Farmer, Negros foundation bag top Rafi awards
A self-taught forest steward and a foundation that empowers women through small scale businesses won the 5th Triennial Award of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi )for outstanding community service.
Rene Vendiola, 59, a former kaingin farmer in Negros Oriental was recognized in the Exemplary Individual category while the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation Inc. was declared the Outstanding Institution.
But all 10 finalists in the three-year search were hailed as “architects of change” doing their work largely unnoticed in the Visayas and Mindanao.
“This is a celebration of what is good in humanity,” said Rafi president Roberto Aboitiz who opened the award rites at the Marco Polo Plaza ballroom.
“They are all champions of change.”
The 5th Triennial awards recognized philanthropic, humanitarian and holistic efforts to enhance the lives of others.
“Invariably in all cases you will see passion,” Aboitiz said.
“With this event, we can see inspiring individuals and organizations. And we learn from what they’re doing.”
He said that each finalist had a project or advocacy that developed the community through hard work and collaboration despite the lack of resources.
“Don’t wait until you have all the resources. Get started. This is the message that they’re giving us. So much can be done even with limited resources,” Aboitiz said.
“We hope we can inspire people to have hopes, have dreams because the Philippines is moving forward.”
Over 300 nominees were screened by a panel of independent judges.
The winners received a trophy and cash prize of at least P400,000. Rafi will sponsor their travel in the Visayas and Mindanao to share their stories of development with youths and other groups.
Vendiola found a lifelong advocacy to preserve trees and promote sustainable farming in Negros Oriental, where he developed a 15-hectare rainforest-farm called Liptong Woodland.
After receiving the Rafi trophy, he turned emotional, saying in Cebuano that he never thought his mountain farm would get this kind of attention.
“Dili imposible and pag pasiuli sa atong lasang kung buhaton lang gyud (Reforestation is not impossible if we just start to do it),” said Vendiola in an interview.
Vendiola said he would use the prize money to build a nursery for endemic trees. The self-taught biodiversity advocate and forest guide also led a reforestation project in a 100-hectare watershed in Bacong, Negros Oriental, and helped craft local ordinances on reforestation, biodiversity efforts and the prohibition of hunting wild animals.
The Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation Inc. was recognized for providing entrepreneurial opportunities and livelihood training through its “Project Dungganon” named after the Hilagynon word for “honorable.” Its executive director, Dr. Cecilia del Castillo, was sent to India to learn the Grameen Credit system, on which the program is based.
“Wala gyud mi ni publish sa among trabaho. Nagalihok lang mi. Sila ang mga tawo nga gamay ug opportunidad. Sila mas pinaka nanginahanglan og tabang (We didn’t publcize our work. We just worked for the small people who have less in opportunity.), said Manuel Mangate, client service department manager.
The foundation has 27 branches in the Visayas and Mindanao with plans to grow.
The other finalists were Fr. Angelo Buenavides, Prof. Estrella Cantallopez, Apolinario Leyson Sr., Fr. Dennis Tamayo for the individual cateogory, and Agri-Aqua Development Coalition Mindanao Inc., Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc., SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, and The Great Physician Rehabilitation Foundation for the institution category. Reporter Candeze R. Mongaya
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