Yahoo! recently gave recognition to seven Filipinos (‘Pitong Pinoys’ in the vernacular) whose contributions in the realm of volunteerism and advocacy work made a significant impact in the lives of Filipinos. It is Yahoo!’s first initiative to celebrate patriotism and national pride among Filipinos. This recognition, for me, is so timely because, under an administration that was elected on a platform of transparency and good governance, there is a clear need to show the Filipinos that despite general cynicism stemming from scandalous revelations of corruption in all corners of society, there is no dearth of ordinary heroes.
During the launch, Yahoo! Philippines Country Editor Erwin Oliva related that they were wondering at first whether they could actually find 7 heroes. After the initial call for nominations some time in May 2011, they were surprised by the submission of hundreds of applications representing people from all walks of life, including simple folk who were doing community work without any prodding or thoughts of compensatory recognition. Those applications were eventually whittled down to the final 7.
What made this awarding ceremony particularly special was the fact that two good friends were among the 7 awardees: Jay Jaboneta and Anna Oposa.
Meet the Pitong Pinoy awardees who have chosen different advocacies to make life better for the ordinary Juan.
Alexis Belonio – an engineer, he invented an environment-friendly rice husk stove to help poor families cook without having to use expensive fuel. A fan at the stove’s base converts ordinary rice husk, a freely available and abundant farm waste, into gas.
Jean Enriquez – she is the head of the “Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific“. Her advocacy is a vigorous battle against sex tourism, the mail-order bride trade, pornography and sexual exploitation. Her education camps teach young women how to avoid exposing themselves to abuse and also helps the healing process for those who have survived such abuses.
Jay Jaboneta – It started with just one Facebook status message after Jay learned that 200 children in Layag-Layag Village in Mindanao swam to school every day. With friends who responded to that message, Jay was able to raise around PhP70,000 in a week. Now, his advocacy is to provide more boats (painted bright yellow and dubbed “New Hope”) for other places in similar situations. Jay’s story caught the attention of Facebook which featured him in their “Best of Facebook Stories” and brought him to Palo Alto, California to be interviewed by the Facebook team. The work Jay and friends are doing can be found on “Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids”.
Tomas Leonor – he is the man behind ‘Step Juan’, a movement to raise funds for cancer-stricken children of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, in a unique way. He volunteers to travel without any motored transportation to raise the funds. Since April 4, 2011, Leonor has walked a total of 1,241.5 km across 7 islands, 10 provinces, 86 municipalities and 20 cities.
Heidi Mendoza – Who doesn’t know her? She corrects us when she says “I’m not a whistleblower. I’m a truth-teller”. For indeed that is what she is since she says she was never part of the corrupt system. She first made headlines when she exposed the multimillion peso corruption in the military and linked ex-AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia. She was appointed by President Aquino as a commissioner of the Commission on Audit (COA), the very institution she was with and which was somehow tainted during her expose. She is now working hard to restore COA’s dignity as an institution of integrity, transparency and good governance.
Anna Oposa – A very young 23-year old lady, Anna is already a director of the Law of Nature Foundation. Having the genes of parents who are staunch environmentalists, Anna has dedicated herself to protecting marine life. After hearing of massive coral reef destruction that has been going on in several parts of the country for decades, she initiated “Save the Philippine Seas” and continues to lobby for environmental protection. Anna, we are proud to say, is also a contributor for Blog Watch.
Tzarina Saniel – A bibliophile, she has collected and preserved old Filipino books including original manuscripts from Jose Rizal. At the launch, she brought with her two books that were around 102 years old.