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What we aspire for

It was a humbling but also uplifting experience to attend the 65th Ramon Magsaysay Awards ceremonies last Nov. 11 at the Metropolitan Theater, in which four new awardees – including Filipino peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer – were honored for their contributions to humanity. Long considered Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize and certainly its most prestigious honor, the RMA has now gone to over 300 recipients from all over the world in the fields of government service, public service, community leadership, journalism, literature, and creative communication arts, peace and international understanding, and emergent leadership.

This year’s four laureates represent a wide range of endeavors.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer (Philippines) exemplified and championed the role of women in peacemaking, leading the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that led to a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. She has since lent her skills and wisdom to peacemaking efforts in East Timor, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq, among other conflict zones.

Eugenio Lemos (Timor-Leste) mobilized young Timorese to adopt permaculture, a holistic system to create and manage sustainable agrosystems. His approach and methods have been adopted by Timor-Leste’s schools and local governments. Going beyond food security, Lemos emphasizes the need for “food sovereignty,” a country’s ability to produce its own food, with a focus on local, natural, and nutritious food.

Ravi Kannan (India) set up the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center in one of India’s most remote and poorest regions to bring cancer care to those who could least afford it. Dr. Kannan resolved not just to create a state-of-the-art facility, but also to make it accessible to the poor by offering free treatment, room and board, temporary employment for caregivers, and a homecare program for patients.

Korvi Rakshand (Bangladesh) began by helping poor Bangladeshi children learn English so they could find gainful employment. His JAAGO Foundation has since expanded to provide free English-language primary and secondary education to 30,000 students in both traditional and online schools, as well as embracing other