My name is Beatrice, and I’m 350 Asia’s Senior Regional Organizer, based in Manila, Philippines. Read about my journey to becoming a campaigner with 350, and hear about some of my hopes for 2023.
On a rainy January morning in 2016, in a coastal town south of Manila called Tacloban, a city official led me to a field of white crosses. They went as far as I could see, all 2,917 of them. It was only when I came close enough that I saw there were markings on each slab of white wood. They turned out to be names of the dead, scribbled by family members in black marker.
I learned that after the onslaught of Supertyphoon Haiyan, this was where hundreds of unidentified bodies were buried. Crosses had been erected to commemorate each one. Over the years, remaining loved ones who had lost all hope had flocked to the field and decided which mounds to grieve.
That was the moment I realized that my work at the time, as a climate policy researcher, was pretty divorced from the realities on the ground.
A few months later, we had a meeting with a community who were wrapped up in a fight against fossil fuels. We trekked under the morning sun to a community organizer’s house in the province of Bataan, with the persistent rumbling of a nearby coal-fired power plant as our ominous background music. Something similar to the smell of burnt rubber poisoned the air as we spoke about their months-long protests against the building of the plant. I was struck by how determined they were to continue mounting their opposition, despite the fact that one of their most vocal leaders had recently been gunned down. “Why wouldn’t we fight?”, an organizer named Ate Derek, said. “It’s our lives.”
I started writing about climate change not long after. I published a piece with a photo of that field of white crosses. My friends told me that both the story and the image were so morbid, they couldn’t bear to look.
But I knew I had to make people look. The reality of climate change is not just in papers or reports — it is in the deafening silence of this field of white crosses with names scribbled on in black marker, as well as the violent silencing of activists who go up against big fossil fuel corporations to fight for our collective future.
Around the time the Climate Strikes took the world by storm, which the youth of both Tacloban and Bataan eventually joined, I committed to being an organizer full-time with 350.org. Because I realized that I don’t want to just tell stories; I want to help shape our collective story from one of helplessness to one of resistance and solidarity.
We often think of movements as corrective forces for the grave mistakes of the past, but I like to think of activism and organizing as primarily geared toward safeguarding the future, which is why I find working with young people so fulfilling.
And that’s also why, in 2023, we hope to strengthen the movement for a just transition in Asia, ensuring no one gets left behind. What this means for my role is a lot of conversations, consultations, and planning alongside allies, both new and old, on how we can safeguard the inevitable transition to renewable energy-powered societies. I see our upcoming work on solutions, and ensuring this is inclusive and democratic, as ripe with possibilities for co-creating new systems. It’s an exercise in imagination and co-creation — an opportunity to examine our social movements and thoroughly rethink our ways of working together.
The fight for our future must be regenerative and intersectional, and deepening our relationships with each other, across movements, across generations, and across continents, is a crucial component in this shift.
So thank you for reading about my work, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to climate justice. One day, it will be ours.