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UP grad in photo plagiarism gets redemption

Former Chile ambassador Roberto Mayorga and Mark Joseph Solis hug during the launch of the Calidad Humana book at the Cultural Center of the Philippines yesterday as Antonio Jose Torralba of the University of Asia and the Pacific looks on. Janvic Mateo

MANILA, Philippines - For former Chilean ambassador to the Philippines Roberto Mayorga, Mark Joseph Solis more than just redeemed himself: he has proven that the dark moments in one’s life often reveal the brightest trait of an individual.

For the past two years, Solis, a graduate of political science from the University of the Philippines, managed a football program for street children at a makeshift field inside the Baclaran church compound in Pasay City.

The football club, with players aged eight to 12, seeks to develop children’s character through the sport.

“We were inspired by the world-class football players of South America who started via street football,” Solis, who co-founded the program, said in an earlier report in The STAR.

“But more than developing top athletes, we aim to provide these kids with opportunities for personal and spiritual development,” he added.

The program was part of his commitment to Mayorga and the rest of the people behind the Calidad Humana project following a photo plagiarism controversy that hounded the Smiles for the World photo contest sponsored by the embassy of Chile in 2013.

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Solis was stripped of the grand prize after it was learned that he was not the person who took the winning photo. He later apologized for the incident.

Mayorga, meanwhile, asked him to participate in the activities of Calidad Humana as part of his path to redemption.

“I think this is very important,” Mayorga told The STAR following the book launch of “Calidad Humana: Sharing the Filipino Spirit” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines yesterday.

“Mark Solis is an example that it is possible for someone to redeem himself, to change,” he added.

Mayorga, now a consultant for the Energy Development Corp. (EDC), said the issue is now closed as Solis has genuinely repented and redeemed himself following the incident.

“Two years working with children, and now he’s a different person,” Mayorga said.

For the former ambassador, the lessons Solis learned from one of most challenging episodes in his life are more important.

“He was so damaged, totally damaged,” he recalled, adding that Solis has worked hard to recover from the aftermath of the controversy. “After fulfilling his commitment, he deserves to be recognized.”

Mayorga and Solis shared an emotional embrace at the culmination of the book launch as the latter’s “redemption” from the controversy was imparted to the audience.

Solis, who has suffered harsh criticisms on social media over the plagiarism case, declined the request for an interview, saying he is now “living a quiet life.”

He, however, pledged to continue working with the program to promote Calidad Humana, a Filipino value loosely translated as kabutihang loob sa kapwa (goodness to fellowmen).

Sharing the Filipino spirit

During the book launch, Mayorga stressed the need for Filipinos to recognize and preserve an exceptional trait of “deep and intuitive concern for others that comes naturally to Filipinos.”

“A majority of Filipinos are known for their positive attitude: friendliness, hospitality, humility, the priority they give to others over material things, resiliency, spirituality, joy of life and a sincere attitude. This is calidad humana,” he said.

The book contains articles that provide the intellectual framework aimed at understanding and strengthening the concept. It also contains numerous messages from various notable individuals from different sectors.

“Sometimes a country is best seen through the eyes of a foreigner. That is the case with Roberto Mayorga, Chile’s former ambassador to Manila,” STAR editor-in-chief Ana Marie Pamintuan wrote.

“(Calidad humana) is exemplified, he says, in the smile that comes easily to the Filipino, even in the midst of poverty and adversary… This book is a tribute to the Filipino spirit,” she added.

Oscar Lopez, chairman emeritus of the Lopez Group of Companies, wrote the foreword to the book.

“Together, we need to do our utmost to safeguard, preserve and cultivate this national spirit. But we should also be aware as Filipinos that our calidad humana can be our gift to the world and that it is both a privilege and responsibility to share,” Lopez wrote.

“Just as all countries seek to export their natural resources or their industrial and technological products, the Philippines is in a unique position to export its human richness to all the peoples of the world,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, who attended the book launch, said the department would distribute copies of the book to the different Philippine consulates and embassies to spread the word on calidad humana.

Mayorga said a second part of the book, which will cover different ways on how Filipinos can safeguard calidad humana, would be released next year.

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