4 Ramon Magsaysay 2022 awardees honored

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation has formally conferred the recognition on this year’s four awardees selected for their “selfless service and transformative influence” in their respective fields.

“This year’s roster of Magsaysay Awardees has all challenged the invisible societal lines that cause separation and have drawn innovative and inspiring ones that build connections,” said Aurelio Montinola III, chairman of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

“Sotheara Chhim of Cambodia reverses the compounding effect of generational trauma through his perseverance and empathy; Japan’s Tadashi Hattori demonstrates that dedication and kindness can elevate the definition of individual social responsibility; Filipino pediatrician Bernadette Madrid, despite the many obstacles on her horizon, joyfully creates safe spaces for children and Gary Bencheghib from Indonesia inspires us all to reimagine the environmental impact we can make when we combine passion and a sense of adventure,” Montinola said.

Described as a leading voice in Cambodian trauma syndrome, mental health advocate Chhim was recognized for “his calm courage in surmounting deep trauma to become his people’s healer; his transformative work amidst great need and seemingly insurmountable difficulties and for showing that daily devotion to the best of one’s profession can itself be a form of greatness.”

“As a young doctor in remote areas, I saw the great need for psychosocial health. I realized that this is perhaps my calling to provide much needed psychosocial care to my countrymen,” Chhim said in his response.

“This award comes with a prize money. I am donating all these to TPO initiative’s Operation Unchain to continue to trip and unchain more patients who are in need of help. I will continue to implement the project until there are no more patients chained in the country,” he added.

Japanese “sight-saving” humanitarian Hattori, meanwhile, was presented with the award for being an embodiment of individual social responsibility.

He was recognized for “his simple humanity and extraordinary generosity as a person and a professional; his skill and compassion in restoring the gift of sight to tens of thousands of people not his own and the inspiration he has given, by his shining example, that one person can make a difference in helping kindness flourish in the world.”

“When a child cannot read or write, unable to go to school because of blindness, it means a child is deprived of an opportunity to explore the full potential of the life that God has given. These are those who cannot see the light every day, feeling helpless, useless and hopeless simply because they do not see the light ahead in life,” said Hattori.

“If there’s anything that I can do as an ophthalmologist, it is bring the light to such people, so that they will turn their despair to hope and live a better life they deserve,” he added.

On the other hand, Filipina children’s rights crusader Madrid was recognized for “her unassuming and steadfast commitment to a noble and demanding advocacy; her leadership in running a multisectoral, multidisciplinary effort in child protection that is admired in Asia and her competence and compassion in devoting herself to seeing that every abused child lives in a healing, safe and nurturing society.”

“I have learned that there are no quick fixes, that we cannot do this alone, that we need the system to work, that ordinary people need to do their job with purpose, compassion and skill. Unfortunately, I also learned that ending violence against children will not happen on its own. We need to fight for it. It needs planning, commitment, resources, persistence and leadership,” Madrid said.

“We are the stewards of this planet, and particularly the children. We are the stewards of their soul. The Ramon Magsaysay Award has made me realize how much people care and that I am not alone,” she added.

Also recognized for emergent leadership was French Bencheghib, who is on the forefront of the fight against plastic pollution in Indonesia.

He was feted for “his inspiring fight against marine plastic pollution, an issue at once intensely local as well as global; his youthful energies in combining nature, adventure, video and technology as weapons for social advocacy and his creative, risk-taking passion that is truly a shining example for the youth and the world.”

“We are destroying our planet quicker than we can fix it. And now, we need to let our planet rest and heal… Our next goal is to scale up to the 1,000 of the world’s most polluted rivers. But we cannot do this alone. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and this is just the beginning,” Bencheghib said in his response.

“The little boy inside of me would have never imagined I would become a garbage man. But here I am, very proud to be cleaning – river by river – on this mission for a plastic-free world,” he added.

Established in 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is considered Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Named in honor of the seventh Philippine president, it is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia “who manifest the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.”

The hybrid presentation ceremonies were held at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila.


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