Mindanawon public school teacher is Ramon Magsaysay awardee

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 August) – A 31-year old Mindanawon public school teacher from Davao City is the lone Filipino out of five Asians who will receive on August 31 the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Randy Halasan, who will receive the award for Emergent Leadership, is being recognized for “his purposeful dedication in nurturing his Matigsalug students and their community to transform their lives through quality education and sustainable livelihoods, doing so in ways that respect their uniqueness and preserve their integrity as indigenous peoples in a modernizing Philippines.”

Halasan is a teacher at the Pegalongan Elementary School in the hinterlands of Marilog District in Davao City – a seven-hour travel from his family’s home in the city – two hours by bus, an hour by habal-habal motorcycle and four hours of walking and crossing two treacherous rivers. When he first arrived there in 2007, his first thought was to immediately seek reassignment. Halasan has been head teacher since 2010 and has also helped set up a high school, among others. (see profile)

The Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) announced on July 31 that five individuals, including Halasan, and one organization from Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines will receive the prestigious award.

Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

The Award celebrates the memory and leadership example of the President who died in a plane crash. It is given “every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader,” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) website said.

It quoted RMAF President Carmencita Abella, as saying this year’s winners are “truly beacons of progress in Asia” in that all of them are “creating bold solutions to deeply-rooted social problems in their respective societies, problems which are most damaging to the lives of those trapped in poverty, ignorance, and unjust systems.”

“Their inspiring and path-breaking leadership addresses very diverse areas — education for the poor and marginalized, environmental justice for pollution victims, increased transparency and accountability in corporate and public governance, and the restoration of cultural pride – and yet it is clear that each of this year’s  Magsaysay awardees is building more hopeful lives among their people — one smart, responsible, and persistent step at a time,” said Abella.

She said the solutions offered by the winners are “distinctively their own” but they share one thing in common: “a greatness of spirit that infuses their leadership for change.”

Abella said the winners “are all unafraid to take on large causes; they all refuse to give up, despite meager resources, daunting adversity and strong opposition. They are all deeply anchored in hope. We have much to learn from them, and much to celebrate about their greatness of spirit.”

A total of 301 winners have been conferred the Magsaysay Award as of 2013.

The winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President, and a cash prize.  They will be formally conferred the Magsaysay Award during formal Presentation Ceremonies on August 31 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Aside from Halasan, the other winners are Hu Shuli and Wang Canfa from China, Saur Marlina Manurung from Indonesia, Omara Khan Masoudi from Afghanistan, and The Citizens Foundation from Pakistan.

Shuli is being awarded for her “unrelenting commitment to truthful, relevant, and unassailable journalism, her fearless promotion of transparency and accountability in business and public governance, and her leadership in blazing the way for more professional and independent-minded media practices in China.”

Manurung is being recognized for her “ennobling passion to protect and improve the lives of Indonesia’s forest people, and her energizing leadership of volunteers in SOKOLA’s customized education program that is sensitive to the lifeways of indigenous communities and the unique development challenges they face.”

Masoudi is being recognized for his “courage, labor, and leadership in protecting Afghan cultural heritage, rebuilding an institution vital for Afghanistan’s future, and reminding his countrymen and peoples everywhere that in recognizing humanity’s shared patrimony, we can be inspired to stand together in peace.”

Canfa is being recognized for his “discerning and forceful leadership—through scholarly work, disciplined advocacy, and pro bono public interest litigation—in ensuring that the enlightened and competent practice of environmental law in China effectively protects the rights and lives of victims of environmental abuse, especially the poor and the powerless.”

The Citizens Foundation in Pakistan is being recognized for “the social vision and high-level professionalism of its founders and those who run its schools, in successfully pursuing their conviction that, with sustained civic responsiveness, quality education made available to all—irrespective of religion, gender, or economic status—is the key to Pakistan’s brighter future.” (MindaNews)