Filipino among this year’s Ramon Magsaysay awardees


The 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Awards, to be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on 31 August, the birth anniversary of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, will include former Philippine ambassador and government peace negotiator Howard Dee.

“(Dee) is being recognized for his quietly heroic half-century of service to the Filipino people, his abiding dedication in pursuit of social justice and peace in achieving dignity and progress for the poor and his being, by his deeds, a true servant of his faith and exemplary citizen of this nation,” RMAF Chairperson Senen Bacani said.

Born to a middle-class Chinese family engaged in the lumber business, Dee developed his social sympathies early on. After his studies at the University of the East, he carved out a succcessful business career as shareholder and president of United laboratories (Unilab), a pioneering local pharmaceuticals company.

MARIA de Lourdes Martins Cruz

In 1970, Dee helped establish the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the largest business-led social development nongovernmental organization which helps companies that wish to contribute to sustainable development and poverty reduction.

In 1975, Dee founded the Assisi Development Foundation with Jesuit priest Francisco Araneta, a foundation in pursuit of “peace through development with justice.” Since its establishment, the ADF had implemented 4,123 projects that benefitted 10.5 million Filipinos.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) announced the 60th batch of awardees on 26 July. Created in 1957, it is regarded as Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The other awardees for 2018 are:

Youk Chang (Cambodia) is a survivor of the five-year Cambodian genocide who has devoted his life to documenting Khmer Rouge atrocities. He is recognized for “his leadership and vision in transforming the memory of horror into a process of attaining and preserving justice in his nation and the world.”

Maria de Lourdes Martins Cruz (East Timor) founded Instituto Seculare Maun Alin Iha Kristu ( Secular Institute of Brothers and Sisters), which is dedicated to uplifting vulnerable members of society through self-help projects in health care, education, and agriculture.

She is recognized for her “pure humanitarianism… her nurturing the development of autonomous, self-reliant, caring citizens.”

Bharat Vatwani (India) devoted his life to serving the mentally ill living on the streets. He established the Shraddh Rehabilitation Foundation, which provides free shelter, food, treatment, and the chance to reunite the mentally ill with their families. He is recognized for “his steadfast and magnanimous dedication to the work of restoring and affirming the human dignity of even the most ostracised in our midst.”

YOUK Chhang

Vo Thi Hoang Yen (Vietnam) has dedicated her life to providing livelihood, skills training, and job placement to persons with disabilities (PWDs) through the Disability Research and Capacity Development organization, which she founded. She is recognized for “her creative, charismatic leadership in the sustained campaign to break down physical and mental barriers that have marginalized PWDs (persons with disabilities) in Vietnam.”

Sonam Wangchuk (India) is acknowledge for his efforts in pioneering a partnership with local governments to develop educational reform programs that focus on “creative, child friendly, and activity-based” education in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

He went on to open the Students’ Education and Cultural Movement of Ladakh school and is recognized for “his constructive engagement of all sectors in local society to harness science and culture creatively for economic progress.”

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is given to persons who address issues of human development in Asia “with courage and creativity, and in doing so have made contributions that have transformed their societies for the better.”