President Benigno Aquino III led on Monday the conferment of awards to the five recipients of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award this year.
In a ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, President Aquino, along with the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF), handed the Magsaysay Award plaque to Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa (Philippines), Kommaly Chanthavong (Laos), Anshu Gupta (India), Kyaw Thu (Myanmar), and Sanjiv Chaturvedi (India).
In his speech, the President used the 1882 play by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen titled “An Enemy of the People” to describe the lives of the awardees. The play tells the story of Dr. Thomas Stockmann who decided to speak the truth about the contamination of water at a town well-known for its spa despite strong opposition from town officials and being branded as enemy of the people.
“Our awardees here are the perfect examples of that. Each of them has transcended the ‘individual’ perspective. Each of them has chosen to leave their comfort zones, and answer the call to serve more and more people, whether their immediate community, or all of society,” he said.
“To our awardees: You have all faced formidable opponents, from corrupt employees and officials in government, to the phenomenon of widespread poverty and inequality, and even to the way that time erodes our most valuable traditions. But you were not daunted; you have persevered, and continued to persevere, in order to protect justice, basic human rights, and our cultural heritage,” he added.
He recognized the contributions made by each awardee to their respective countries.
The only Filipino recipient of the award was Filipina Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, who has been recognized for her crusade in preserving the endangered artistic heritage of the southern Philippines by teaching the dance style “pangalay.”
Two of the awardees were Indian, namely Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonjl, an organization focused on empowering marginalized people through the redistribution and processing of cloth as a sustainable development resource for the poor; and Sanjiv Chaturvedi, a public servant who has dedicated his life fighting corruption in their government.
Another female awardee was Kommaly Chanthavong who has been famous for silk-weaving in Laos, and known as the founder of Phontong Handicraft Cooperative.
Completing the five was Kyaw Thu from Myanmar who has been recognized in addressing the fundamental needs of both the living and the dead through his foundation that offers free burial services, medical assistance, vocational training and humanitarian assistance.
“None of our awardees embarked on these journeys out of a desire for fame and fortune; none of you chose to take on these responsibilities because you thought that they were simple or easy,” President Aquino said.
“Real transformation requires real, backbreaking effort – and this is what you gave, willingly. In many ways, you are like the heroes that many of my countrymen remember on this day: those who struggled and endured hardship for a greater cause. It is only right that we are paying tribute to all of you on this occasion. You are the modern-day heroes that not only Filipinos, but all men and women all over the world need,” he added. (PNA)