2017 awardees pay tribute to Ramon Magsaysay, champion compassion and humility


(The recipients of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards pose before the start of the awarding ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on Thursday, August 31, 2017. They are (from left) the Philippine Educational Theater Association, Gethsie Shanmugam of Sri Lanka, Lilia De Lima of the Philippines, Tony Tay of Singapore, Abdon Nababan of Indonesia, and Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan.)


“I believe the president should set up the example of a good heart, an honest mind, sound instincts, the virtue of healthy impatience, and an abiding love for the common man. Guns alone are not the answer. We must provide hope for young people for better housing, clothing, and food. If we do, the radicals will wither away.”

The words of the late president Ramon Magsaysay Sr. echoed throughout the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Thursday as awardee Lilia de Lima quoted him in her acceptance speech.

De Lima was recognized for her work at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. She expressed her gratitude to former president Fidel V. Ramos for appointing her to the position that granted her the opportunity to serve.

“Truly this is a blessing to be rewarded for work I enjoyed doing. It was a privilege as it was a commitment,” De Lima said.

Despite challenges thrown at her, De Lima said that she and her staff did not waver. From this she learned to stick to your principles and let your work do the talking.

“Do your job with integrity and professionalism and the bottom line will show it. It is the best credential you have and the only endorsement you will need.”

Voice of Indonesian IPs

Activist Abdan Nababan of Indonesia also gave credit to Magsaysay’s inspiring work.

“This is about how to serve people. This morning I was reading thanks to the family of the Ramon Magsaysay that he was the servant leader. So now I also understand my position in this room. Hopefully I can follow Ramon Magsaysay in that sense,” Nababan said.

Nababan was recognized for “his brave, self-sacrificing advocacy to give voice and face to his country’s Indigenous People communities.”

“What can we offer to our society? When differing opinions manifest into violent conflict, when the misuse of religion causes more killings, when developing the economy means destroying the environment … I am standing here, ladies and gentlemen, to offer the values and spirit of IPs to tackle the problems of present day society,” he declared.

Challenges should be met with humility and collaboration, Nababan said.

Sophia University

Academic and historian Yoshiaki Ishizawa of Japan received the award for his work in restoring and protecting the cultural heritage of Cambodia.

Ishizawa accepted the award on behalf of the people he works with, acknowledging that change does not start with one man alone.

“It is with my deep feeling of joy that I stand before you today to receive the world-renowned RM Award. I feel indebted, humbled, and deeply moved by your kind decision to confer to me this honor. In all sincerity, I declare that it is not my effort alone, but rather the efforts of numerous friends and colleague as well. Hence, on behalf of my staff at the Sophia University, I accept this award with profound humility and gratitude,” he said.

One word: ‘Yes’

Tony Tay of Singapore received the warmest round of applause as he began his speech with a declaration that he could not speak very well.

Tay was recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation for a very simple act: sharing hot meals with the people living in poverty in Singapore.

Tay founded “Willing Hearts” in 2003 and has since been providing food to the people who need it most 365 days a year. Every day, without fail.

“Thank you all for the award. It is a great honor. Willing Hearts started with one word: ‘Yes.'”

It was a yes to the call to serve others, yes from the people who were asked to help, and yes to the people who were asking for help.

Tay added, “There were no big plans when we started and there are no big plans now. The only plan is God’s plan. Without God’s blessing, we would be nowhere. To my late mother, for being the model and the spirit behind Willing Hearts. To my wife, for being a pillar of support in my journey.”

Helping Sri Lanka’s war victims

Gethsie Shanmugam of Sri Lanka exhibited equally enviable grace and kindness, championing compassion amid strife.

“Even in the context of terrible violence, loss, and suffering, there is always a possibility of love, caring, and hope,” she said.

Shanmugam provided invaluable support for the victims of war in her country. The Ramon Magsaysay Foundation recognized her for “her tireless efforts over four decades in building Sri Lanka’s capacity for psychosocial support and her deep, inspiring humanity in caring for women and children, war’s most vulnerable victims.”

“My four decades of experience has taught me that healing and transformation always starts with the person. For people in deep pain to begin to heal, it is essential for them to gain self-awareness and acceptance … As individuals we often think we can do big things. But we can do small things. All change starts with one person,” Shanmugam said.

Creating stories for the people

The Philippine Educational Theater Association were the last to take the stage. Accepting the award was president Cecilia Garrucho, who related the story of how PETA inspired her in her youth.

“Fifty years have passed, we continue to do because with the stories we discover in the communities, we see the potential for a better society to be realized,” Garrucho said.

She added, “This award inspires us to create more stories for our people, so that through the power of theater and arts we can move forward with hope for a just and peaceful society.”


Published on August 31, 2017 8:30pm
Read more:  http://www.gmanetwork.com/…/2017-awardees-pay-tribut…/story/