FILIPINO PEACEKEEPERS PULL OFF 'GREATEST ESCAPE' FROM SYRIAN REBELS  

Forty Filipino peacekeepers surrounded by Syrian rebels managed to escape unscathed at midnight, several hours after seven hours of fighting, the military announced on Sunday.
Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. in a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo, called it “the greatest escape.” “Although [the troops] were outnumbered, we escaped from the rebels in the middle of the night while the rebels were sleeping,” Catapang said. This was Catapang’s first crisis to face as chief of staff since he assumed office in July. Top defense and military officials convened at Camp Aguinaldo to monitor the situation in Golan Heights around 10 a.m. on Saturday and finished at Sunday 7 a.m. ph peacekeepers escape Top defense and military officials cheer at Camp Aguinaldo on Sunday, Aug. 31, after the successful repositioning of Filipino peacekeepers who figured in a standoff with Syrian rebels in Golan Heights. Photo by CPL Palima, CRS-AFP.  Running low on ammo ---In a separate interview, Catapang revealed that the peacekeepers were running out of ammunition as the fighting continued. But fighting ceased after seven hours (1p.m. Syria time/ 6p.m. Philippine time). The military is still trying to confirm whether there were casualties from the rebels’ side.

The peacekeepers escaped about 12 midnight Syrian time (5 a.m. Sunday in Manila) with their weapons and personal belongings. After seven hours of fighting, there was a ceasefire and the peacekeepers found a chance to escape while the rebels were sleeping. They walked for about two kilometers in almost two hours where troops from Position 80 were waiting for them. Syrian rebels, which included Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, attacked Positions 68 and 69 on Saturday at 6 a.m. Syrian time (11 a.m. Manila time). Those on Position 69 were extricated shortly after but those on Position 68, with 40 Filipino peacekeepers, engaged in a firefight for seven hours.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Filipino educator leads Ramon Magsaysay awardees  

“No one got rich out of teaching; it’s your legacy that matters.” A Filipino educator serving an indigenous tribe living in one of the remotest villages in Davao City is among this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.
Randy Halasan, head teacher of Pegalongan Elementary School, will receive the award for his emergent leadership in “nurturing his Matigsalug [tribe] students and their community to transform their lives through quality education and sustainable livelihoods…” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said on Wednesday. Obtaining his postgraduate and undergraduate degrees in Educational Management and Elementary Education, respectively, from the University of Southeastern Philippines, Halasan was assigned in Pegalongan in 2007 and had turned down offers of reassignment since then, despite the seven hours it takes to reach the village from his family’s home in the city. Halasan, 32, has proactively lobbied for the expansion of the Pegalongan school, believing that education is key to the survival of the Matigsalug tribe in a changing world.

Aside from his education advocacy, he has inspired fellow teachers and villagers to create a food-sufficient community by planting fruit trees and vegetables. Now, Pegalongan farmers have a collectively owned rice and corn mill, a seed bank, a cattle dispersal project and a horse for transporting their produce. Other awardees Besides Halasan, other Magsaysay individual awardees for this year come from China, Indonesia and Afghanistan and one organization from Pakistan. The award is named after the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1957. This year’s six awardees join the community of 301 other Magsaysay laureates to date.
The recipients will receive their awards—a certificate, a medallion bearing the image of Magsaysay, and a $50,000 cash prize each—in Manila on Aug. 31. The award is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia that deal with issues of human development in the region with courage and creativity and in doing so have made contributions that have transformed their respective societies, the RM Foundation said. “Like other Magsaysay laureates before them, [this year’s awardees] have shown moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalized,” foundation president Carmencita Abella said in a statement. Unassailable journalism ---*READ  MORE...

ALSO: Indonesian teacher Saur Marlina Manurung turns forest into ‘school for life’  

Saur Marlina Manurung has taught countless members of Indonesia’s forest people how to read, write and count. She will not forget the day 15 years ago when a little boy named Pengendum Tampung, a member of a tribe of hunters and gatherers known as the Orang Rimba, finally began to make sense of the strange characters that Saur had been teaching him to read for two weeks. The 7-year-old Pengendum looked at the letters and uttered the two syllables of the word “buku,” which means “book” in Indonesian. His teacher smiled and told him: “That’s correct.” The little boy was so happy, he climbed up a tree. “He was shaking the tree and screaming to the whole forest: ‘I can read!’” Saur recalled, laughing. It was at that moment that Saur—anthropologist, teacher, community worker, humanitarian, Time magazine’s Hero of Asia in 2004 and one of this year’s five recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award—said she truly felt that she was making a difference in the world. Forest people ---Pengendum is only one of the 10,000 forest people who have been benefited by Sokola, an organization cofounded by Saur in 1999 to teach literacy and basic life skills to the Orang Rimba living in Bukit Duabelas National Park in Central Sumatra.*READ MORE...

(ALSO) Randy Halasan: The teacher from ‘place where light shines’  

Getting two bridges built for an indigenous community in a remote village in Davao City tops the wish list of 32-year-old school teacher Randy Halasan, this year’s Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Awardee for Emergent Leadership. Building a bridge over the Sinod River and another over Davao River could help save lives, said Halasan who almost drowned while crossing the treacherous waters once, like the other teachers and students who must ford the rivers once a week as part of their seven-hour trek to school. Halasan joins other 2014 RM Awardees composed of four individuals and one group. The four individuals are Hu Shuli, a Chinese investigative journalist; Saur Marlina Manurung, an Indonesian anthropologist; Omara Khan Masoudi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan; and Wang Canfa, a Chinese environmental lawyer.

Also recognized by the RM Foundation was The Citizens Foundation based in Pakistan, for “the social vision and high-level professionalism of its founders and those who run its schools.” Beyond call of duty ---Halasan was cited for going beyond the call of duty to students at Pegalongan Elementary School by serving as a bridge between the Matigsalug community and government agencies. In the process, he helped the indigenous tribe overcome its isolation, helplessness and poverty. The public school teacher said he was touched and surprised by the recognition given him by Asia’s most prestigious award for public service. “I’m very happy because I never thought I would get another award. When you help, you don’t ask for anything in return. I never thought others would recognize our efforts,” he said.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Afghan woman, Filipino doctor win RM Awards  

Afghanistan’s first and only female governor and a humanitarian worker from Burma’s (Myanmar) Kachin minority are among this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, often regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize. The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation announced Wednesday that it had selected three individuals and two organizations as this year’s awardees, including a Filipino doctor, an independent commission eradicating corruption in Indonesia and a civil society organization in Nepal created and run by human trafficking victims. The awards, named after President Ramon Magsaysay who died in a 1957 plane crash, honor people and groups who change their societies for the better.

Habiba Sarabi, 57, was chosen for helping build a functioning local government and pushing for education and women’s rights in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province despite working in a violent and impoverished environment in which discrimination is pervasive, the foundation said. Public education and the ratio of female students have increased in her province, where more women are taking up careers that were forbidden under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime. “In the face of widespread hostilities toward women assuming public roles, her courage and determination are outstanding,” the foundation said of Sarabi, a member of an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan. Lahpai Seng Raw, a 64-year-old widow, was selected for helping rehabilitate damaged communities in Burma amid ethnic and armed conflicts. The emergency relief, healthcare and sanitation projects of the civil society group that she helped found in 1997 in then-military-ruled Burma has today reached over 600,000 people across the country. Another awardee, Ernesto Domingo, a 76-year-old physician of the University of the Philippines-Manila, has dedicated his career to pushing for the poor’s access to health services, and for groundbreaking and successful advocacy of neonatal hepatitis vaccination that has saved millions of lives in the Philippines, the foundation said.*read more...

ALSO: The Ramon Magsaysay Award  

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award established to perpetuate former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay's example of integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is often considered to be Asia's Nobel Prize. The prize was established in April 1957 by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund b ---Magsaysay Award Foundation the prize to Asian individuals achieving excellence in their respective fields. The awards were given in six categories, five of which were discontinued effective 2009: Government Service (1958–2008) Public Service (1958–2008) Community Leadership (1958–2008) Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts (1958–2008) Peace and International Understanding (1958–2008) Emergent Leadership (2001– ) Uncategorized (2009– ) *CONTINUE READING, PLUS WHO IS RAMON MAGSAYSAY, SR.
 


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Filipino peacekeepers pull off ‘greatest escape’ from Syrian rebels


Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. holds a press conference on Sunday, Aug. 31. Armed Forces of the Philippines Photo

MANILA, SEPTMEBR 1, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Frances Mangosing - Forty Filipino peacekeepers surrounded by Syrian rebels managed to escape unscathed at midnight, several hours after seven hours of fighting, the military announced on Sunday.

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. in a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo, called it “the greatest escape.”

“Although [the troops] were outnumbered, we escaped from the rebels in the middle of the night while the rebels were sleeping,” Catapang said.

This was Catapang’s first crisis to face as chief of staff since he assumed office in July.

Top defense and military officials convened at Camp Aguinaldo to monitor the situation in Golan Heights around 10 a.m. on Saturday and finished at Sunday 7 a.m.

Running low on ammo

In a separate interview, Catapang revealed that the peacekeepers were running out of ammunition as the fighting continued. But fighting ceased after seven hours (1p.m. Syria time/ 6p.m. Philippine time).

The military is still trying to confirm whether there were casualties from the rebels’ side.

The peacekeepers escaped about 12 midnight Syrian time (5 a.m. Sunday in Manila) with their weapons and personal belongings. After seven hours of fighting, there was a ceasefire and the peacekeepers found a chance to escape while the rebels were sleeping. They walked for about two kilometers in almost two hours where troops from Position 80 were waiting for them.

Syrian rebels, which included Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, attacked Positions 68 and 69 on Saturday at 6 a.m.

Syrian time (11 a.m. Manila time). Those on Position 69 were extricated shortly after but those on Position 68, with 40 Filipino peacekeepers, engaged in a firefight for seven hours.

* The 40 peacekeepers from Position 68, with 38 enlisted personnel and two officers, fought about 100 rebels.

“There were no casualties from our troops,” Catapang said.

On Thursday, Syrian rebels abducted 43 Fijian peacekeepers after demanding to surrender their firearms. They tried to do the same with 72 Filipino peacekeepers in Positions 68 and 69 but they resisted to give up their firearms, which led to a standoff.

Colonel Roberto Ancan, commander of the AFP peacekeeping operations center, said the rebels rammed the gate of Position 68 with three pickup trucks, ZPU, an anti-aircraft [machine gun].

“The rebels attacked Position 68 first and only went to Position 69 after an hour but they were able to move immediately,” he said.

Syria also provided fire support during the fighting, which “eased the tensions” and prevented the rebels from getting closer to the troops.

Role of Irish peacekeepers

Ancan also confirmed the report of an Irish publication that said peacekeepers from Ireland helped to escort out troops in Position 69 on Saturday.

“They have an armored personnel carrier but we were part of their escorts,” he said.

The rebels fired on them but the peacekeepers didn’t fire back and was able to evacuate.

PH peacekeepers all accounted for

Filipino peacekeepers from Positions 68 and 69 have been successfully repositioned to Camp Ziouani as of posting time. The US, Qatar and Israel also helped in the situation, the military said, but did not elaborate.

On Friday, 58 Filipino peacekeepers from Position 60 were moved to Camp Faouar as a precautionary measure. Positions 62, 80 and 85 are still occupied by Philippine troops.

As of July, there are over 1,200 peacekeepers from six countries serving in Golan Heights. The Philippines, which has about 300 peacekeepers deployed at present, has been sending contingents to Golan Heights since 2009 as part of its commitment to the UN.

Filipino peacekeepers were also abducted by Syrian rebels in two separate incidents in Golan Heights last year but were freed unharmed.

Last week, the government has ordered the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights due to heightened tensions there. Despite the incident, Catapang said that they would finish their tour of duty in October.

Filipino educator leads Ramon Magsaysay awardees By Rafael L. Antonio |Inquirer Research4:46 am | Thursday, July 31st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–“No one got rich out of teaching; it’s your legacy that matters.”

A Filipino educator serving an indigenous tribe living in one of the remotest villages in Davao City is among this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Randy Halasan, head teacher of Pegalongan Elementary School, will receive the award for his emergent leadership in “nurturing his Matigsalug [tribe] students and their community to transform their lives through quality education and sustainable livelihoods…” the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said on Wednesday.

Obtaining his postgraduate and undergraduate degrees in Educational Management and Elementary Education, respectively, from the University of Southeastern Philippines, Halasan was assigned in Pegalongan in 2007 and had turned down offers of reassignment since then, despite the seven hours it takes to reach the village from his family’s home in the city.

Halasan, 32, has proactively lobbied for the expansion of the Pegalongan school, believing that education is key to the survival of the Matigsalug tribe in a changing world.

Aside from his education advocacy, he has inspired fellow teachers and villagers to create a food-sufficient community by planting fruit trees and vegetables. Now, Pegalongan farmers have a collectively owned rice and corn mill, a seed bank, a cattle dispersal project and a horse for transporting their produce.

Other awardees

Besides Halasan, other Magsaysay individual awardees for this year come from China, Indonesia and Afghanistan and one organization from Pakistan.

The award is named after the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1957.

This year’s six awardees join the community of 301 other Magsaysay laureates to date.

The recipients will receive their awards—a certificate, a medallion bearing the image of Magsaysay, and a $50,000 cash prize each—in Manila on Aug. 31.

The award is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia that deal with issues of human development in the region with courage and creativity and in doing so have made contributions that have transformed their respective societies, the RM Foundation said.

“Like other Magsaysay laureates before them, [this year’s awardees] have shown moral courage and impassioned insistence on making the societies that they serve better, kinder and more equitable for everyone, especially for the marginalized,” foundation president Carmencita Abella said in a statement.

Unassailable journalism

* Hu Shuli (China) is cited for “her unrelenting commitment to truthful, relevant and unassailable journalism, her fearless promotion of transparency and accountability in business and public governance and her leadership in blazing the way for more professional and independent-minded media practices in China.”

Hu comes from a distinguished family of journalists and her significant works in investigative journalism include exposés of the government cover-up of the extent of the epidemic severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and sale-for-adoption of children confiscated by family planning officials in Hunan province.

These reports led to the ousting of high public officials, prosecution of corporate leaders and reforms in China’s stock market, earning for the 61-year old Hu the name “the most dangerous woman in China” and her inclusion in the list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” of Forbes magazine this year.

Environmental lawyer

Wang Canfa (China) is being honored for “his discerning and forceful leadership—through scholarly work, disciplined advocacy, and pro bono public interest litigation—in ensuring that the enlightened and competent practice of environmental law in China effectively protects the rights and lives of victims of environmental abuse, especially the poor and powerless.”

Wang, 55, founded the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), the first of its kind in China, to focus on providing free legal aid to pollution victims. It has handled more than 13,000 environmental complaints and the legal victories of the agency have led to the suspension of some environmentally destructive projects and secured compensations for victims.

To bolster CLAPV’s litigation efforts, Wang established Beijing Huanzhu Law Firm in 2010, specializing in environmental law and providing pro bono services.

‘Orang Rimba’

Saur Marlina Manurung (Indonesia) will receive the award for “her ennobling passion to protect and improve the lives of Indonesia’s forest people, and her energizing leadership of volunteers in [her group] Sokola’s customized education program that is sensitive to the lifeways of indigenous communities.”

Despite having been raised in a middle-class family in Jakarta and obtaining degrees in literature and anthropology, Manurung, 42, opted to devote her life to protecting and uplifting the lives of Indonesia’s “Orang Rimba,” or forest people.

She founded Sokola, a group of volunteer teachers and trained Orang Rimba youth, which provides basic literacy for children and practical skills to cope with the changing forest environment.

Heritage and unity

Omara Khan Masoudi (Afghanistan) will receive the award for “his courage, labor and leadership in protecting Afghan cultural heritage, rebuilding an institution vital for Afghanistan’s future.”

“A nation stays alive only when it can keep its history and culture alive,” Masoudi said. “I’m hopeful that our cuture can play a big role in creating space, in restoring national unity.”

Education for all

Living in a country rich in ancient, cosmopolitan heritage of Hellenistic, Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic cultures, Masoudi, 66, launched a campaign for the restoration of historical monuments and the rebuilding of museums that were severely damaged by civil strife, bombings, looting and willful destruction by the Taliban.

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) of Pakistan is getting the award for “the social vision and high-level professionalism of its founders and those who run its schools, in successfully pursuing their conviction that, with sustained civic responsiveness, quality education is made available to all.”

A nonprofit organization, TCF was founded in 1995 by a group of six Pakistani business leaders “to remove barriers of class and privilege” through affordable, quality education for all.

To ensure access by the poor, tuition and other fees are heavily subsidized with 100 percent of TCF students covered by full or partial scholarships. Books and uniforms are provided free.

From its initial five schools and 800 students in 1996, TCF has grown to 1,000 schools spread over 100 towns and cities, with more than 145,000 students in attendance and guided by 7,700 teachers and principals.

Indonesian teacher Saur Marlina Manurung turns forest into ‘school for life’ By DJ Yap |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:39 am | Sunday, August 31st, 2014


SAUR: Her students once considered pencils “evil.” AP

Saur Marlina Manurung has taught countless members of Indonesia’s forest people how to read, write and count.

She will not forget the day 15 years ago when a little boy named Pengendum Tampung, a member of a tribe of hunters and gatherers known as the Orang Rimba, finally began to make sense of the strange characters that Saur had been teaching him to read for two weeks.

The 7-year-old Pengendum looked at the letters and uttered the two syllables of the word “buku,” which means “book” in Indonesian. His teacher smiled and told him: “That’s correct.”

The little boy was so happy, he climbed up a tree.

“He was shaking the tree and screaming to the whole forest: ‘I can read!’” Saur recalled, laughing.

It was at that moment that Saur—anthropologist, teacher, community worker, humanitarian, Time magazine’s Hero of Asia in 2004 and one of this year’s five recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award—said she truly felt that she was making a difference in the world.

Forest people

Pengendum is only one of the 10,000 forest people who have been benefited by Sokola, an organization cofounded by Saur in 1999 to teach literacy and basic life skills to the Orang Rimba living in Bukit Duabelas National Park in Central Sumatra.

* The Orang Rimba (literally “forest people”) has a population of about 3,500 divided into 11 groups and distributed across a 60,500-hectare forest in Jambi. They wear loin cloths, hunt for wild boar and deer, fish and forage for roots and tubers, according to the German-based humanitarian organization Terre des Hommes (TDH) Southeast Asia.

They are a “nomadic people with their own language, a matriarchal family system and an animist tradition, and have lived in complete isolation and in harmony with the forest and its abundant resources,” TDH said.

Not typical school

A major Sokola program called Sokola Rimba, or “Jungle School,” was inspired by Saur’s experience as a teacher living and moving with the tribe as it traveled from place to place to hunt or gather food, according to Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation.

Sokola Rimba is not run like a regular school. Students are taught the 3Rs and other skills that they may need to survive against threats of encroachment, abuse and exploitation by outsiders.

“My school is not like a regular school. Whenever you have a problem, you make a school for that. If you have a problem with logging, you learn how to chase them away. If you have a problem with diarrhea, you find the sources of information so you can combat diarrhea and teach the community,” Saur said.

“We call it a school for life, a school that benefits their lives directly,” she said.

Today, under Saur’s leadership as its director, Sokola has grown to 14 schools spread over 10 provinces throughout Indonesia, focusing on marginalized ethnic groups and funded primarily by private-sector donations.

Ennobling passion

In electing her to receive the 2014 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the foundation recognized Saur’s “ennobling passion to protect and improve the lives of Indonesia’s forest people, and her energizing leadership of volunteers in Sokola’s customized education program that is sensitive to the lifeways of indigenous communities and the development challenges they face.”

The 42-year-old anthropology and literature graduate arrived in Manila last week to personally receive the award at the presentation ceremonies to be held today.

Pregnant with 1st baby

She is eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her first baby with husband Kelvin James Milne, an Australian anthropologist. “The airline said that as long as I have a medical doctor, it’s fine,” Saur said.

She said her Filipino hosts had been suggesting names for the baby, whose gender she and her husband would prefer to be a surprise.

“Everyone gave me names. They said, ‘Ramon’ or ’Ramona,’” she said, alluding to Ramon Magsaysay, the Philippine president after whom the award is named. Asked if she was considering it, she said with a laugh: “Could be. I like the name.”

Saur, also known to Indonesians by her nickname Butet, said she still could not quite believe that she is now a recipient of the Magsaysay Award, considered to be Asia’s highest honor and its version of the Nobel prize.

“People are so enthusiastic. They congratulate me, posting on Facebook telling their friends that I’m a Magsaysay awardee, like ‘the Nobel prize of Asia.’ Even my grandmother had a newspaper with a headline about me. I still can’t believe that. Why, is it that big?” she said.

Mainstream threat

She said she was humbled and honored, and hoped that the award would help direct the world’s attention to Indonesia’s 40 million indigenous people facing all kinds of threats from outside, such as corporate greed and even government intervention.

But the hardest challenge for the forest people, she said, was the “mainstream perspective.”

This is the point of view of people in the mainstream, including the government, ordinary citizens, nongovernment organizations and business, that “in order to be civilized, to be considered human, you have to live the way we live.”

“I think this is the most dangerous threat because it happens everywhere in Indonesia. That is when they impose their perspective on these communities,” Saur said.

An even more dangerous mistake is when the indigenous folk begin to believe it, too, and force themselves to live differently. “They live their lives in the forest, then they try to live in the city,” she said.

City people’s game

“They cannot cope with the rule, the game of city people. In the city, you compete. Everything belongs to someone. Like, this table is mine, so you cannot touch it. Or this line is mine, so you get out of my line,” she said.

In the forest, however, everything is common and “collectively owned,” which makes it hard for the Orang Rimba to cope, she said.

The forest people also believe that every bit of food every day is provided by the gods. “So they cannot plant. They just collect and pick up what’s growing on the ground,” said Saur.

“And now when they have to leave the village and live in the city, they have to learn how to save for the future …. It’s not part of their lives. Usually, they’re just picking and gathering; now, they have to plan ahead. They have to save money.

They have to think of their future,” she said.

Suspicious of education

The Orang Rimba were initially resistant to Saur’s attempts to teach them.

“They believed that education belonged to the outside world, [that] education would make literate people cheat illiterate people. [They believed that] school turned people into bad guys,” Saur said.

The forest people even called pencils “evil with spiked eyes,” believing that evil started with them as a result of previous occasions they were cheated out of their land when they were made to sign contracts under false terms.

“Every time I came with a pen, they would run away. And unless I put my pen back into my bag, they would not come back,” she said.

At first, Saur said she felt it wasn’t a problem if the tribe did not have a problem with being illiterate.

But then she saw how the forest people would not survive if they did not compromise about their culture.

Turning point

“If you think education is taboo, one day you will lose the whole forest. And you will lose your whole culture and way of life …. You will lose everything,” she said.

It was a struggle attempting to convince the forest community, Saur said.

For the first few months, she had little success getting the adults and children to trust her. But in the seventh month, something changed.

“Three boys came to me,” she said. They were aged 7, 12 and 14.

“After they talked among themselves, they came to me and said they need me to teach them. That was the turning point,” she said.

Saur said many of her former students are now community leaders and teachers themselves, including Pengendum, the boy who celebrated reading his first word by climbing a tree.

About three years ago, Saur said she found herself listening to her former pupil addressing a crowd of hundreds about the human rights of forest people.

It was a strange sight, said Saur, recalling how Pengendum was so scared of outsiders when she was teaching him in the jungle.

The boy had even been scared of airplanes. “He could not understand why a nonliving creature can move by itself. Every time he heard an airplane, he would hide,” Saur said.

But this confident, articulate Pengendum did not mean that he had “changed into the modern way,” said Saur.

“I can see how proud he is to be Orang Rimba and to represent Orang Rimba …. He is part of Orang Rimba and he enjoys telling other people about the good things of being Orang Rimba,” she said.

A calling

Saur, who was born and raised in Jakarta, said her work with Indonesia’s forest people was a calling.

“Because I was born in Jakarta, I don’t have access at all to the wildlife but I always heard the calling. Every time I looked at the forest, even if it’s just a painting, my heart would race and I know that’s a calling. I think everyone can be a hero if they heard what their calling is,” she said.

When she teaches the Orang Rimba to read and write, “it’s not me that’s the hero because I do that for me,” Saur said.
‘Jungle chose me’

“It’s actually to fill my own hunger. Otherwise, my life will not be peaceful. I cannot sleep,” she said.

“Many people asked me, ‘Why do you choose this path of life?’ And I always told them, ‘I keep asking myself as well.’

Now I found the answer. It’s the jungle that chose me, not me that chose the jungle,” she said.

Randy Halasan: The teacher from ‘place where light shines’
By Dona Z. Pazzibugan |Philippine Daily Inquirer4:31 am | Saturday, August 30th, 2014


BRIDGING THE GAP Teacher Randy Halasan, who crosses the perilous waters of Sinod River and Davao River as part of a seven-hour trip to Pegalongan Elementary School in Davao City, says: “When you help, you don’t ask for anything in return. I never thought others would recognize our efforts.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Getting two bridges built for an indigenous community in a remote village in Davao City tops the wish list of 32-year-old school teacher Randy Halasan, this year’s Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Awardee for Emergent Leadership.

Building a bridge over the Sinod River and another over Davao River could help save lives, said Halasan who almost drowned while crossing the treacherous waters once, like the other teachers and students who must ford the rivers once a week as part of their seven-hour trek to school.

Halasan joins other 2014 RM Awardees composed of four individuals and one group. The four individuals are Hu Shuli, a Chinese investigative journalist; Saur Marlina Manurung, an Indonesian anthropologist; Omara Khan Masoudi, director of the National Museum of Afghanistan; and Wang Canfa, a Chinese environmental lawyer.

Also recognized by the RM Foundation was The Citizens Foundation based in Pakistan, for “the social vision and high-level professionalism of its founders and those who run its schools.”

Beyond call of duty

Halasan was cited for going beyond the call of duty to students at Pegalongan Elementary School by serving as a bridge between the Matigsalug community and government agencies. In the process, he helped the indigenous tribe overcome its isolation, helplessness and poverty.

The public school teacher said he was touched and surprised by the recognition given him by Asia’s most prestigious award for public service.

“I’m very happy because I never thought I would get another award. When you help, you don’t ask for anything in return. I never thought others would recognize our efforts,” he said.

* Pledge from party-list

During his trip to Manila in October last year to receive an award for being an exemplary public school teacher, Halasan said his priority had been to call attention to the Matigsalug tribe’s need for those two bridges. He has since been following up the matter with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Halasan said the tribe had already secured a pledge from 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III to include the bridges among the DPWH-funded projects.

“We were told (the project) had been approved,” he said. “I’m following it up with the DPWH. I wish we can start it (soon),” he added.

Already, Halasan’s efforts to link the Matigsalug tribe to outside help and resources have begun to bear fruit.

From the two-room school building made of light materials that the then 25-year-old city-bred teacher had to make do with in 2007, the community now has a nine-room school made of concrete materials, where eight teachers handle 210 students.

The school also accepts high school students now, so Halasan’s pupils no longer have to drop out after their elementary education.

Through Halasan’s help, the Matigsalug community acquired a rice-and-corn mill, a seed bank, and horses for transporting their farm products. The community also has a cattle dispersal project. Its forest rehabilitation contract with the government had been expanded from 22 hectares to 100 hectares this year because of its successful tree-replanting program.

The unmarried teacher had recently been offered a choice to teach in any of the city’s three schools, but he said he no longer wishes to be reassigned elsewhere.

Tribe’s first graduate

“I did not accept (the offer),” Halasan said. “Things are very challenging (and the school is) not perfect. But I can see development and slowly, people are learning. We are getting help,” he added.

Halasan took two of his former high school students under his wing to help them get through college in the city, but only one had persevered and is graduating in March next year. This is the first time a member of the tribe would graduate from college, he said.

The RM Awardee said he would share the good news with his students and the tribe on Monday when he returns to the school.

“I’m sure they will be very happy and very proud because whatever recognition I get is for all of us,” Halasan said. “The trials and challenges I’ve been through have not been easy,” he added.

Apparently, more challenges are waiting to be addressed. The community still has no basic amenities including electricity and a cell phone signal, although Halasan said he is looking for ways to get electrical service for the group.

School feeding program

Aside from the bridges, this RM Awardee is also looking at giving the community easy access to farming technology inputs, more cattle dispersal projects and an expanded greening project. Looking for private donors for a school feeding program is also on his to-do list.

Until last year, his mother and sisters could not understand why Halasan opted to stay in the community and teach at its elementary school, and why he often didn’t come home for weeks on end and even during school break in the summer.

Pride and acceptance

His family’s worries turned into pride and acceptance when Halasan was featured in a Davao newspaper last year.

Unfortunately, his mother won’t see him accept the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award on Aug. 31. She died on Feb. 25 this year. Halasan’s father died when he was in college.

But the Matigsalug community’s pride over his award was just as rewarding. From his pupils, their parents and the tribal leaders, Halasan said the best comment he had received was “when they said I give them light and hope.”

According to oral tradition, the word “pegalongan” means “the place from which the light shines.”

Said Halasan: “I’m only an ordinary person. I never thought what I had given them was very significant, and that they will (never) forget me for as long as they live.”

Afghan woman, Filipino doctor win RM Awards Associated Press4:49 am | Thursday, July 25th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Afghanistan’s first and only female governor and a humanitarian worker from Burma’s (Myanmar) Kachin minority are among this year’s recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, often regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation announced Wednesday that it had selected three individuals and two organizations as this year’s awardees, including a Filipino doctor, an independent commission eradicating corruption in Indonesia and a civil society organization in Nepal created and run by human trafficking victims.

The awards, named after President Ramon Magsaysay who died in a 1957 plane crash, honor people and groups who change their societies for the better.

Habiba Sarabi, 57, was chosen for helping build a functioning local government and pushing for education and women’s rights in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province despite working in a violent and impoverished environment in which discrimination is pervasive, the foundation said. Public education and the ratio of female students have increased in her province, where more women are taking up careers that were forbidden under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

“In the face of widespread hostilities toward women assuming public roles, her courage and determination are outstanding,” the foundation said of Sarabi, a member of an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan.

Lahpai Seng Raw, a 64-year-old widow, was selected for helping rehabilitate damaged communities in Burma amid ethnic and armed conflicts. The emergency relief, healthcare and sanitation projects of the civil society group that she helped found in 1997 in then-military-ruled Burma has today reached over 600,000 people across the country.

Another awardee, Ernesto Domingo, a 76-year-old physician of the University of the Philippines-Manila, has dedicated his career to pushing for the poor’s access to health services, and for groundbreaking and successful advocacy of neonatal hepatitis vaccination that has saved millions of lives in the Philippines, the foundation said.

* Also being honored is Nepal’s Shakti Samuha, or Power Group, the world’s first nongovernment organization created and run by human trafficking victims. The group’s founders are being recognized for working to root out human trafficking and transforming their lives to serve other trafficking survivors. The group has established a halfway home that provides shelter and assistance to survivors and emergency shelters for women and girls at risk of trafficking.

Indonesia’s Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, or Corruption Eradication Commission, won for its successful campaign to prosecute erring officials, recovering more than $80 million in assets, and undertaking civil service reforms and citizen anticorruption education.

Each awardee will receive a certificate, a medal and a cash prize.

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Ramon Magsaysay Award

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award established to perpetuate former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay's example of integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is often considered to be Asia's Nobel Prize.

The prize was established in April 1957 by the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund based in New York City with the concurrence of the Philippine government.

Overview

Magsaysay Award Foundation the prize to Asian individuals achieving excellence in their respective fields. The awards were given in six categories, five of which were discontinued efective 2009:

Government Service (1958–2008)
Public Service (1958–2008)
Community Leadership (1958–2008)
Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts (1958–2008)
Peace and International Understanding (1958–2008)
Emergent Leadership (2001– )
Uncategorized (2009– )

* History

In May 1957, seven prominent Filipinos were named to the founding board of trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, the non-profit corporation tasked with implementing the awards program, under an anti-communist, anti-leftist, pro-USA agenda.

The RMAF recognizes and honors individuals and organizations in Asia regardless of race, creed, sex, or nationality, who have achieved distinction in their respective fields and have helped others generously without anticipating public recognition.

The awards have traditionally been given in five categories: government service; public service; community leadership; journalism, literature, and creative communication arts; and peace and international understanding.

During the 2000 Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremony, the Foundation announced the creation of a sixth Award category, Emergent Leadership.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership honors "individuals, forty years of age and below, doing outstanding work on issues of social change in their communities, but whose leadership is not yet broadly recognized outside of these communities." An award in this category was given for the first time in 2001.

The original five categories were discontinued, starting 2009, to acknowledge the increasingly intersectoral and multidimensional nature of the recipient's work. Only the category Emergent Leadership remains as such, principally because it carries an age-limit restriction.

Awardees
List of Ramon Magsaysay Award winners

WHO IS PRESIDENT RAMON MAGSAYSAY

Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay (August 31, 1907 – March 17, 1957) was the seventh President of the Republic of the Philippines, serving from December 30, 1953 until his death in a 1957 aircraft disaster.

An automobile mechanic, Magsaysay was appointed military governor of Zambales after his outstanding service as a guerilla leader during the Pacific War.

He then served two terms as Liberal Party congressman for Zambales before being appointed as Secretary of National Defense by President Elpidio Quirino.

He was elected President under the banner of the Nacionalista Party. He was the first Philippine President born during the 20th century.

Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay was born in Iba, Zambales on August 31, 1907 to Exequiel Magsaysay y de los Santos (April 18, 1874 in San Marcelino, Zambales - January 24, 1968 in Manila), a blacksmith, and Perfecta del Fierro y Quimson (April 18, 1887 in Castillejos, Zambales - May 5, 1980 in Manila), a schoolteacher.

Early life
He spent his elementary life somewhere in Castillejos and his high school life at Zambales Academy at San Narciso, Zambales. After high school, Magsaysay entered the University of the Philippines in 1927, where he enrolled in a pre-medical course. He worked as a chauffeur to support himself as he studied engineering; and later, he transferred to the Institute of Commerce at José Rizal College (1928–1932), where he received a baccalaureate in commerce. He then worked as an automobile mechanic in a bus company (Florida) and shop superintendent.

Career during World War II
At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the motor pool of the 31st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. When Bataan surrendered in 1942, Magsaysay escaped to the hills, narrowly evading Japanese arrest on at least four occasions.

There he organised the Western Luzon Guerrilla Forces, and was commissioned captain on 5 April 1942. For three years, Magsaysay operated under Col. Merrill's famed guerrilla outfit & saw action at Sawang, San Marcelino, Zambales, first as a supply officer codenamed Chow and later as commander of a 10,000 strong force.

Magsaysay was among those instrumental in clearing the Zambales coast of the Japanese prior to the landing of American forces together with the Philippine Commonwealth troops on January 29, 1945.

Family

He was married to Luz Magsaysay (née Banzon) in June 16, 1933 and they had three children: Teresita Banzon-Magsaysay (1934–1979), Milagros "Mila" Banzon-Magsaysay (b. 1936) and Ramon "Jun" Banzon-Magsaysay, Jr. (b. 1938).
Relatives
Several of Magsaysay's descendants became prominent public figures in their own right:
Ramon 'Jun' Magsaysay, Jr., son; former Congressman and Senator
Genaro Magsaysay, brother; former Senator
Vicente Magsaysay, uncle; Congressman and former Governor of Zambales
JB Magsaysay, grandnephew; politician

House of Representatives
On 22 April 1946, Magsaysay, encouraged by his ex-guerrillas, was elected under the Liberal Party to the Philippine House of Representatives.

In 1948, President Manuel Roxas chose Magsaysay to go to Washington as Chairman of the Committee on Guerrilla Affairs, to help to secure passage of the Rogers Veterans Bill, giving benefits to Philippine veterans.

In the so-called "dirty election" of 1949, he was re-elected to a second term in the House of Representatives. During both terms he was Chairman of the House National Defense Committee.

Secretary of National Defense

In early August 1950, he offered President Elpidio Quirino a plan to fight the Communist guerillas, using his own experiences in guerrilla warfare during World War II. After some hesitation, Quirino realized that there was no alternative and appointed Magsaysay Secretary of National Defence on August 31, 1950.

He intensified the campaign against the Hukbalahap guerillas. This success was due in part to the unconventional methods he took up from a former advertising expert and CIA agent, General Edward Lansdale. In the counterinsurgency the two utilized deployed soldiers distributing relief goods and other forms of aid to outlying, provincial communities. Prior to Magsaysay's appointment as Defense Secretary, rural citizens perceived the Philippine Army with apathy and distrust. However, Magsaysay's term enhanced the Army's image, earning them respect and admiration.

In June 1952, Magsaysay made a goodwill tour to the United States and Mexico. He visited New York, Washington, D.C. (with a medical check-up at Walter Reed Hospital) and Mexico City where he spoke at the Annual Convention of Lions International.

By 1953, President Quirino thought the threat of the Huks was under control and Secretary Magsaysay was becoming too weak. Magsaysay met with interference and obstruction from the President and his advisers, in fear they might be unseated at the next presidential election.

Although Magsaysay had at that time no intention to run, he was urged from many sides and finally was convinced that the only way to continue his fight against communism, and for a government for the people, was to be elected President, ousting the corrupt administration that, in his opinion, had caused the rise of the communist guerrillas by bad administration.

He resigned his post as defense secretary on February 28, 1953, and became the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, disputing the nomination with senator Camilo Osías at the Nacionalista national convention.

1951 Negros Occidental incident.

When news reached Magsaysay that his political ally Moises Padilla was being tortured by the forces of provincial Governor Rafael Lacson, he rushed to Negros Occidental, but was too late. He was then informed that Padilla's body was swimming in blood, pierced by fourteen bullets, and was positioned on a police bench in the town plaza.

Magsaysay himself carried Padilla's corpse with his bare hands and delivered it to the morgue, and the next day, news clips showed pictures of him doing so. Magsaysay even used this event during his presidential campaign in 1953.

The trial against Lacson started in January 1952; Magsaysay and his men presented enough evidence to convict Lacson and his 26 men for murder.

In August 1954, Judge Eduardo Enriquez ruled the men were guilty and Lacson, his 22 men and three other mayors of Negros Occidental municipalities were condemned to the electric chair.

Presidential election of 1953

Presidential elections were held on November 10, 1953 in the Philippines. Incumbent President Elpidio Quirino lost his opportunity to get a second full term as President of the Philippines to former Defense Secretary Magsaysay. His running mate, Senator José Yulo lost to Senator Carlos P. García. Vice President Fernando López did not run for re-election.

This was the first time that an elected Philippine president did not come from the Senate. Moreover, Magsaysay started the practice in the Philippines of "campaign jingles" during elections, for one of his inclinations and hobbies was dancing.

The United States Government, including the Central Intelligence Agency, had a strong influence on the 1953 elections, and candidates in the election fiercely competed with each other for U.S. support.

Presidency

In the Election of 1953, Magsaysay was decisively elected president over the incumbent Elpidio Quirino. He was sworn into office wearing the Barong Tagalog, a first by a Philippine president. He was then called "Mambo Magsaysay".

As president, he was a close friend and supporter of the United States and a vocal spokesman against communism during the Cold War.

He led the foundation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization also known as the Manila Pact of 1954, that aimed to defeat communist-Marxist movements in South East Asia, South Asia and the Southwestern Pacific.

During his term, he made Malacañang literally a "house of the people", opening its gates to the public. One example of his integrity followed a demonstration flight aboard a new plane belonging to the Philippine Air Force (PAF): President Magsaysay asked what the operating costs per hour were for that type of aircraft, then wrote a personal check to the PAF, covering the cost of his flight. He brought back the people's trust in the military and in the government.

His administration was considered one of the cleanest and most corruption-free; his presidency was cited as the Philippines' Golden Years. Trade and industry flourished, the Philippine military was at its prime, and the Filipino people were given international recognition in sports, culture and foreign affairs. The Philippines ranked second in Asia's clean and well-governed countries.

President Ramón Magsaysay enacted the following laws as part of his Agrarian Reform Program:
Republic Act No. 1160 of 1954—Abolished the LASEDECO and established the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) to resettle dissidents and landless farmers. It was particularly aimed at rebel returnees providing home lots and farmlands in Palawan and Mindanao.

Republic Act No. 1199 (Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954) – governed the relationship between landowners and tenant farmers by organizing share-tenancy and leasehold system. The law provided the security of tenure of tenants. It also created the Court of Agrarian Relations.

Republic Act No. 1400 (Land Reform Act of 1955) – Created the Land Tenure Administration (LTA) which was responsible for the acquisition and distribution of large tenanted rice and corn lands over 200 hectares for individuals and 600 hectares for corporations.

Republic Act No. 821 (Creation of Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration) – Provided small farmers and share tenants loans with low interest rates of six to eight percent.

HUKBALAHAP

In early 1954, Benigno Aquino, Jr. was appointed by President Ramón Magsaysay to act as personal emissary to Luís Taruc, leader of the Hukbalahap, a rebel group. Also in 1954, Lt. Col. Laureño Maraña, the former head of Force X of the 16th PC Company, assumed command of the 7th BCT, which had become one of the most mobile striking forces of the Philippine ground forces against the Huks, from Colonel Valeriano.

Force X employed psychological warfare through combat intelligence and infiltration that relied on secrecy in planning, training, and execution of attack. The lessons learned from Force X and Nenita were combined in the 7th BCT.

With the all out anti-dissidence campaigns against the Huks, they numbered less than 2,000 by 1954 and without the protection and support of local supporters, active Huk resistance no longer presented a serious threat to Philippine security.

From February to mid-September 1954, the largest anti-Huk operation, "Operation Thunder-Lightning" was conducted that resulted to the surrender of Luis Taruc on May 17. Further cleanup operations of guerillas remaining lasted throughout 1955, diminishing its number to less than 1,000 by year's end.

Foreign policies

The administration of President Magsaysay was active in the fight against the expansion of communism in the Asian region.

He made the Philippines a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which was established in Manila on Sept. 8, 1954 during the "Manila Conference". Members of SEATO were alarmed at the possible victory of North Vietnam over South Vietnam, which could spread communist ideology to other countries in the region. The possibility that a communist state can influence or cause other countries to adopt the same system of government is called the domino theory.

The active coordination of the Magsaysay administration with the Japanese government led to the Reparation Agreement. This was an agreement between the two countries, obligating the Japanese government to pay $550 million as reparation for war damages in the Philippines.

Defense Council

Taking the advantage of the presence of U.S. Secretary John Foster Dulles in Manila to attend the SEATO Conference, the Philippine government took steps to broach with him the establishment of a Joint Defense Council. Vice-President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Garcia held the opportune conversations with Secretary Dulles for this purpose.

Agreement was reached thereon and the first meeting of the Joint United States-Philippines Defense Council was held in Manila following the end of the Manila Conference. Thus were the terms of the Mutual Defense Pact between the Philippines and the United States duly implemented.

Death

1957 Cebu Douglas C-47 crash

Magsaysay's term, which was to end on 30 December 1957, was cut short by a plane crash.

On 16 March 1957, Magsaysay left Manila for Cebu City where he spoke at three educational institutions.

That same night, at about 1 am, he boarded the presidential plane "Mt. Pinatubo", a C-47, heading back to Manila.

In the early morning hours of 17 March, the plane was reported missing. By late afternoon, newspapers had reported the airplane had crashed on Mt. Manunggal in Cebu, and that 36 of the 56 aboard were killed (the actual number on board was 25, including Magsaysay).

Only newspaperman Néstor Mata survived. Vice-President Carlos García, who was on an official visit to Australia at the time, assumed the presidency to serve out the last eight months of Magsaysay's term.

An estimated 2 million people attended Magsaysay's burial on 31 March 1957. He was posthumously referred to by people as the "Idol of the Masses".


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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