3 honored in 1st Paing Hechanova Youth Leadership Awards

3 advocates honored in 1st Paing Hechanova Youth Leadership Awards

/ 05:56 AM April 07, 2024

3 advocates honored in 1st Paing Hechanova Youth Leadership Awards

MAKING A DIFFERENCE Youth leaders Joachim Sebastian Ridulme, Samuel Madriaga and Amina Shayne Halil (upper left photo) are the first recipients of the Paing Hechanova Youth Leadership Awards (Phyla) given on March 15 by the Rotary Club of Makati (RCM). PHOTOS BY KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING, RCM, ALPHA AND PROJECT BLUE

MANILA, Philippines — The local beaches, once pristine, needed rescuing from trash and pollution. The vulnerable seniors in the community remained distrustful of vaccines. Entire neighborhoods struggled to put food on the table.

In varying degrees, such problems and challenges can be found in towns and cities across the country. But in the villages where they lived, Joachim Sebastian Ridulme, 21; Samuel Madriaga, 24; and Amina Shayne Halil, 24, tried to make a difference through initiatives that sought to break the pervasive idleness, apathy and sense of resignation that had allowed otherwise solvable situations to fester.


For their efforts, they were recently recognized as the first recipients of the Paing Hechanova Youth Leadership Awards (Phyla), an honor conferred by the Rotary Club of Makati (RCM).


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The award is named in memory of Rafael “Paing’’ Hechanova, a member of the national basketball team who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki. The sports icon also served as a past president of RCM.

Launched less than three years after Hechanova’s passing at the age of 93, it seeks to recognize outstanding youth leaders whose “dedication, passion and leadership serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration,” Phyla chair Sid Garcia said at the March 15 awards ceremony held in Makati.

It also hopes to empower more young Filipinos to “make a significant difference in more lives,” said Hechanova’s daughter and former RCM Premier District president Raissa Posadas-Hechanova.

The awards came with cash prizes for the use of their respective organizations.

Madriaga is recognized for forming theAlliance of Public Health Advocates, which helps promote health awareness and youth participation in San Pablo City.

Madriaga is recognized for forming the Alliance of Public Health Advocates, which helps promote health awareness and youth participation in San Pablo City.

Beyond quick fixes

Ridulme, Madriaga and Halil were selected out of more than 50 nominees—youths who led or significantly contributed to advocacy work in their communities, facing hurdles peculiar to their environment or circumstances.

“I know a lot of young people tend to feel daunted by [these problems],” said Halil. “But there is a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of communities need their problems solved. We have to work with them.”

Of the three awardees, Ridulme, a public administration major in the University of the Philippines (UP), is the youngest. Born and raised in the town of Bantay, Ilocos Sur, Ridulme saw his province’s scenic beaches got overrun with plastic waste.

In 2020, a group of young Ilocanos established Project Blue, hoping to tackle ocean pollution and foster environmental awareness. Ridulme joined the following year and quickly became one of its core members, taking the role of community development head.

“At first, we were just a group of individuals who initiated cleanup drives,” Ridulme told the Inquirer. “But we realized it was just a quick fix and did not entirely solve the problem, so we started creating eco-products made from upcycled plastic bottles so that communities can benefit.”

The initial efforts enabled them to scale up and innovate. Project Blue eventually produced gear and equipment local fisherfolk could actually use.

These include the Sustainaboat, a vessel durable enough to be used for fishing and transport; the Ahon lifesaver; and the floating AquaCage. They are all made of plastic bottles sourced from restaurants, hospitals and gyms, which are then worked into a desired form.

The Ahon, in particular, is crafted by a group of mothers of children with disabilities and who are employed as seamstresses at Kabahagi Center, a livelihood facility run by the Quezon City government and a Project Blue partner.

This way, Ridulme said, “we not only champion sustainability but we also help provide [job] opportunities and income for our partners.”

Ridulme is cited for his work with Project Blue in Ilocos Sur,which provided local fishermen with boats made from recycled plastic bottles.

Ridulme is cited for his work with Project Blue in Ilocos Sur, which provided local fishermen with boats made from recycled plastic bottles.


At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, in San Pablo City in Laguna, Madriaga thought he could do something about the high level of vaccine hesitancy and the scant participation of the youth sector in addressing public health concerns.

A licensed occupational therapist and graduate of UP Manila, Madriaga founded the Alliance of Public Health Advocates (Alpha) in 2020. The goal was to involve more young people in planning and implementing community interventions.

Aside from helping in vaccination campaigns, Alpha conducted an education drive to curb teenage pregnancy in San Pablo, where the group recorded 2,494 underage girls becoming mothers in 2020 alone.

For Madriaga, the alarming numbers may be due to ineffective information and birth control programs, as well as the prevailing stigmas and taboos that hinder open discussions about sexual and reproductive health.

“Even though it’s a health problem specific to young people, they are rarely involved in designing programs or activities to address it,” he said. “So we established the SafeTalks project to help them define their health goals and identify the interventions or solutions where they themselves can contribute, making [these measures] more relatable.”

Madriaga also led the Healthy Kabataan 2030 project, which set San Pablo City’s youth health agenda from 2020 to 2030. It was considered the first youth-led public health initiative in the city, focusing on mental health, vaccination and nutrition, among other key areas.

“We want to … empower young people to design their own health outcomes and also codesign interventions and policies with our local government so that they would be more equitable and sustainable,” he said.

Local food security

Halil, the third Phyla awardee, is working with her fellow Zamboangueños on a sustainable food network for the city’s poorest residents.

She currently serves as vice president of Kids Who Farm, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) established in 2019 to educate women and children on agriculture and food production. The NGO was set up by Moncini Hinay and his daughter, Raaina.

Among other projects, the NGO helps local schools set up “microfarms” or community gardens where families—through the students—can grow their own food.

At present, Zamboanga City produces only 40 percent of the vegetables that are consumed by the local population, making it heavily dependent on external sources as far as Baguio City or Benguet province. The microfarms hope to reduce that dependence while strengthening community bonds and helping low-income households meet their daily needs.

A second-year medical student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Halil said she was drawn to the project because “I know very well the challenge of hunger and malnutrition [that stems from] food insecurity.”

“In our medical school, our strand has always been community-based, [not just] clinical. We climb mountains, cross rivers not only to help prevent diseases but to address health issues wholistically … We know there are a lot of malnourished children because of food insecurity.”

Thinking ahead

Though gifted with energy and passion, all three Phyla awardees shared common struggles as youth leaders—from securing funds, building trust with partners to designing the most suitable programs despite limited resources.

On a more personal level, Ridulme said, it was also hard for them to juggle their civic responsibilities with their studies. “But it all comes down to time management and learning to prioritize,” he said.

But they all agreed that the biggest challenge was how to grow or sustain their initial successes, for it would require a strong commitment among their members and partners—and among the beneficiaries themselves.

“A lot of projects become one-shot [deals] because people don’t have a sense of ownership. So we make the beneficiaries realize that they are not just receivers of the project but the people who will eventually own and continue them once we’re no longer there,” Halil said.

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“Right now, of course, we’re still young,” Madriaga added. “But there must come a time when new leaders must step up, and that is what I’m working on right now. My main indicator of success is, when I leave the community, they will still be able to sustain what we have started and more young people will step up as well.”

TAGS: Rotary Club, Youth

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