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RM awardees, living examples of service

IN a world dominated by acts and threats of war and other violence from people who hold great power in their hands, Vice President Leni Robredo last Sunday called attention to people who live and work for “people left behind by progress, seem to be drowning in frustration and anger because of the neglect that those in power had shown to those who were left behind.”

She was the keynote speaker at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards ceremonies which honored five individuals and one organization at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on the 110th birth anniversary of President Ramon Magsaysay.

There is a “surplus of anger and frustration” in the world today, she said. She was very probably thinking of the continuing fighting involving jihadist Islamic State combatants in the Middle East and, more recently, in Marawi right here in the Philippines; the escalating threats of destruction and fury between North Korea and the United States; and the killings right here in our own country.

Against this background of violence, she said, are the stories of the six RM awardees who, each in their own way, worked to help those in great need. Philippine awardee Lilia de Lima ran the Philippine Economic Zone Authority in a way that benefited millions of Filipino workers. Japanese Yoshiaki Ishizawa worked with the Cambodian people and helped them to be proud stewards of the Angkor Wat and their other cultural heritage.

Indonesian Abdon Nababan worked with the indigenous people of his nation, giving them voice and asserting their rights. Sri Lankan Gethsie Shanmugam worked for over four decades with the victims of war in the country, particularly the women and children. Singaporean Tony Tay shared food with others and did other acts of kindness in a volunteer movement that saved the lives of many. And the Philippine Educational Theater Association was recognized for developing theater arts as a force for social change.

The world has great need for people like these awardees, Vice President Robredo said. They are the kind of people who take on great difficulties no matter the personal costs and sacrifices, “who would do something, not because it is easy, but because no one else will take on the challenge.” They are “living examples of transformative leadership and inspiring service.”

In the coming weeks and months, we will be living through continuing violence and threats of violence all over the world and right here in our own country. But we must never lose sight of the work being done by small people, often striving by themselves, to help those being left behind. And we must never forget the truism, as the Vice President stressed in her speech, that progress that leaves people behind is not real progress.

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