Efren Penaflorida first came to the public's consciousness when his group, the Dynamic Teen Company won the Bayaning Pilipino award for their heroic work in helping kids keep off the streets through education in Cavite.
Since 1997, more than 10,000 volunteers have helped educate more than 1,500 kids in depressed areas of Cavite. It was the work of the young helping the young, the poor helping the poor.
The group upped the ante and bore the Kariton Klassroom, which is a mobile classroom that brings around all their teaching materials to the different areas they service.
This year, Penaflorida was recognized as a CNN hero. He was even interviewed by Larry King.
On Friday morning, veteran CNN anchor Anderson Cooper announced that out of 9,000 nominations, and 28 heroes, Penaflorida made it to the elite list of 10 finalists for CNN's hero of the year.
Disbelief and joy were all over Penaflorida's face, as he could not believe the kind of praise his work continues to get.
He even shared that the honors he has received in the past were more than enough to honor him and his country.
“Hindi ko talaga ine-expect to. Kasi yung una, maging hero pa lang, ok na ok na talaga yun. Pero kahit papano’t s’yempre aasa ka na sana, matuloy-tuloy na. Pero ngayon na nandito na, ang hirap paniwalaan. At itong karangalan na ito ay di lang para sa akin kundi para sa buong sambayangan Pilipino,” he said.
It was a virtual eye of a needle that Penaflorida had to go through from the 28 heroes to make the top 10, specially considering the kind of heroic work that the other 27 heroes from all over the world have done, too.
To give the awards justice, CNN enlisted the help of a blue ribbon judging committee to pick the final 10. These men and women are all accomplished in their fields and recognized too for their humanitarian work.
Names like Whoopi Goldberg, retired US General Colin Powell, Sir Elton John, NBA coach Phil Jackson, Ted Turner, and even TV show Hero's star Masi Oka.
Overwhelmed; prize is P1.2M
All the more, Penaflorida was overwhelmed with making the elite list.
“Nung nalaman ko nga yung mga kasama sa blue ribbon committee na yun, tulad nina Colin Powell, sina Elton John, grabe, bilib ka na sa mga nagawa nila bilang mga humanitarians din, kaya't nakaka-humble talaga na mapili ka pa nila,” he added.
All the 10 finalists now will receive US$25,000 or about P1.2 million, and they will be flown to Los Angeles on November for the final All-Star Tribute night.
There, the ultimate hero will be announced and will receive an additional US$100,000.
He said the money will not go to his use personally but straight to Dynamic Teen Company's efforts to expand their work, particularly in Metro Manila.
“Sa mga panahon, nakita natin ang importansya ng volunteerism at pagmamahal sa bayan, talagang importante na ipakita natin sa mundo ang tunay na bayanihan spirit natin,” said Penaflorida.
The online voting has now begun on the CNN Heroes website.
From the 10 finalists, the public will purely decide via the internet votes who will become the ultimate CNN hero of 2009.
Penaflorida added that he is not making it important to campaign for his own votes, but it’s also more important for the public to learn about all the heroes on the CNN Heroes website and let their stories serve as an inspiration to us all. -- TJ Manotoc, ABS-CBN News