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In my last column, I introduced this year’s finalists for the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines. Thirty young men and women were able to pass the rigorous screening processes of the RFM Foundation, which aims to cultivate a new breed of a young bayani — someone who serves as a role model for academic excellence, exemplary leadership, good moral values, and socio-civic consciousness. This year’s TOSP winners were awarded last Aug. 2, and P-Noy personally congratulated and handed them their trophies.
In his short speech, P-Noy said that the TOSP finalists and winners are more blessed than most of us, because they have the capacity to understand things better. They are also gifted with an opportunity to serve their fellowmen, which is what each of them should cherish. And I could not agree with P-Noy more: that those who have more in life should be able to share with those who are not as fortunate. These people, young as they are, have already led inspiring lives. It is my honor to share their stories, because despite the changing times, we can still count on our youth to be the source of hope of our fatherland. Now is their time to act and move this country forward.
A medical student may have a lot of burdens on his back, but John Michael Dellariarte was able to manage squeezing in a lot of civic work for his community in Mindanao. He was able to find a convenient solution to purify drinking water through his “I Can Make a Difference” project, as well as develop a lying-in clinic made out of PET bottles for expectant mothers. But the best part of his work is that he was able to engage the community in his projects, giving them a sense of ownership that they are part of the innovation that is taking place in their community.
Kenneth Isaiah Abante is an outstanding student ever since he started studying. He was the class valedictorian from preparatory school to college. But he is focused not only on academics. His midterm life goal is to go back to his hometown in Bicol and organize the local enterprises there. To prepare himself, he chose to be free from what he calls the “paralysis of convenience” by working for the government, where he can have better exposure to working with the masa.
Jerome David’s greatest role model is his father, whom he gives credit for forming the values that he lives by today. He believes that his purpose is to glorify God, and he makes sure that his actions are according to His will. Aside from being a diligent student, he was also a young minister of his community’s congregation. Jerome was given the chance to represent the country in international forums, most of which were organized by the ASEAN.
Despite being diagnosed with systematic lupus erythematosus, Ruthell Moreno faced life with an unwavering positivity. She graduated with a summa cum laude degree, among other citations as a student SPED teacher. More than that, she served as the founder of the Lupus Support Group of Panay, Inc., a group that aims to inform people about lupus and assist in the medication of its members. Ruthell’s wish is to be of help to others, even in the face of her own mortality.
Juan Carlo Tejano’s progressive attitude is motivated by his desire to change the system in his community. He became sick and tired of the youth organization of his village, which was ineffective and corrupt for the longest time. He faced the challenge of founding an organization independent of the reigning association, and it gave his village the best projects that a youth organization could provide. JC considers himself progressive because he has been living with the reality of being marginalized, yet he refuses to accept this or be a part of it.
One semester of studying in Singapore as a scholar of the Temasek Foundation and the Singapore Management University was all it took for Angelita Bombarda to change her point of view. She felt that there are so many opportunities for third-world countries, especially the Philippines, to reach first-world status in the future, and so she vowed to be a part of change for the country. Just like Rizal, she believed that the pen is mightier than the sword, but words had to be coupled with action in order for people to succeed.
Kurt Gerrard See, who was the eighth Best Speaker in Asia during the 2010 United Asian Debate Championship in Thailand, used to stutter, forget his lines, and mispronounce words back in high school. But his determination paved the way for him to improve himself and his skills. He wants to expose the youth to the art of debate, because he strongly believes in its power to expand one’s horizons; that beyond improvement of articulation, debate can be a link between an individual and the realities that he faces.
When things don’t work out as planned, Daniel Philip Dy always finds a way to make things work and still be the best at it. As probably the most entrepreneurial among the winners, he and his friends decided to put up a business that will promote Bicol’s indigenous materials and establish a sustainable livelihood for the community mothers at the same time. He never forgot how his professors tried to talk him out of the project, saying that “they are just students.” But he felt that putting up Mr. Kengkoy Backpacks is a call that should not be neglected, and they were able to attain their goal of touching the lives of their community members.
Maria Janua Polinar is an idealist who has managed to balance her academic, leadership, and social responsibilities. Her dedication to serve earned her an award as the Outstanding Student Leader for two consecutive years in her university, despite not being a student council president or a member of their Sangguniang Kabataan. For Janua, community service is tantamount to selfless service; where one continues to help people even without expecting anything in return.
Jay-R Mendoza’s mother has been his source of inspiration. Raising four children with her meager income as a sidewalk vendor is no easy feat, and this motivated him to emulate her ways. During free time from his studies, he volunteers as a student teacher and a community worker. Like what his nanay taught him, he proactively responds to the social issues that he faces, and guides others to do the same.