Wowie Meloto-Gonzalez grew up in a family that “eats nation-building for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” At 13, she accompanied her father to Metro Manila’s then biggest slum area to help gang members and out-of-school youth. These were the beginnings of what would later be Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty for millions of families.
Growing up with nation-building always in the foreground, it was natural for the Melotos to find different ways to contribute to the country. Wowie started as part of the communications team of Gawad Kalinga, making videos and events and sharing stories from poverty, conflict, and disaster-stricken communities across the country. After spending five years in the U.S. where she started a family, Wowie came back to the Philippines to join her family in running Human❤︎Nature.
Now a global and multi-awarded company, Human❤︎Nature was inspired by the rise of eco-friendly products in the U.S. and was born in 2008 as a way to showcase the best of the Philippines and uplift all Filipinos, especially the poor, through providing affordable, quality, natural products.
Here, Wowie tells us how she helps keep the brand true to its vision: pro-poor, pro-environment and pro-Philippines.
Tell us about your current work.
I’m currently handling the marketing department for Human❤︎Nature. Human❤︎Nature is a social enterprise that produces personal care and bath products that are not only safe for the environment but also of high quality (global quality standard), locally-made, good for the environment/natural and affordable, while giving productivity to our fellow Filipino
What’s the best and worst parts about your job? How do you overcome the negative parts?
Best parts of the job: I love it when I can share ideas and be creative. I love that I am able to be relevant to the country, the poor, the environment and can create something that will impact families. It’s really a dream to be able to mix my passion and my values.
Worst parts and challenges:
1) How can we provide the most sustainable packaging and safest ingredients while keeping the products affordable? How can you make a difference if it’s only the rich who can afford your products? Margins and profit will definitely suffer. We don’t have commercials or endorsers because the millions of money we would spend on those we would rather use in helping farming communities. Functioning with limited resources is a challenge for the marketing team to be extra creative.
2) Filipinos still have the notion that local products are less superior than imported ones. We aim to make the term “Made in the Philippines” mean something and be able to compete with the Diors and Chanels of Europe.
3) Health and environment are not compelling enough reasons for consumers to buy our products. On top of that, we have to fight against greenwashing. More and more brands are now claiming to be natural and organic.
4) The feeling of being disconnected. Everyday I am in the office, faced with numbers, marketing collaterals and products that sometimes it’s really easy to forget that you have a higher purpose, especially when you don’t meet targets. We always have to re-energize—go to the communities, to the farm and start connecting again. The reality is sometimes you are faced with thoughts like, “Maybe I don't really love the environment that much,” or “maybe I really don't care for the poor that much,” but when you go to the communities, it can give you enough to move on.
5) Most of the time I really don’t know what I’m doing. We are just winging it. I had no business and marketing background, and here I am, expected to create campaigns and handle people who have been in the business for years. But it was the same with my father. The secret is to surround yourself with people smarter than you and know what you don't know.
6) I have limited time for my family. Despite not being at home as much as I want, when I share what I do to my children, they feel proud. Especially when they apply in school what they absorb from us. When asked what his mommy’s work is, Mikel (my son) will say, “You sell ‘good shampoos.’”
Wowie with her husband and children
What can people do to help your cause?
Support local and planet-friendly products. Advocate, read the label, and be a mindful consumer.
What pointers would you provide for people who'd like to start pursuing an environmental lifestyle?
As Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Let’s start caring and not be apathetic: care for our health, our family’s wellness, the earth, our country, the poor. We belong to a bigger world. Small acts of goodness can create a ripple effect that can eventually disrupt the existing models.
What is your why - why you do what you do?
Why do I do what I do? Because it’s the right thing to do. If we don’t do it, who will? It’s something that gives me a good night’s sleep—knowing I’ve done something right.
What lifestyle changes have you made for the environment? Was it hard/easy?
I stopped shopping for imported clothes 3 years ago. Through this I am reducing my carbon footprint, lessening my consumption and supporting local. The downside is I repeat clothes more often and it’s harder to find affordable and good quality clothes.
What is the best advice you've ever received from anyone?
Less for self, more for others, enough for all. – My dad (Tony Meloto)
Wowie with her sisters and her father, Tony Meloto
Learn more about Human Nature here.