Loren Legarda was born on January 28, 1960 in Malabon (which was then-part of Rizal Province) as Lorna Regina Bautista Legarda, the only daughter of Antonio Cabrera Legarda of San Pablo, Laguna, and Bessie Gella Bautista of Malabon. She treats Antique province as her home province. She was raised by an Ilocana yaya (nanny), who taught her, along with her mother, much about love for culture and the arts and indigenous people. Her maternal grandfather was Jose P. Bautista, an editor of the pre-Martial Law newspaper, The Manila Times. As a teenager, she appeared as a print and television model.
She attended Assumption College from primary to high school, where she was a valedictorian. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines in 1981 with a Bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications and was President of the UP Broadcast Administration. She pursued post-graduate courses on special studies towards professional designation in journalism from the University of California, Los Angeles, California and graduated in 1985.
Legarda began a career in journalism as a reporter for RPN-9, during which she covered topics including Imelda Marcos' trip to Kenya and the People Power Revolution. During this period, she obtained a master's degree in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines, graduating at the top of the class with gold medals for Academic Excellence and Best Thesis. Later, she would move to the reopened ABS-CBN, where Legarda would achieve her best success in her career as a journalist. She became the co-anchor of the television newscast, The World Tonight with Angelo Castro, Jr., and became the host of the current affairs series, The Inside Story.
During this period, she received more than thirty major awards, including the Catholic Mass Media Hall of Fame, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas Golden Dove Award, the Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the Ten Outstanding Young Men and Women award.
After becoming urged by the Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos, Legarda ran for the Senate in 1998 under the Lakas-NUCD-UMDP Party. She was elected with more than 15 million votes, allowing her to be the highest vote-getter in that year's election. After Legarda filed her candidacy as senator in late 1997, Tina Monzon-Palma who came from rival ABC and was the anchor of The Big News, transferred to ABS-CBN in order to replace her on The World Tonight at the same time and joining Angelo Castro, Jr. in order to run the latter for this election. But when the ratings got low in 1999, the newscast was replaced by Pulso: Aksyon Balita on ABS-CBN and moving The World Tonight to its 24-hour cable news channel ABS-CBN News Channel and until now, the newscast is still airing.
During her first six years in the Senate, Legarda authored legislation benefiting women's and children's rights, such as the following:Anti-Domestic Violence Act - seeks to uphold and protect the basic human rights of women and their children.
Anti-Child Labor law - limits the employment of children below 15 years old, restricts the hours of work of working children, expands working children's access to education, social, medical and legal assistance.
Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act - aims to protect victims of human trafficking.
She also authored the following laws:Ecological Solid Waste Management Law - created the National Solid Waste Management Commission, which aims to establish segregation among garbage and wastes.
Tropical Fabric Law - prescribes the use of Philippine tropical fabrics for official uniforms of government officials and employees and for the purposes, which require the use of fabrics in government offices and functions.
She was named a World Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, Davos. Legarda played a role in the 2000-01 impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada that sparked the 2001 EDSA Revolution. She was later chosen to be the Senate's Majority Floor Leader from 2001-2004.
In 2003, Legarda left Lakas-CMD (after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo broke her pledge not to run again for president) and joined the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino coalition of Fernando Poe, Jr. as an Independent during the 2004 elections.
On January 18, 2008, in a 21-page resolution, penned by Senior Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, the Supreme Court of the Philippines, acting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), dismissed Legarda's electoral protest against Noli de Castro.
In 2007, Legarda decided to run again for Senate under the banner of the Genuine Opposition coalition. She won, receiving more than 18 million votes, which allowed her to become the top vote-getter in that election. On July 14, 2009, she announced her intention to run as president during the 2010 elections. On August 15, her bill, the Magna Carta on Women was passed. Aside from legislations, she also established the Lutiang Pilipinas (Green Philippines), a foundation that has since planted more than 2 million trees all over the Philippines. She established the foundation to aid the Philippines in attaining its United Nations mandate for reforestation, where the target was set by the UN at 2009. On October 23 of that same year, during the launch of her humanitarian program "Lingkod Loren in Luneta", she formally declared her intention to run for vice-president in 2010 under Nationalist People's Coalition with the platform of environmentalism. After Francis Escudero, expected to run for president, left the NPC, she decided that it would be best to stick with the Nacionalista Party's presidential candidate, Manny Villar, as a guest-running mate.
So far in her second term as senator, Legarda has filed the following laws:Expanded Senior Citizens Law - seeks to increase the discount granted to senior citizens to 32% on goods and services, impose stiffer penalties to establishments which refuse to honor senior citizen card, etc.
Climate Change Law - builds resilience to the impacts of climate change through the mainstreaming of climate change in various phases of policy formulation, development plans, poverty reduction strategies and other development tools by all agencies of government.
Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Act - requires lending institutions to allocate at least eight percent of their total loan portfolio to micro and small businesses.
Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act - fixes the maximum retail price of certain medicines and increases access of cheaper medicines in the country.
Revised Agri-Agra Law - mandates banks to devote 25% of their loanable funds to agriculture and agrarian reform beneficiaries.
Legarda lost her bid for the Philippine vice-presidency to Jejomar Binay, placing third in the 2010 Philippine presidential elections. As a result, she continued to serve in the Senate. In 2010, Legarda was given chairmanship for the Senate committees on climate change, cultural communities, and foreign affairs. She would later go to the United Nations to deposit the Philippines ratification for the International Criminal Court membership. As a result of Koko Pimentel's win in his case against Juan Miguel Zubiri, evidence about Legarda's cheating allegations against Noli de Castro and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have surfaced, where her supporters rallied against de Castro as they believed the 2004 vice presidency was stolen from Legarda through de Castro's electoral cheating.
Legarda was reelected during the 2013 elections, garnering the second highest number of votes among the 12 winning senators. Under the law, she is still eligible to run for a 4th senate term in 2019 due to her senate elections skip in 2004.
During her third term, she focused on much legislative push for various nationalistic, environmental, transparency, and pro-indigenous bills in the Senate. Among these bills being pushed were the Baybayin Bill, which will institutionalize baybayin as the national writing system; a bill to mandate the government to use the Gross Happiness Index used by Bhutan; the Freedom of Information bill (FOI); the Total Logging Ban bill which bans logging for the next 25 years; the International Disaster Relief and Initial Recovery Assistance bill; a Bill establishing the Department of Fisheries; the Traditional Property Rights of Indigenous People bill; Low Carbon Economy bill; Magna Carta for the Poor bill; Anti-Discrimination Bill based on anti-ethnicm racial, religious, and sexual discrimination; Philippine Innovation Bill; Energy Efficiency and Conservation bill; Solo Parent's Welfare bill; Water Sector Reform bill; War Veterans Reform Bill; a bill creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Final Forest Limits bill; Magna Carta for Public School Teachers; National Land Use Act of the Philippines; Expanded NIPAS Act; Philippine Academic Regalia Act; Indigenous Community Conserved Areas Act;mElection Service Reform bill; and the National Cultural Heritage Act, among many other bills and resolutions. She is also pushing for stricter implementation of the laws she authored, specifically the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Renewable Energy Law, Climate Change Law, Clear Water Act, and the Clean Air Act, which the United Nations applauded as the best clean air law crafted by any country in the world.
She also supported the restoration of megalithic churches that were destroyed or damaged by the 2013 Central Visayas Earthquake which hit Bohol, Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Siquijor, and Negros. The restoration was governed by the National Museum of the Philippines with aid from her office. A number of churches that were affected were in the Tentative List for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On the same year, she led the Philippine delegation group for UNESCO, and was greeted by UNESCO Secretary-General Irina Bokova.
She also spearheaded the return of the Philippines to the Venice Art Biennial, the most acclaimed art exposition in the world, after 5 decades of Philippine absence in the exhibitions. Within only 3 years, the Philippines was set on the main exhibition hall of the infamous art exposition. She also became the presenter of Dayaw, a much-anticipated 6-part series documentation about the comprehensive and holistic heritage of the Philippines, notably indigenous heritage. The series became popular, especially to the youth sector, and was forged as the NCCA's main documentary cultural show which has since released more seasons.
She also focused on the enhancement of Philippine culture and the arts. She pursued greater public awareness and public cooperation for the National Museum of the Philippines, National Library of the Philippines, Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, Cultural Center of the Philippines, the country's own culture and arts commission, indigenous communities in the country, Philippines heritage conservation and restoration, intangible cultural heritage of the country, indigenous Philippine weaving, greater appreciation of Philippine and international art, and support for UNESCO initiatives, including the possible nomination of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade Route to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
She was awarded as a UN Global Champion for Resilience in 2015 due to her advocacy and actions on climate change and environmentalism. She currently chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resource and the Senate Committee on Finance.
She is also pushing for the establishment of the Department of Culture and the Arts, backed by all cultural agencies of government. Due to these factors, she was much cited by various organizations to be the best person to head the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the future.
In 2017, it was revealed that she was the person who pushed former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to accept the post she was given as she believed and knew Lopez's strong management and implementing skills in environmental conservation. Legarda was one of the only 8 lawmakers who were in favor of Gina Lopez retaining the environment secretary post during a confirmation hearing dominated by pro-mining lawmakers.
She became a part of a special Philippine delegation to the French Senate to discuss about the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
Legarda is a notable advocate of Climate Change Awareness and has numerous achievements in the fields of social development and human rights advocacy along with her work in journalism. As a journalist, she has received many awards. In 2008, she was chosen as "United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Asia Pacific Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation". She was a member of the Philippine delegation during the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.
With her "Luntiang Pilipinas" foundation, Legarda has planted over two million trees all over the Philippine archipelago. The charity also launched its 10@10: The Ten Million Trees Campaign, a viral tree planting campaign with the intention of planting 10 million trees by the year 2011. This campaign aims to contribute to the United Nations Environmental Program, which aims to reach the seven billion-tree mark by 2009. One of her major accomplishments as an environmentalist is the passage of the Climate Change Act in October 2009. She filed this bill two years ago, through inspiration from the Albay Declaration, the outcome document of the First National Conference on Climate Change Adaptation, as it called for “the passage of a policy prioritizing climate change adaptation in the national agenda”. Legarda was chosen by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a member of the Philippine delegation during the 2009 Copenhagen Summit.
Legarda was named as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2000, and was awarded by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in Turin, Italy, for her work on the environment in 2001. Legarda was appointed as United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Asia Pacific Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, and she participated in the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, the BBC World Debate: ‘Prevent or React’, and the Forum on the Human Impact of Climate Change in Geneva, Switzerland.
In 2015, Legarda awarded the Global Champion for Resilience honors from the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.
In 1989, she married former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste. Their marriage produced two sons: Lorenzo Leviste and Leandro Leviste. They separated in 2003 and their marriage was annulled in 2008. One of her sons is the founder and president of Solar Philippines, the country's leading manufacturer and producer of renewable energies and one of the few manufacturing companies that support a full scale renewable energy campaign in the country.
She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Air Force Reserve Corps. The Maranao Sultanate League of the Moro people bestowed the honorary title of "Bai Alabi" ("Princess") on her. She has been bestowed the title, 'honorary leader' by various indigenous groups in the Philippines. She is known to be very fond of traditional Philippine textiles. She started the usage trend of such textiles in the halls of Congress.