In June 2011, Yahoo! Philippines released their first batch of Pitong Pinoy Awardees. They are described as “ordinary Filipinos” who have “made a difference in Philippine society.”
Since this year is wrapping up, I’ve been thinking about my personal 2011 Pitong Pinoy Awardees, i.e., “extraordinary Filipinos I met this year who have made an outstanding contribution to my life AND Philippine society.” It was too difficult to name JUST seven, so some are under their collective noun. Some I met through mutual friends, others from social media, but all because of fate.
I’m always surprised when I hear people say that the Philippines lacks role models. Maybe they’re just not looking at the right places, or maybe they’re not looking at all. My Pitong Pinoy Awardees constantly leave me in awe with what they do and what they are capable of. They have become the people I run to when I have questions, when my faith feels like it’s about to fade, and when I want to be reminded that we can believe in Miss Universe-y platitudes.
1. British Council Global Changemakers
In July, I was in Incredible India with 5 other Filipino Global Changemakers who carried their advocacies with them: Dwight Ronan, Ponce Samaniego, Jam Mansilla, Albert Bautista, and Sam Rottiers.
The first time we met at the British Council Philippines office, with Jen Domingo. Photo by Jecel.
These guys blew me away. They are all EXCELLENT at what they do; SO GIVING with their time, knowledge and skills; and so freaking HUMBLE. Humility for me is one of the biggest indicators of greatness. The bigger the talent, the smaller the ego. The best part about our relationship is how quickly we can shift from serious, socially-relevant discussions to matters of the heart to mundane observations. We are often seen crying together–from laughing so hard.
2. Girls Who Run the World
In photo: Vicky Herrera, Lai Oebanda, Lynn Pinugu, Zee Zamora Perez, Anya Lim
Not in photo: Chely Esguerra and Sarah Meier-Albano
Photo by Zee
Ayon sa kanta ni Beyonce, “My persuasion can build a nation.” These women breathe life into that line. Each one is fearless and innovative in her chosen battlefield: human trafficking, public health, quality education for all, social entrepreneurship, tourism, etc. The winning combination of beauty + brains + backbone + benevolence means hindi na uso ang I-have-a-cause-so-I-will-appear-like-I-haven’t-taken-a-bath-in-a-week look. Changing minds, attitudes, and practices can be done and done WELL in heels, short skirts, and lip gloss.
3. Writer’s Block Philippines
I first met Ana Santos, Niña Terol-Zialcita, and Nikka Sarthou during a travel writing workshop last year, but it was only this year that I developed a close relationship with them as a group and individually.
They’re my motherhens. They offer advice about everything from career to boys to “branding” and give me opportunities I never knew existed. It has been said that you have to believe in yourself before others can believe in you, but I beg to differ because in this case, my confidence comes from their confidence in me.
4. Anna Meloto-Wilk
Anna is most recognized as the head of Human♥Nature. She, her sister Camille, and husband Dylan are behind this game-changing, trailblazing business. In addition to improving the country’s agricultural landscape through Human♥Nature, Anna’s other advocacy is “promoting dignity of work.” This means that all the people who work in Human♥Nature, from the farmers to the managers, are well compensated and given appropriate benefits. This means that their family’s household helper goes to work only during the day because she too has her own family to raise, and that Anna is a hands-on mom to three kids. This means that Anna believes everyone should be treated with respect, regardless of social class or occupation.
5. Jay Jaboneta
Search Jay on Google and you’ll find all sorts of features about him and the work he has done with the Philippine Funds for Little Kids (which, by the way, began with a simple Facebook status). It’s easy to label him as heroic because of his efforts for social change, but what I find most admirable is his generosity. He is generous when it comes to compliments, contacts, and information. If there’s a call for nominations/applications for a scholarship/program/conference, he’ll give names of his friends and/or send it to the right people. He’s not the type who will keep things to himself para siya lang ang bida.
6. Eco Warriors: Nix Nicolas, Jenica Dizon, AA Yaptinchay, Mario Marababol, Mar Guidote, Brian Gonzales, Carlie Dario, Medel Silvosa, Jappy Lim, and selected men from the Naval Intelligence Security Unit of Cebu
Photo by Dwight Ronan
These artists, scientists, and law enforcers dedicate their days to shaping a greener and bluer Philippines. Fortunately, I met all of them after I graduated college (April 2011-onwards), and I am 100% SURE that if I didn’t meet them when I did, I would be doing something else. With people like them, I have filled with hope that this archipelago of ours can become the world’s center of biodiversity again.
7. The Filipinos who do small things with great love
Like the man from Apo Island who used to engage in illegal/destructive fishing methods. He is now a dive master who founded a program to teach kids to dive for free so that the younger generation won’t make the same mistakes he did.
Like the waxer from Lay Bare who shares funny stories so that hair removal will hurt a little less.
Like the traffic enforcer who dances in the middle of jammed intersections to make hot-headed, road rage-prone Pinoys smile.
As tweeted by @ayalamuseum, ”Be amazing to everyone you encounter. Let them know that you’re Filipino.”