MANILA - The 63rd Ramon Magsaysay Awards presentation ceremonies went online in 2021 as it aims to give inspiration from the stories of this year's awardees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This year’s event is unlike any we have seen in the past, again due to the continuing threat of the pandemic. For the first time ever, there is no in-person ceremony," said business leader Aurelio Montinola, chairman of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.
That's why he noted that despite the health crisis, they have the biggest audience this year.
"The foundation is instead harnessing digital technology to stage a 100 percent virtual event. This gives us a chance to be more creative, and more inclusive, as the ceremony is livestreamed all over Asia," Montinola said.
The awardees all had one thing in common, as they made valuable contributions to uplifting the lives of the most vulnerable sectors across Asia.
Among the laureates is Filipino fisherman and community environmentalist Roberto Ballon who was recognized for his leadership in restoring a sustainable marine ecosystem in Zamboanga Sibugay which has benefited the fishing communities there.
American humanitarian worker Steven Muncy, executive director of Community and Family Services International (CFSI), was also named as a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for his work in assisting and protecting refugees in Southeast Asia.
Bangladeshi scientist Firdausi Qadri, the lone woman among the awardees, was also given the prestigious award for her instrumental role in discovering affordable vaccines that have saved millions of lives.
Amjad Saqib, founder of one of the largest microfinance institutions in Pakistan, was awarded the prize for helping uplift the lives of millions of impoverished families.
And finally, a group rounded up the five awardees this year, WatchDoc, an Indonesia-based production house that combines documentary filmmaking and alternative platforms to highlight underreported issues in Indonesia.
Vice President Leni Robredo gave the congratulatory remarks for the sixth time at the event where she said society should learn from the awardees on how to protect sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic and other problems.
"We look to people such as the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay awardees and their fellows from across the decades as examples of how humanity ought to respond,” she said. "For too long, service has been treated as taglines at worst, and as acts of charity at best. When people are in dire need, it is supposed to be the structures of society that address these needs—and not some benevolent leader handing down projects and programs as a lord of the manor does to his servants."
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is often dubbed as Asia's Nobel Prize was established to commemorate the memory, leadership, and example of the seventh president of the Philippines.
It gives distinction to individuals and/or organizations in Asia who have made a huge positive impact from social entrepreneurs to activists, reformists, journalists, and even politicians.