RAFI bares Triennial Awards winners
(The Freeman) - August 14, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A few know of their heroism and contribution to uplift the lives of the needy, especially those in conflict-affected and marginalized areas in Mindanao.

But last night, Anita Castillon of South Cotabato and Kadtabanga Foundation for Peace and Development Advocates Inc (KFPDAI) in Maguindanao were recognized as “architects of change, role models that engage their community in a collaborative and holistic manner.”

Castillon and the foundation were awarded during the 6th Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Triennial Awards.

The two emerged triumphant among the 222 nominees from Visayas and Mindanao.

Castillon, 62, has devoted half of her life – 35 years – bringing education closer to T’Boli children and providing skills training among indigenous people to promote self-reliant communities in far-flung areas.

Castillon, the principal and owner of Marmylone Learning Center, has established three indigenous schools in two mountain barangays in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato and developed a system to sustain the feeding program within the schools.

She also introduced livelihood programs like brass casting and abaca planting and contributed to the decreasing number of malnourished children there through constant work with the Municipal Nutrition Office.

Castillon wore a traditional T’Boli costume adorned with body ornaments when she received the award at the Grand Convention Center here.

She’s not born a T’Boli herself but she learned to love them and be their advocate, educator and patriot. Poverty and lack of access to education softened and opened her heart to them. She even sacrificed being away from her only daughter so she could serve them.

“This is a very unexpected moment, receiving an award. This, I am still seeing a purpose to continue my journey in serving T’Boli families and children, whom are far from accessing quality education. I commit myself to further serve them and I dedicate my life for them,” she said in between tears when she received the award.

KFPDAI also has its own remarkable story.

The organization was founded in 2000 to strengthen peace and development communities and to serve as a link between these communities and external partners. Also, it takes part in encouraging Muslim women to be involved in economic and social activities.

“It is about shifting paradigms of the combatants. It is also about changing the perspectives of the communities that peace can be attained through helping each other,” said Hadja Giobay Diacolano, executive director of KFPDAI.

Diacolano herself was a former combatant of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the age of 13 and fought against the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but in 1996, she made the decision to let go of the guns and knives to seek for peace, unity and promote development in Mindanao.

The organization transformed 57 former combatants into Peace and Development Advocates, together with other MNLF members in other parts of Mindanao and Palawan. They underwent extensive training to become facilitators, linkers, information agents, translators, educators, mobilizers, coordinators, managers and mediators.

Diacolano said the “change” happened after the signing of the Final Peace Agreement between the government and MNLF, which mandated the peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

Gina Garcia Atienza, chairperson of the 6th RAFI Triennial Awards Search Committee, said the winners were chosen because “they are twice above the others” in exerting efforts to help the disadvantaged sectors.

“We checked what they did that gone ordinary to extraordinary,” she said.

Roberto Aboitiz, president of RAFI, said the awardees are true “champions” and “disciples” of change and excellence.

“They diverse in their causes and missions, converge in a common vision-that of helping the Filipino people by developing individuals and communities. For this, they and continue to blaze a trail, pave the way, and go the extra mile towards realizing shared aspirations,” he said.

“The RAFI Triennial Awards honors them because RAFI ascribes to the tenet that when it comes to service, the best way to go is to go out of one’s way,” he added.

Castillon and Diacolano both said the prizes they received – P484,000 each – will be used to further help the communities they serve.

Castillon said she will use the money to establish a water system for the school and to buy a carabao to sustain and develop their agricultural areas.

For her part, Diacolano said she will utilize the money to augment the micro-financing efforts of the organization.

The finalist of the search received P121,000, including Fr. Carmelo Diola and Agusan del Norte Representative Atty. Lawrence Lemuel Fortun for the individual category and Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc (BMFI), Cantaan Centennial Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Sibog Katawhan Alang sa Paglambo, and Western Samar Development Foundation for the outstanding institution category. – Kristine B. Quintas/JMO (FREEMAN)


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