My precious early Christmas gift
Major, Major - Venus Raj () - November 20, 2011 - 12:00am

At first, I could not believe that I would be even considered, much more chosen, to receive such a recognition. But of course, after disbelief came an overwhelming wave of gratitude. Such a lofty title comes with a tremendous realization that along with the privileges of being a celebrity are serious responsibilities.

I was deeply honored to be Gawad Amerika’s Woman of the Year.

As somebody who has gone through great challenges, I grab every opportunity that allows me to share my experiences and provide a meaningful inspiration to anyone who dares to dream. Gawad Amerika espouses equal opportunity. Founded by Charles Simbulan, the non-profit organization encourages people to aspire and pursue their goals in spite of challenging circumstances.

My joy comes from the fact that Gawad Amerika and I share exactly the same sentiment. Anybody can be successful. So when I was told of the award, I made sure I would be there to personally receive it. I could barely contain my excitement.

When we got there, the warm reception was extremely touching. It was a testament of the inherent generosity of Filipinos. It was such a genuine fellowship — experiencing true Filipino hospitality in a foreign land. There were times I almost had to pinch myself to see if I really was in the US because the genuine warmth was really just like home.

I know for a fact that Gawad Amerika’s endeavors are a worthy cause because it is this same attitude that allowed me to overcome challenges. It is this positive spirit that drives people to success.

While I was planning my trip to receive the award, I immediately decided that I would love to have Atty. Francis Papica as my guest. Atty. Papica’s foundation sent me to school. It opened so many doors of opportunity for me and I will forever be grateful. In fact, I was quite disappointed when he told me he could not come because of some personal matters he had to attend to. Little did I know that he made up this excuse just so he could surprise me during the awards night. He was there to introduce me!

Going up on stage challenged my nerves more than any other beauty pageant did. I was in the company of people who have greatly contributed to the improvement of the lives of others. The impact of these collected efforts cannot be bound by borders or time. And instilling the same principles in the beneficiaries means that the goodness gets passed on for generations to come.

…With Andrew, my manager Jonas Gaffud, Oliver and friends

Indeed, it felt like early Christmas — the generosity, goodwill and fellowship. My gift did not come in a box wrapped in fancy paper. It was far more precious. 

No amount of space would be enough to contain all the thank you’s that I would like to send, but I will try anyway.

My most heartwarming thanks goes to Charles Simbulan and his family; the Gawad Amerika officers and their respective families as well, Alvin Yari Paris who almost became our driver/tour guide; Monet Lu (provider/scheduler); Glenda Glendale; Patrick Reyes of Amarano Hotel; Oliver Tolentino and his partner Andrew (for the gown and sumptuous dinner, especially the kare kare!); the staff of Monet Salon;  Atty. Francis Papica (my daddy! my inspiration!); fans from West Hollywood; John Morante (for everything! for the MacBook Pro!); Amy Gil and family; Hydee Abrahan; Studio 1003; Asian Journal; Steve Angeles of ABS-CBN; Olivia Quido; Estrella Acapulco and Jade Bautista of Angel City; Emy Trinidad; Lou Razon; Doc Gamboa; and Ara Claro.

You all made my trip a most memorable one. I am humbled by your trust and confidence. I hope we all move forward with an even stronger sense of community.

Mabuhay ang Pilipino!

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