- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Justin Tungol didn’t realize how spoiled he was. He’d graduated from Landstown High in 2009 with no firm plans on what he would do next, with little realization of the world beyond his abundance.

“All I knew was partying and girls. That was my life,” said Tungol, 23, of Virginia Beach. “I was not thinking about how things would go financially.”

His mother gave him a year to get it together. “I don’t care what you do; just do something,’” she told him.

As that year wound down, an uncle in his parents’ native Philippines offered to arrange for Tungol to play college basketball and live with his family. It was an offer he couldn’t resist.

“Just like every other kid, I had hoop dreams,” said Tungol, whose experience had been limited to playing in the Amateur Athletic Union and a few other youth leagues.

To Tungol’s delight, he was picked for point guard.

“I thought I was going to be happy,” he said. “I thought I was going to be the next Kobe Bryant.”

The lavishness of his lifestyle felt royal.

“I didn’t have to put water in my glass,” he said. “If I had wanted someone to put my socks on, I could have had that.”

But the luxurious life at his uncle’s home stood in sharp contrast to the abject poverty that stared him in the face around town.

Seared in his memory is the time he looked out of his limo and saw a group of sparsely clothed preschoolers in search of food. One of the youngsters dug into an overflowing trash bin and pulled out a partially filled container of dirty water. The pack was delighted.

Afterward, Tungol couldn’t sleep for days. How could children so severely deprived seem so happy to have so little? And how could he be so self-centered, so naive about life? He had everything, he thought. Depression set in.

“I’m not trying to take away from the people who are less fortunate here, but we don’t see people literally dying in front of you,” Tungol said on a recent steamy afternoon in Hampton Roads as he sat in the shade reflecting on the epiphany. “That changed my life forever. I was broken down to the lowest.”

Meanwhile, his far-fetched dream of becoming the next Kobe Bryant wasn’t panning out, either.

“I didn’t really get any minutes. I was benched.”

Adding to the misery, his relationship with his girlfriend, who was in Virginia Beach, had gone kaput.

It was time to come home. The eight-month fantasy was over. He boarded a plane back to Virginia.

Tungol enrolled at Old Dominion University, where he is majoring in business marketing. But going to school wasn’t enough. He’d decided to dedicate himself to helping others gain access to life’s most basic needs.

He researched companies like TOMS Shoes, which have turned service into a business model. That led him to create Good Garments, United in December 2012, two years to the day after leaving the Philippines. The business is largely backed by his older brother, RJ Tungol.

Scott Harrison, founder of an organization called charity: water, partnered with Tungol as a mentor. Ten percent of Good Garments, United’s proceeds go to a New York-based nonprofit that works to bring clean drinking water to residents of developing countries.

Tungol has been passionate about raising awareness, Harrison said by email. Good Garments is on track to have donated $2,500 by year’s end, which will help more than 80 people get access to clean water, Harrison said.

“Justin’s enthusiasm and care for others is contagious and has inspired us here at charity: water,” Harrison said.

Good Garments, United (www.goodgarments.us) is still trying to find its place among a slew of social entrepreneurial enterprises. It started out selling beanie hats, then progressed to logo T-shirts and nondistinct polos. Forty-dollar polos, mind you.

Tungol has spent the summer traveling to bring attention to the venture. He is optimistic, yet humble.

“We’re not any more important than a little girl raising money with a charity stand in Louisiana,” Tungol said.

His bookkeeping was about the same as well for the first year, when he didn’t keep much track of sales. He started taking the business more seriously as his profile began to rise - in June, Conscious Magazine Los Angeles featured Good Garments, United - and as atypical merchandise sightings increased.

A friend recently called saying he’d seen an older guy at Lynnhaven Mall wearing one of the T-shirts. That was promising news to Tungol, who, with his partners, has been working on a new collection.

He admitted that so far, the styles have been fairly generic. But extraordinary fashion is not the aim. Success won’t be measured in a stream of wealth, but in clean sips of refreshment.

“It’s all about what’s behind it,” he said. “It’s something for buyers to believe in. And, on the other side, there is a healthy person.

“We’re trying to create a different vehicle here. We’re trying to build something that is going to be here when we’re not.”

This time, there is no rush to make his mark.

“I have amazing parents who haven’t kicked me out yet,” he said.

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com


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