Efren Peñaflorida of the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC) gives his acceptance speech after he is given the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year award at the CNN Heroes All Star Tribute Gala ceremonies at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, November 21, 2009. (CNN)
MANILA – After being named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year, Efren Peñaflorida is expected to gain more accolades for his “Kariton Klassroom,” a pushcart education program which gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership.
Upon his return from the United States, Peñaflorida will be conferred the Order of Lakandula by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde announced in a statement.
The Order of Lakandula is one of the highest honors given by the Republic of the Philippines. It is conferred on those who dedicate themselves to the welfare of society, perform meritorious political and civic service, and lead lives worthy of emulation.
“President Arroyo joins the entire nation in congratulating Efren Peñaflorida for having been named CNN Hero of the Year… Efren has indeed proven that any individual can help make a difference in the world. He has also shown the world the best in the Filipino,” said Remonde.
“Let each one of us unleash the hero within us by helping the next person as Efren said,” he added.
Peñaflorida and his group, the Dynamic Teen Company, won the Bayaning Pilipino award for their heroic work in bringing education to poor children in Cavite.
The group later began the “Kariton Klassroom,” a mobile classroom that brings around all their teaching materials to the different areas they service. Since 1997, more than 10,000 volunteers are helping educate more than 1,500 kids in depressed areas in Cavite.
Peñaflorida received the CNN Hero of the Year citation at the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night (Sunday in Manila).
He bested nine other contenders from different countries after getting the highest number of online votes. More than 2.75 million votes were cast for 7 weeks, the CNN website noted. More than 9,000 nominations were sent in by viewers.
Peñaflorida received $100,000 to continue his work with Dynamic Teen Company, according to CNN. He earlier got $25,000 for being included in the top 10 CNN Heroes.
In his acceptance speech delivered before 3,000 people, Peñaflorida encouraged the crowd to unleash the “hero in you.”
"Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry," Peñaflorida noted. "Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need.” – With reports from Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau; TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News; and CNN