Filipino social activist is turning PH into donor country

Later this month, a youngish Filipino visionary joins a 100-day voyage to 24 countries, hoping to spread the word about how easy it is to end energy poverty.

Illac Diaz is founder and head of Liter of Light, a non-government organization that has been donating mostly solar lights to hundreds of depressed communities, not only throughout the Philippines, but worldwide.

Impressive? You bet.

I had only a vague idea of who Illac Diaz was. I thought he was some kind of show biz celebrity, and I was partially right. In his younger days, he did some modeling, but was also a star track athlete during his college and post-college years.

He finished college in Ateneo de Manila, then headed for the Asian Institute of Management to earn his master’s degree. Then he proceeded to Harvard and MIT where he finished his studies, before heading home to the Philippines.

Now a guy with this background is a cinch to make it far in life. Such a guy would have been recruited by any major private company, probably a multinational corporation, and be groomed to reach a senior management position in no time.

But the man is made of different stuff than most. Some of his AIM batch mates were stunned when he told them upon his return to the country that he wanted to go into social work instead of creating personal wealth, and this is precisely what he did.

If this sounds too good to be true, it isn’t really. He comes from a relatively well-to-do family – among the cars in his family compound in Pasay City is a classic Rolls Royce waiting to be fixed when he can find the time – and his father is a successful artist and mother an Italian art dealer.

His Liter of Light provides solar lights in the darkest communities, notably those which are not served by the power companies and cooperatives throughout the archipelago.

One of the NGO’s brightest moments was when the team went to Marawi shortly after the national government declared that the terrorists who had taken over the city for some months had been beaten.

The city was in near total ruin and there was no power. Liter of Light donated street lights for the main thoroughfare as well as key centers such as schools, churches, mosques, and government buildings.

The solar lights are made of locally-sourced materials and can last for five years if properly maintained.

You all know the saying, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.

This is what Liter of Light does. It not only donates lights, but also teaches women and youngsters from each community how to create, maintain, and fix the PVC lights when they break down.

As for the NGO’s odd sounding name, would you believe that they actually use those very common plastic soda bottles, usually the one liter sized ones?

One of their biggest donors worldwide is Pepsi, which is a match made in heaven. For Pepsi Cola Philippines, Liter of Light provides an outlet for their corporate social responsibility, while for the NGO, the plastic bottles that have replaced glass bottles as containers for soda are now put to use.

At a press conference this week, Diaz told media of his short term plans, notably a joint venture with Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that will conduct its 100th round the world voyage beginning Dec 26, this year, and lasting for three months.

Diaz will be visiting the countries where Liter of Light has operations, and hopes that the ports of call that the ship visits will also open up opportunities to set up more branches of the Philippine-based NGO.

Diaz’s other plan is to take part in Dubai Expo 2020, as his NGO has been recognized as one of 70 global innovators from over 2,300 candidates seeking to showcase their technology.

By the way, there is also a Liter of Light USA which is now teaching and training over 2,000 young Americans to build solar lamps.

This only shows that the NGO is not only meant to serve Third World countries. The recent extreme weather disturbances experienced by the US has thrown and will continue to throw hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans into darkness as power lines are destroyed.

We consumers can’t really appreciate how important it is to have light during the night until we lose it. Imagine what it’s like for the far-flung communities which have no light at all. And one Filipino has made his motherland a true donor country to other countries, both developing and developed. The guy really is a visionary, isn’t he?