The beloved and much admired president Ramon Magsaysay was a man of greatness of spirit who exemplified the highest type of democratic leadership. He has been an inspiration, a source of strength that gave confidence to people who care about the well being of their fellow citizens.
The Magsaysay Award is recognized as Asia’s premier prize and highest honor. It is conferred on individuals and organizations “whose contributions have enhanced this creative tradition of transformative leadership and selfless service to the peoples of Asia.”
At the 61st presentation ceremony, Ramon Magsaysay Foundation chairman Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia remarked, “We give the Magsaysay Award year after year, because what the Award honors is still there: Greatness of Spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia can still be discovered in each of the region’s countries.
“We all need good news, especially in these times of overwhelming conflict, disaster, social division, negativism and despair.
“By celebrating our awardees life work that is both significantly purposeful and is successfully improving lives, we encourage them to do more, and inspire others to emulate their example.
“We thank each of the year’s Magsaysay Awardees for creating quiet ripples of change in their societies — ripples that over time become a forceful groundswell of positive transformation in the lives of countless others.”
In the video The Power of Asian Solutions, Trustee Aurelio R. Montinola III said, “Since the Award was first presented 60 years ago, Asia has changed tremendously for the better. The awards have contributed significantly to its material progress, democratization, and advancements in human development particularly in eliminating the scourge of hunger, disease, and ignorance. Still, some of Asia’s seemingly intractable problems persist and millions of lives remain impoverished and vulnerable.
“We continue to search for solutions — efficient, affordable sustainable solutions.”
The Awardees have diverse stories but they all share values, character traits and leadership approaches.
Mr. Cuisia remarked, “All five reflect an uncompromising conviction about the fundamental dignity and potential of everyone, especially the ordinary, little or poor person… (They have) courage that has been tested… to push the limits of oppressive systems, to challenge widespread prejudice and to correct an unjust status quo.”
Kim Jong-Ki, from South Korea, has been working for 25 years to reduce teenage suicides. His quiet courage is transforming private grief into a mission to protect the youth from the scourge of bullying and violence — with the goal to instill the values of self-esteem and tolerance in South Korea.
Mr. Jong-Ki revealed, “As society becomes more industrialized and materialistic, school violence perpetrators and victims are getting younger. And with the Internet, incidents of cyber and sexual violence are on the rise. We have to gather our wisdom and efforts to protect our children… This work was my promise to my son. I took it as my destiny and mission from God.”
Ko Swe Win, from Myanmar, is editor-in-chief of an online newspaper who has been exposing hidden, painful, dangerous realities since 2015. In his response, he stated, “Journalism plays a crucial role — the kind of journalism that seeks the truth, that protects the fundamental rights of human beings, that is not colored by political and religious dogmas and, above all, that is driven not by animosities against anyone or any entity but by a great compassion for the most unfortunate communities an individuals in a society… in Asia.”
Ravish Kumar, from India, through his daily new program gives voice to the voiceless and speaks uncomfortable truth to power. He has been harassed and threatened but he has kept the faith with a journalism that puts service to the people at its center. The Foundation cited Mr. Kumar’s “Unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards; his moral courage in standing up for truth, integrity and independence.”
Angkhana Neelapaijit, from Thailand, sought justice for her human rights lawyer husband who was slain. She founded Justice for Peace Foundation, a network for human rights and peace advocates in southern Thailand.
In her response, she said, “My honor today… has shown the story of an ordinary woman’s struggle for justice, democracy and rule of law and this is a big change for women, for families and for the nation.”
Raymundo “Ryan” Cayabyab, from the Philippines, is the iconic musical artist, composer, performer, and teacher who has been shaping the country’s musical culture for four decades. A Philippine National Artist for Music, Mr. Cayabyab is a moving force in Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and has inspired Filipino popular music across generations, promoting young musical talents for the global stage. He wrote his first song at age 12 and that started his creative music-writing career.
When he started teaching at UP College of Music in Diliman, Mr. Cayabyab realized, “I would like to spend my life teaching music… to young musicians.
“Teaching can transform lives. I want everyone I teach to discover their maximum potential. I also want them to be better than me… to adopt the same vision to bring the entire music industry to new heights and hopefully to help the country move forward… My goal is to make the Filipino public aware that our original music is a living tradition the binding ‘glue’ that forms strengthens and positively moves the Filipino community.”
In 1962, Ramon Magsaysay awardee Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa of Calcutta) eloquently said, “Sometimes we feel that the good that we do is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less without that one drop.”
Congratulations to the amazing awardees who have shown the richness of human spirit, the courage to take personal steps for the common good.
Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.