Celebrating modern day Filipino Heroes
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Bulletin
MANILA, Philippines — Heroes create heroes.
This was the theme of this year’s Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awards given annually by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Philippines to young Filipino leaders who have accomplished considerable, tangible results to be of service to others and in pursuit of excellence.
Past awardees of this prestigious award include the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, business tycoons Manuel Pangilinan and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, international news broadcaster Rico Hizon and the world-renowned performer Lea Salonga.
Since the award was first given out in 1959, more than 400 inspiring Filipino leaders from different sectors have been honored.
For this year’s batch of awardees, of which I was very fortunate enough to be part of, 10 young Filipino men and women were given the TOYM by no less than President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in simple ceremonies held last Dec. 13, at the Malacañang Palace.
As one of the awardees, I was overwhelmed to be in the company of great Filipinos who have selflessly given a big part of themselves in the service of our nation.
One of the awardees was my good friend, Bam Aquino who even during our college years at Ateneo de Manila University was already dedicated to a life of genuine public service.
Aquino one of the founders of the successful social enterprise, Hapinoy, which has helped thousands of sari-sari store owners earn more by devising a system that would allow them to purchase the products that they sell directly from the supplier.
More importantly, Aquino and his colleagues at Hapinoy have helped uplift the quality of life of so many Filipino families since the extra money that they now earn is used to provide education and healthcare to their families.
CNN Hero Efren Peñaflorida was also part of this year’s batch of awardees and I find his story as the most inspiring of us all.
As early as 16 years old, Kuya Ef, as he is known to most people, had already started the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC), using the Kariton Klasrum to teach illiterate children in Cavite to read and write.
Since it started, DTC has already helped thousands of young people attain a better life. In fact, Kuya Ef even mentioned to me that he is always inspired whenever he sees that many of their former students go back to help in the program by serving as volunteer tutors.
What is even more inspiring about Kuya Ef is that he didn’t use a single centavo for his personal needs from the US$ 100,000 prize he got from CNN last year. Instead he used majority of the funds for the construction of their learning center in Cavite that will be able to provide regular tutorial classes to more underprivileged students in Cavite.
Truly, Kuya Ef is showing what it is to be a true Filipino hero.
Jun Yupitun takes the lead as this year’s awardee in the field of entrepreneurship and harnessing information technology to help uplift the lives of Filipinos.
Yupitun is a licensed electronics and communications engineer, a graduate of De La Salle University (DLSU). For the last 10 years, he has been working towards developing innovative call center solutions that will help make government transactions easier.
A sterling example of his good work would be the establishment of the National Statistics Office (NSO) hotline wherein Filipinos no longer need to queue up for several days just to be able to get a copy of their birth or marriage certificates.
In yet another project, Yupitun was also instrumental in working with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in institutionalizing the DFA Express Passport Delivery that has helped many OFWs save time and money. Yupitun has shown that when used properly, information technology can make lives easier for all of us and in the end, address many social problems in our country today.
Aside from them, other TOYM awardees for this year include, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara for Government Service (Legislative); Therese “Gang” T. Badoy for Alternative Education and Youth Leadership; Alan Peter S. Cayetano for Government and Public Service (Public Accountability and Transparency;) Maria Rachelle R. Gerodias for Arts and Music (Classical); Edsel Maurice T. Salvana for Medicine and Social Activism; and Beatrice “Bea” P. Valdes, Fashion Design and Entrepreneurship.
The author is director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government (ASOG). Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow me at Twitter, http://www.twitter.com/harveykeh
Back to square one
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
Last Monday, I was very fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the recipients of this year’s The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award by the Junior Chamber International (JCI)-Philippines which is more commonly known as the Jaycees. The awarding was held at Malacañang Palace with no less than President Noynoy Aquino as the guest of honor.
In her acceptance speech on behalf of all the awardees, RockEd Founder Gang Badoy told Aquino that this batch of awardees is a testament that there are still many inspiring Filipino leaders in this generation who will join him in his journey towards achieving good governance and lasting progress for every Filipino.
Among the other awardees were: Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara for Government Service (Legislative); Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV for Social Enterprise and Community Development; Alan Peter S. Cayetano for Government and Public Service (Public Accountability and Transparency); Maria Rachelle R. Gerodias for Arts and Music (Classical); Efren Peñaflorida Jr. for Grassroots Education and Community Service; Edsel Maurice T. Salvana for Medicine and Social Activism; Beatrice “Bea” P. Valdes, Fashion Design and Entrepreneurship; and Jun S. Yupitun for Entrepreneurship.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank former Jaycees National President Ismael Penado for taking time to guide me through the nomination process and for encouraging me to accomplish all the requirements. Allow me to also thank Quezon City Rep. Bolet Banal and DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo who also encouraged me to go through the rigorous selection process. Receiving an honor such as this should challenge all of us awardees to continue to do our own small share to help uplift the lives of the less privileged in our communities.
Thank you as well to The Manila Times led by Mr. Dante “Klink” Ang and Mr. Rene Bas for always being very supportive of our advocacies in the fields of public education reform and the promotion of good governance.
If last Monday was a celebration of modern-day Filipino heroes, last Tuesday was a day that Lauro Vizconde would rather forget. With the decision of the Supreme Court to acquit the main suspects of the tragic Vizconde Massacre, it seems that after almost 20 years since that heinous crime was committed we are now back to square one.
On one hand, Hubert Webb and the other suspects who have been declared innocent by the highest judicial body in our country has already suffered more than 15 years inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa while, on the other hand, Vizconde continues to seek justice for the killing of his wife and his two daughters. Sadly, while both camps have gone through so much suffering already, it would seem that a closure to the Vizconde massacre is still nowhere in sight given the fact that there is no new found evidence or witnesses about this case. More sadly, it took more than 15 years before our judicial system was able to issue a final verdict about this particular set of suspects.
Lost time is lost forever that is why it is very critical that our country strengthen our law enforcement agencies’ capabilities to investigate crimes, gather evidence and ensure the protection of witnesses. More importantly, we should also develop a long term program that would enable our justice system to hire more effective, efficient and ethical judges so that innocent Filipinos who are wrongly accused need not suffer for long while real criminals are immediately punished. This case is but another grim reminder to all of us that our country still has a long way to go in achieving a swift, fair and impartial justice system.
Also back to square one are the lives of Hubert Webb and his co-accused. The older brother of Hubert, Fritz Webb, put it well when he said that Hubert doesn’t even know anymore where they live since 15 years is almost a generation that has been lost. Whether Hubert is truly innocent or not, he and his family now face the daunting task of moving on with their lives in the hope of putting this sad nightmare behind them.
In my own personal dealings with the families of ex-convicts here in the Philippines, even if they were declared innocent by the higher courts, many of them still carry the stigma of being branded as criminals and that is why we have many ex-convicts who still find it very hard to find a decent way to earn a living.
Many Filipinos also shy away from interacting with them for fear that they may endanger others and commit future crimes in their communities. I hope our government will be able to develop a strong reform and reintegration program for them so that they can still live productively and contribute positively in our society. After all, they are still our fellow Filipinos and more importantly, our brother and sisters in Christ.