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2014 Ramon Magsaysay awardees honored

President Aquino yesterday lauded this year’s prestigious roster of Ramon Magsaysay awardees who, he said, manifested the same selfless service as shown by the late Filipino leader. He expressed hope that more people will be inspired to help those who have less.

The President attended yesterday’s presentation of the 2014 Ramon Magsaysay Awards to five individuals and one organization coming from different countries at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City.

2014 RAMON MAGSAYSAY AWARDEES – President Aquino (4th from right) joins the 2014 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, yesterday. From left: Randy Halasan of the Philippines, Wang Canfa of China, The Citizens Foundation of Pakistan representatives Atit Riaz and Saleen Hasan, Omara Khan Masoudi of Afghanistan, Saur Marlina Manurung of Indonesia, and Hu Shuli of China. ( KJ Rosales)

2014 RAMON MAGSAYSAY AWARDEES – President Aquino (4th from right) joins the 2014 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, yesterday. From left: Randy Halasan of the Philippines, Wang Canfa of China, The Citizens Foundation of Pakistan representatives Atit Riaz and Saleen Hasan, Omara Khan Masoudi of Afghanistan, Saur Marlina Manurung of Indonesia, and Hu Shuli of China. ( KJ Rosales)

The recipients of Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize are Hu Shuli (China), Saur Marlina Manurung (Indonesia), Omara Khan Masoudi (Afghanistan), The Citizens Foundation (Pakistan), Wang Canfa (China), and Randy Halasan (Philippines).

In his speech, the President recognized the Ramon Magsaysay awardees for having dedicated their lives to serving the marginalized and the oppressed while at the same time mobilizing their communities to follow suit.

Aquino hailed this year’s awardees as “beacons of light” who were “not content to complain” but contributed to helping improve their communities.

He praised Halasan and Manurung for pouring their “heart and soul” to educate indigenous communities. Apart from the traditional subjects in classrooms, these two individuals are teaching life skills such as farming and awareness of basic rights of individuals, according to the President.

The President cited The Citizens Foundation based in Pakistan for its pursuit of quality education regardless of religion, gender or economic status.

Aquino likewise recognized Wang Canfa, a lawyer from China, who has worked tirelessly to protect the environmental rights of pollution victims and hold polluters accountable.

He also hailed Omara Khan Masoudi who went to great length to protect Afghan cultural heritage as well as Chinese journalist Hu Shuli who has fulfilled her duty towards promoting good governance.

He said this year’s Ramon Magsaysay awardees have found innovative and inclusive ways to address problems in their communities. “In other words, they have not been content to complain but have been inspired to act,” he said.

Aquino expressed hope that the honor received by the awardees would serve as “a challenge to all of us” that “we each have the capacity to help those who have less.”

He said today’s challenge is how to harness democracy to make sure the progress is felt by every last citizen especially by those who are most vulnerable.

He noted that President Magsaysay has already envisioned his government’s pursuit of inclusive growth.

Quoting Magsaysay, Aquino said: “The little man is fundamentally entitled to a little bit more food in his stomach, a little of more cloth on his back, and a little more roof over his head.” Aquino said this is precisely what his government continues to aspire for.

“Moving forward, I am hopeful more men and women will follow the footsteps of Ramon Magsaysay and our awardees today so we may work together and rise up to the challenge of times,” Aquino said.

Halasan was awarded for emergent leadership, for transforming lives of the Matigsalug tribe in the Pegalongan community, Davao City through promoting quality education and sustainable livelihoods.

“Almost all of us have struggles in life,” Halasan said after receiving the award. “Now looking back in my life, there has been a reason for [my] career choice.”

Halasan said serving as a teacher of Pegalongan Elementary School, located in a far-flung area in Davao City, has let him see happiness in the eyes of both students and parents.

He said the award is a strong call for passion to serve more Filipinos, adding that his fellowmen can overcome all challenges if they are determined, patient, and hardworking.

Shuli said journalists like her illuminate a path where everyone is searching for a direction, a mission which she said “never goes easy.”

She added that some special moments, such as winning the Award, have made her efforts in reporting the ills of Chinese society worthwhile.

Manurung said “gross domestic product does not calculate what is valuable in the eyes of indigenous peoples.”

“It saddens me that we have so detached from nature,” she said. “For all indigenous people, I hope time has come when you can represent yourself.”