The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) in ceremonies held at the RM Center Thursday, June 26, 2008, announced as national winners of the year-long 5th cycle of the RMSEC: Ms. Kate Lynn Heceta of the O.B. Montessori for the high school level, and Mr. Oliver Lemuel Villegas of the University of the Philippines Mindanao for the college level. The two were selected from a roster of seven finalists which included:
Mr. Allen Mallari, from Labo City National High school in Ozamis City (Mindanao), was unable to travel to Manila to participate in the final stages of the selection.
There was no qualified finalist from the Visayas region for the college level.
The national winners received each a P50,000 cash gift from RMAF and a Phillippine Airlines ticket to any destination across the Philippines. All the finalists, in their capacity as regional winners, each received a PC set.
The 5th RMSEC awarding ceremony was attended by Magsaysay awardees Rosa Rosal (Public Service'99) and Eugenia Duran Apostol (Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts '06) who were selected as topics by two regional finalists. Members of the Magsaysay Family included former Senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., his sister Mila Magsaysay-Valenzuela, and his son Paco. Delegations from various schools, including competition participants from the NCR also participated in the afternoon event, among them, were O.B. Montessori School, Manila Science High School, Ramon Magsaysay High School-Cubao, Ramon Magsaysay High School-España, Paco Catholic School, Cornerstone Christian Academy of Quezon City, De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde, Integrated Montessori Center, Mapua Institute of Technology, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, PMW School Inc., Polytechnic University of the Phils., Technological Institute of the Phils., University of the Philippines-Manila, St. Scholastica's Academy, National University, Espiritu Santo Parochial School, Chiang Kai Shek College, University of De La Salle University-Integrated School, Bacolod.
In brief remarks, RMAF President Carmencita T. Abella thanked the various institutional and corporate partners who greatly enriched the conduct of the 5th RMSEC - from exhibit tours in selected Shoemart malls, to networking courtesy of GILAS, the Foundation for Worldwide People Power, the DEPED, the National Historical Institute, promotional outlets such as the LRT and MRT, the Anvil and National Bookstores, media partners such as the Inquirer, Studio 23 and Knowledge Channel. In particular, Ms. Abella cited the contribution of the Philippine Airlines which did not only fly the exhibits but also the finalists from the Visayas and Mindanao, including additional tickets given to the national winners and those raffled off as surprise gifts to members of the audience who correctlly answered questions about the Magsaysay Award.
RMSEC is a novel approach which the RMAF started to bring hope, inspiration and positive role models to the youth of Asia by connecting the lifework of the Magsaysay Awardees with the youth. It encourages students at the secondary and tertiary levels to read and research about the lives and accomplishments of the Magsaysay laureates, and then to write about an awardee who has inspired them to make a difference in the lives of others. Through this experience of learning about the awardees' "greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia," the Foundation wishes to animate future generations in wanting to lead meaningful paths in the future.
The competition, according to RMAF Vice-Chair Emily Abrera, started as a personal tribute by Paco Magsaysay for his Lolo, the late president. Since 2000 when the competition was re-launched and managed by RMAF, RMSEC has had five runs in the Philippines and two overseas - at the Ewha Womens University in South Korea - the world's largest university for women; and in five schools in India. These sites represent the geographical areas of the award which covers 23 countries in Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia and South Asia. More than three thousand entries have been generated by the RMSEC's various cycles. The Foundation with Anvil Publishing Inc has published "Young Pens For Young Minds," an anthology of the winning essays during the competition's first four years.
A special message to the youth was delivered by Miss KC Concepcion in her capacity as the World Food Program (WFP) National Ambassador Against Hunger. WFP joined the awarding stage of the 5th RMSEC as a partner and Ms. Abella noted the complementarity of the goals of RMAF and WFP. The Foundation, through programs for the youth such as RMSEC, to feed the hunger of the young for role models and inspiration for a future of meaningful service to humanity; and those of the WFP whose widespread presence provides feeding programs for needy children and allows the children to go to school and stay in school. Two Magsaysay awardees - both scientists - have been awardeed the World Food Prize - for their contributions to feeding humanity. They are M.S. Swaminathan from India and Yuan Longping from China.
In her message, KC congratulated the RMSEC participants for providing "a breath of fresh air in this day and age when our fellow youth have gone apathetic and jaded." As WFP national ambassador, KC noted how with ".. fastfood chains at every corner, hunger could still occur in our own backyard." She cited the staggering conditions in conflict-ridden Mindanao which she recently visited and where 64% of the families cannot access enough food to meet their minimum needs, and 38% of children are malnourished... These children, who are like younger brothers and sisters to me, live everyday faced with the predicament of going to school with fear in their hearts, and literal emptiness in their bellies... 59 million children around the world face the same challenge of going to school hungry." "Who knows," she says, " how many scientists, statesmen, musicians, artists, development workers and athletes, including Ramon Magsaysay Awardees we may have lost, because their bodies and minds have been dulled by malnutrition?" .KC wistfully said, "If I was to have submitted an essay to this contest, I would have written about another WFP Ambassador and Ramon Magsaysay Laureate herself, "the good princess" as Thais fondly call on her, Her Royal Highness Maha SIRINDHORN."
The Magsaysay Award has been honoring individuals and organizations across Asia since 1958 when the first awards were given. The award was established in 1957 following the tragic death of the much-admired late Filipino president whose courageous leadership and example of greatness of spirit inspired the creation of Asia's most prestigious prize. Among the more than 250 laureates who have been honored are Mother Teresa (International Understanding '62), The Dalai Lama (Community Leadership '59), Muhammad Yunus (Community Leadership '84), Fr. Aloysius Schwartz (International Understanding '83).