Carol Mercado: Lady of compassion, courage and commitment

At first glance, Carol Ocampo Mercado is the epitome of glamour, being one of the Philipine Cancer Society’s Best Dressed women, well-coiffed, slim and elegantly beautiful. She is also soft-spoken, articulate, and pleasant in her ways. But underneath her attractive mien lies a woman of achievement and generous concern for her fellow Filipinos, especially women in need of health care and medical assistance. Carol is also the CEO of the ISO-certified Mercado Builders Development Corporation, with a Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board License Category AAA.

Rotary has always been her avenue to serve, to help others. Carol’s choice of a lifetime mission of addressing the needs of our country’s women began when she chartered the Rotary Club of Makati Premier District, whose first members she invited from among company owners and entrepreneurs like her, her batchmates in De la Salle University, her fellow Best-Dressed listers and their friends.

In an interview with Daily Tribune, she shared, “We organized our Rotary club with two flagship projects as our priority vehicles toward contributing to the betterment of the lives of our fellow Filipinos. These are, “Rotary, Fighting Cancer! Saving Lives,” and “Building the Nation through Enhanced Basic Education” with the latter’s objective to instill a strong basic foundation among early grade school students the reading and comprehension of the English language.”

Of the first, she said, “I thought that since health is wealth, as the saying goes, we should focus on ensuring women’s health. After all, we, women play a key role in our homes and in the communities where we live.

Carol pointed out, “I have known and have heard of many women who died of cancer and I thought that if they had found out about their disease at an early stage, or if they knew how to avoid this dreadful malaise, many would have been saved. I was even more alarmed when I read a Philippine Cancer Society report citing that breast and cervical cancer are the top killers among women in the Philippines.

During the cancer ad filming with award-winning actress Angel Aquino and award-winning director Jeffrey Jeturian.

“I then realized it is the one need of women that has not been sufficiently met by the government and private business. Thus, civil society needed another ally in helping women cancer patients.

To actualize the club’s vision, Carol did not have to look far to search for the best institutional partner. “We found out that the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) had an existing program on Patient Navigation. They assist the patients in navigating the various bureaucratic processes to enable them to get help. They also provide medicine and treatment, especially to patients with first and second-stage cancer. More advanced cancers are referred to the Department of Health,” she recalled.

CEO at work. At the jobsite, construction of 11,000 sqm tier 3 data center in Carmona, Cavite.


Mobile Clinics for marginalized communities
The Rotary Club of Makati Premier District thus collaborated with the Philippine Cancer Society to help save lives by creating cancer awareness, early detection through regular screening, and early treatment.

“We applied for global grants to help address this problem and we were successful in acquiring two mobile clinics worth P10 million,” she related.
“These mobile clinics go around the marginalized communities in Metro Manila. Each is manned by a highly trained medical team of three, aside from the medical head and a driver. It conducts free breast and cervical cancer screening using its diagnostic machines, namely, breast ultrasound machine, biopsy gun and cryotherapy machine, the last providing precursor treatment to cervical cancer. The bus is able to screen up to 120 patients a day, depending on how many women register for the day’s operation.”

Citing PCS data, Carol said, “The two mobile clinics have screened over 16,000 patients from April 2022 to August 2023. Of these patients, 10.4 percent or 1,701 patients were positive for breast mass and 1.7 percent or 285 patients were with cervical lesions.”

Recently, Carol was able to secure a donation of P500,000 from a China-based foundation to the Philippine Cancer Society. With more help coming in from the different sources she intends to tap and alliances she intends to form, she is confident a lot more can be done.

CANCER ad filming behind the scenes.

Best Dressed Women of the Philippines
A most valuable ally in the fight against cancer is “The Best Dressed Women of the Philippines, a social organization founded and led by socialite Consul Helen Ong, which conducts high-profile awarding and fundraising through an annual fashion show. Proceeds of this celebrated undertaking, averaging P15 to 22 million per year, are donated to the PCS for the treatment, medicine, and further diagnosis for cancer patients.

Carol has been supporting the BDWP since 2013 when she was awarded as one of the Best Dressed Women of the Philippines and became an Ambassador for Life for years. She was a Fashion Icon and became one of the covers of the Best Dressed Women of the Philippines coffee table book in 2021. In 2022, she was honored by PCS with a Paterno Award for her valuable contribution to helping alleviate the plight of cancer patients.

Other than the BDWP recognition, Carol, received in 2018 an award for Founder and Pioneer Category organized by the FWN Filipina Women Network held in London.

In 2022, she was featured in the Asian Heroes Book.

Rotary Global Grants
As a leading Rotarian, Carol has been at the forefront of medical care-related and social development concerns.

She facilitated Rotary Global Grants for various projects, namely: Save an Eye for your Eyes Only, which led to the establishment of the Santa Lucia Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, the very first state-of-the-art Eye Bank in South East Asia (making it possible to screen quality corneas giving the gift of sight); Tuloy sa Don Bosco for Street Children by providing irrigation system and fishpond; and Water for Health and Life providing a full water system and access to potable water benefitting over 300 families in two remote barangays in the province of Marinduque.

Just recently, from the same Rotary Grant program, she received a donation for the installation of 13 brand new bedside monitors for stroke patients in Ward 5 of the Philippine General Hospital, a feat for which PGH commended her last December.

In 2004, she organized the Avoidable Blindness Project of Rotary International District 3830 in 2004. The project garnered the First Rotary International Award of Distinction for Public Relations through Community Service.

Angel Aquino ad
To reach a wide range of audience nationwide, an ad/ commercial was produced to promote cancer awareness and help save the Filipino families from devastation of losing their mothers to breast or cervical cancer. The ad is expected to be most effective with the participation of Best Actress awardee, famous and beautiful Ms. Angel Aquino, and under the direction of award-winning director Jeffrey Jeturian. Carol and RCMPD are very grateful to them for accepting the project pro bono. They, too, want to help achieve the goal of saving women’s lives from breast and cervical cancer. The ad will be released in social media/ multimedia platforms within the year.

Earning a place in heaven
In a television interview, the anchor person asked Carol why she, who has been very busy in the family corporation, Mercado Builders Development Corporation, and amply rewarded for her executive abilities, still gave time to her charitable activities, she replied, “It gives me joy and fulfillment, that’s all. And maybe I can also earn myself a place in heaven.”

Asked what her guiding principle is when it comes to sharing, she said it simply and succinctly, “Nothing is impossible when the desire to help save lives comes from the heart.”

Indeed, Carol’s is a pure heart that manifests its love and concern through her many philanthropic works. She stands out because she has chosen a cause that has not been given enough attention, and one that she is willing to give her all to. “There can never be enough assistance for cancer patients. Besides, it is the prevention and early detection that we should give our attention to if we want to save lives,” she concluded.