6 ‘Heroes of Asia’ feted at 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Awards
Six new “Heroes of Asia” were honored at the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Awards held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City on Wednesday.
The six awardees who were referred to by Ramon Magsaysay Foundation President Carmencita Abella as “Heroes of Asia” were Dompet Duafa, an Indonesian organization; Bezwada Wilson, an advocate of the anti-manual scavenging movement in India; Thodur Madabusi Krishna, a Karnatik musician and activist; Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers; Laotian rescue organization Vientiane Rescue, and Philippine Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
1. Conchita Caprio-Morales, Philippines
The feisty Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is known for being a staunch fighter against corruption in the government.
In her speech, she emphasized that she draws inspiration from her grandchildren and every Filipino child robbed of a future due to prevalent graft in the government. “I hope that our shared crusade results in succeeding generations of Filipinos will not allow corruption to tear at the protective mantle of the rule of law, the anchor of democracy. But is it up to us to stay safely anchored, or drift in the dangerous currents of anarchy,” Morales said.
2. Dompet Duafa, Indonesia
Dompet Duafa, or “Wallet of the Poor” in Indonesian, is an organization that aims to promote transparency in the collection of zakat, an Islamic concept of mandatory alms for the poor. Represented by Ahmad Juwaini and Ismail Agus Said, the charity group began as a team of journalists taking part in a social mission to uplift the lives of Indonesian destitutes.
3. Vientiane Rescue, Laos
Vientiane Rescue had a rough start in managing their organization. Six years ago, Laos had one of the highest crime rates in Southeast Asia, and neglected casualties were left bleeding to death. Despite a lack of support and financial restraints, Bounmy Khamvongsa and French paramedic Sebastien Perret strove to save Laotian lives by assembling a pre-hospital emergency response. In their tearful speech, they thanked the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for giving their volunteers “the opportunity to be proud of themselves.”
4. Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, Japan
Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers was launched in 1965, exactly two decades after Japan ravaged Asia during World War II, and hopes to “restore the trust” of the international community. Representatives Kimichi Kubota and Shinichi Kitaoka narrated how their community-based efforts and volunteer excursions alleviated social ills plaguing developing countries, such as the Philippines.
“As we look forward to the next fifty years, we will continue to work hand-in-hand to promote grassroots collaboration, and further invigorate international trust and cooperation throughout the world,” Kitaoka said.
5. Thodur Madabusi Krishna, India
Hailing from an elite family, Thodur Madabusi Krishna inherited a rich musical tradition called Karnatik music, and as he shared his passion with his fellow Brahmins (ruling class in the Indian caste system), he noticed that impoverished Indians were prohibited from enjoying this genre of art. Since then, he distanced himself from performing at lavish concerts and instead sought to introduce Karnatik music to the Indian masses, children, and villagers in war-torn Sri Lanka.
Krishna, who received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, quoted in his speech, “Cultures are not bound by the lines that we draw on the map. It is in fact art that reveals to every human being inhabiting the complex yet beautiful planet we have similar struggles and celebrations.”
6. Bezwada Wilson, India
Divergent from Krishna’s fate, Bezwada Wilson was born from the Dalits, the lowest class of the Indian caste system. He was about to be destined to be a manual scavenger, just like his parents and ancestors, when he pursued higher and education and changed his destiny. Wilson launched the Safai Karmachari Andolan in 1993 and strenuously lobbied with the Indian government for scholarships for scavengers’ children, vocational training for female scavengers, and a total scrapping of manual scavenging.
Aside from the momentous awarding, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo delivered a compelling speech about the legacy of her husband and former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, highlighting the time when he walked the same stage and received the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000. Moreover, she also congratulated and cited the key achievements of the six Ramon Magsaysay awardees.
All six awardees received a certificate, a medallion with the likeness of Magsaysay, and a cash prize to invigorate their programs and initiatives. There are a total of 312 Ramon Magsaysay Laureates from 1958 to 2016. The awarding coincides with the birth anniversary of the late President after whom the leadership award was named./rga
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