Ms. Louise Emmanuelle De Guzman Mabulo, a graduate of the Associate in Arts (AA) program under the Faculty of Education (FEd) of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), was recently named as one of the 2020 Young Explorers of the National Geographic Society. A chef, farmer, entrepreneur, and global youth leader, Louise joins the Fall 2020 batch of National Geographic Young Explorers composed of “24 people from around the globe, between 17 and 25 years old, who are on the frontlines of the most complex and urgent issues of our time.”  Through this recognition, National Geographic will amplify the cause of The Cacao Project, Louise’s current social venture, by means of supporting its projects and strengthening connections with stakeholders and potential partners. 

Louise, 22, is the founder of The Cacao Project, an initiative that provides farmers of San Fernando, Camarines Sur with cacao seedlings and other short term crops such as bok choy, okra and pumpkins to intercrop with the cacao. As “a venture that aims to support and build resilience for farmer livelihoods by equipping them with the training and resources they need to be better positioned for sustainable success”, cacao was the perfect pick for the project as it is a “long-term, resilient crop which provides them with a higher income and will be productive for up to 20-25 years.” 

Louise shares that The Cacao Project was initiated out of necessity and urgency, which began in the aftermath of Typhoon Nock-Ten (known in the Philippines as Typhoon Nina) as a typhoon relief effort. After this, Louise and her colleagues continued on with their venture because they “realized that in order to cultivate true resilience and adaptation to Climate Change, (they) needed to have a more deeply-rooted solution to these issues beyond typhoon preparation and recovery.” Determined to contribute to beneficial change for fellow Filipinos and the environment, The Cacao Project focused on addressing the issues of yearly storms and building resilience “through a system’s change at the grassroots level.” Along with ensuring that local farmers are able to secure their livelihoods, this venture sees to it that they are also able to work with nature in a positive manner.

Photo Credits to the UN Environment Programme

During her time as a student of UPOU, Louise was able to balance her time and energy between schoolwork and various advocacies due to her strong sense of self-discipline and time-management abilities, which she attributes to her experience of being homeschooled for a large part of her childhood. Furthermore, Louise has always believed “that education is not limited to the four corners of the classroom” and emphasized “that curiosity, initiative, and drive to learn” are what one needs to succeed in their life and career. Thanks to her UPOU education, Louise has cultivated these qualities within herself and learned how to integrate her academic learnings and accomplishments into her real-world responsibilities and activities. UPOU’s structured distance learning has also empowered Louise “with the values, real-world know-how, and empathy” that she needed “to understand social issues, identify solutions, and act on the information” obtained in order to come up with excellent outputs and generate appropriate solutions.

As a National Geographic Young Explorer awardee, Louise remarks that “it is an absolute honour to be recognized by the National Geographic Society, and reaffirming our vision, especially now that they express their support towards our vision and goals.” Given their support, The Cacao Project will continue to rethink, innovate and change the policies and processes in place for local landscapes and food systems.

Louise’s learnings and outputs for courses under the AA program were part of her inspiration to build and continue The Cacao Project. Through her example, Louise hopes to empower more AA and UPOU students to use their knowledge and platform in order to contribute to beneficial change in the Philippines. “My message to AA and UPOU students is to integrate your studies into your lives–take what you learn, take the values and information our professors have taken the time to curate for you–and make the most of it in real life. The inclusive and flexible education we have thanks to UPOU is such a blessing that we mustn’t put to waste. Make the most out of your time, of the resources available to you–and utilize them to be a steward to our country, to God’s creation, and bring out the best we can be, to build the Philippines we want to see.”

To learn more about Louise and The Cacao Project, you may visit

Written by: KMLFama