THE HAGUE – Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu congratulated the Philippines after a young Filipino won the most prestigious international award for children.
“For the Philippines, you may have difficulties but those difficulty seem to keep producing outstanding young people like Kesz (Carlos Valdez) which give hope that nothing ultimately can defeat us and we want to congratulate him very very warmly on the success of his undertaking,” Tutu told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau at the press conference immediately following the awards ceremony for the 2012 Children’s Peace Prize Award.
On Wednesday afternoon, Carlos "Kesz" Valdez, had the privilege to be the center of attention at the same venue where Queen Beatrix delivered her annual speech to the Parliament.
“And today, he [Kesz] made a superb address. I mean, if this is something he does for a week. You’re wonderful, wonderful and his head still remained the same size,” Tutu said of Kesz.
The 13-year-old Filipino boy went up the stage at the Ridderzaal or Knight’s Hall in The Hague as the winner of the International Children’s Peace Prize. The award is dubbed as the Nobel Peace Prize for children.
Just the day before, the Queen of the Netherlands delivered her annual speech to the Parliament on the day called Prinsjesdag at the same hall.
It is very rare that the Ridderzaal is opened to the public for a ceremony.
The Hall of Knights is one of several buildings in the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch parliament.
And as tribute to the Filipino winner, the song “Anak” by Freddie Aguilar was sung in a theatrical dramatic style with an intro of drum players marching on the center of the aisle then joined at the center of the stage by the members of the Dutch National Orchestra and sung by Dutch Filipina musical artist Cystine Carreon.
Valdez beat nominees 15-year-old Amina from Ghana and 16-year-old Anwara from India. Amina founded an organization that defends the rights of children, particularly those related to education, while Anwara has been fighting girl trafficking and early marriage after being forced to do domestic labor.
The award is given to a child who has made a significant contribution in advocating their rights.
Valdez won the award because his life story and more importantly, his projects continue to touch the lives of thousands of street children in the Philippines.
“Makakaya ko naman po kasi me mga tumutulong sa akin, very supportive naman si Mr. Harlin sa akin, mga ate, kuya ko sa Pilipinas. Yung mga part ng grupo namin, yung sa championing po ayun po bale hindi lang naman po ako ang gumagawa. Me mga katulong ako. Kaya sa tingin ko kaya ko din to kasi nagta-trust ako kay God,” he said.
The boy wants to continue giving hope to the thousands of street children in the Philippines, the number which keeps on growing every year.
Valdez also said that it is never too late in one’s life to make a difference in the life of someone who is less fortunate.
“Lalo na mga batang kalye sa Pilipinas, wag po silang mawawalan ng pag-asa. Naniniwala po ako na hindi po hadlang ang edad natin. Hindi po hadlang ang status natin sa buhay para din po makatulong sa ibang tao. Mag-ambag sa ating lipunan, sa ating country sa Pilipinas,” he said.
Accompanying Valdez in his trip to the Netherlands is his guardian Harnin Manalaysay and 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida.
Penaflorida is no stranger to the rags-to-hero story being a recipient of a prestigious award himself. He and Harnin are making sure that Kesz receives proper guidance.
Penaflorida’s first influence in Valdez’s life was with his “Kariton” classroom. “Yun ang parang naging unang eskwelahan niya nung nasa kalye siya,” he said.
And Penaflorida said that his greatest impact in Valdez’s life was on volunteering.
“Yung puso nya na tumulong sa iba kasi siya yung pinakabata naming volunteer sa kariton classroom so dun siya unang nagvolunteer as hygiene demonstrator. Nagturo siya ng proper hygiene hanggang sa nakabuo na din siya ng sarili niyang grupo.at pinagpapatuloy niya yun,” he said.
Penaflorida said he will make sure the young Filipino's well-being will be the priority and his instant celebrity status will not hinder his dream to become a doctor.
“Priority namin is yung education niya. At yun din ang priority ng Kids’s Rights organization, to send him to school kasi yun din ang gusto nyang mangyari,” Penaflorida said.
It was a very long but victorious day for Valdez, having been up very early to finish all media interviews in the morning then the awards ceremony, the press conference after and more introductions to the VIPs in the evening.
But he still managed a one last pose for ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau, as he exited the royal venue.
Lifting the heavy golden trophy of what looked like a kid pushing the world, Valdez offered the award to the Philippines, saying he is representing the Philippines and that the award is for all the street children.