilling way to live, she quit her job and devoted her time to travel. The more time she spent with nature, the more she felt compelled to protect it. “When I returned to Bohol in 2015, I saw how bad waste management was in our province. It was upsetting; it broke my heart,” Jammy laments. “No one was taking care of Bohol’s beautiful beaches, the pride of our island. There were no groups or organizations that campaigned against plastic at that time.” Jammy started reading a lot of articles and watching documentaries on how to solve the mounting plastic pollution problem. She devoured all the material that she could get her hands on to equip herself for her new mission. “So with some knowledge and confidence, I started Plastic Free Bohol last April 2016 to raise awareness about plastic pollution in Bohol,” shares Jammy.
Patience vs. Plastics The life of an eco-warrior is rife with hardship, which is the opposite of what Jammy’s personal Instagram feed exhibits. Although almost always seen as enjoying the island life in a bikini made from recycled plastic and discarded fish nets, Jammy has had to deal with organizational hurdles and harsh critics. But if there’s one thing you must know about this “Darling of the Orient” it’s that it will take more than confused haters and red tape to faze her. “I think the biggest challenge [to campaigning for a plastic-free Bohol] is changing people’s mindsets and behavior. I’ve learned that you really can’t change someone unless they willingly change themselves,” Jammy explains. “You have to be patient and consistent especially in educating [the people who are not yet aware of the plastic problem,]” she adds.
Jammy has been determined to help people acquire a better perspective through two crucial channels: first, she works directly with the local government units by attending meetings, conferences, and planning sessions to exert her influence over the province’s officials; second, she also uses her personal voice on social media to inspire more people to “wake up.” Success stories Despite the stumbling blocks she’s had to overcome in the last 3 years, Jammy’s light has only started to shine brighter. Her efforts have resulted in many success stories across Bohol. “[Ever since Plastic Free Bohol started], I’ve proudly witnessed how plastic bags and other single-use items are now banned from several municipalities in Bohol, including Panglao, my hometown. Recently, 72 resorts and hotels in Panglao have pledged to reduce their plastic consumption by avoiding single-use packaging like plastic bottles, shampoo and conditioner sachets, plastic bags and the like,” Jammy recounts with pride. “It made me really happy because it meant that our hard work was paying off.” Meanwhile, other beach towns and provinces in the Philippines are now following Plastic Free Bohol’s organizational model.
Dealing with ‘eco-anxiety’ Jammy also acknowledges that devoting her work to averting the plastic pollution problem in her hometown has been exhausting. Many environmental warriors today suffer from “eco-anxiety,” or a real sense of helplessness amidst the growing climate emergency. However, Jammy always looks at the bright side and she considers the success stories that have sparked because of her organization. “I try to stay positive but sometimes [the pressure] really gets to me so I spend a day or more with nature to get myself together and to remind myself that nature and our future are worth fighting for.” After all, it was trips to nature that first inspired her to blaze the trail for a better Bohol.
And so, to nature, she returns, whether it’s through hikes to beautiful summits or through surf trips to lesser-known spots in the country. “Get offline to recharge,” Jammy adds. “Rest is important because this fight can get really disappointing, exhausting, and stressful. But you have to keep going and not give up.” So we must not stop believing that we can spur the behavior and policy changes we need in our own towns and coastal communities. If Jammy can do it, so can we. It’ll take patience and consistency and as long as we take note of the success stories-- big or small-- along the way, we can spin a new cycle of change. Take it from the Princess herself! Follow Jammy on Instagram (@darlingoftheorient) to know more about Plastic Free Bohol and the many creative ways she acts on her advocacies!