The Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremony is held every year on August 31, the birth anniversary of the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is a fitting tribute to a well-loved President, much admired for his simplicity and service to the nation.
I was privileged to watch the presentation ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center on Friday afternoon. I was glad to see many students attending the event. Never mind if some may have felt forced to do so. I hope that the students, and other attendees too, were moved by the courage of these men and women who dare to live a life for others.
It was very inspiring to hear this year’s Magsaysay Awards laureates speak of their unique experiences in their respective countries. They mentioned specific challenges that they continue to try to overcome. What struck me was their humility and commitment. While they expressed their gratitude and feeling of being honored to be chosen for the award, they did not see their work as extraordinary. I was particularly touched by the words of Chen Shu-Jiu, a vegetable vendor from Taiwan, who said that “I never considered myself a great person.” But she gives whatever she has to those in need, because “Everyone has something to offer,” and believes that what’s important is the willingness to help and make a difference. Inspiring too were the words of Martin Luther King as echoed by Bangladeshi environmental activist Syeda Rizwana Hasan to show her passion for her cause: “No, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
In his speech, President Noynoy Aquino paid tribute to the late Secretary Jesse Robredo, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee in 2000. He expressed his sadness over the loss of a friend and a public servant. But the President also expressed optimism that there are more people, in the Philippines and elsewhere, who continue their work as great servant-leaders in the mold of Magsaysay and Robredo, as exemplified by all laureates of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation. May the likes of them increase. May we aspire to be like them, and find the courage and willingness to make a difference.