THE search is on for the “unsung heroes” of the Visayas and Mindanao who have made significant contributions to the advancement of well-being of fellow Filipinos.

The search is spearheaded by Cebu-based Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi) in the fifth run of the Ramon Aboitiz Triennial Awards. It aims to look for ordinary but extraordinary individuals and institutions that made a mark in the lives of the people.

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In a caravan call for nomination held at the Ancheta Hall of Central Philippines University (CPU) on February 22, Dr. Evelyn Castro said the search is conducted every three years in the Visayas and Mindanao on persons and organizations who have made changes in the local communities.

Nominations are accepted from government agencies, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, civil society, academe, and the business sector until July 16, 2010.

Individuals and institutions nominated for the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual and institutions nominated for the Eduardo Aboitiz Award will undergo an extensive screening process.

Each award category will be given a trophy, cash prize of P400,000 and opportunity to travel in the Visayas and Mindanao to share expertise to various groups.

Castro said the Rafi Awards is the premier service and humanitarian awards in the Philippines to recognize the philanthropic, humanitarian and holistic efforts if individuals and institutions in enhancing the quality of life of various groups and communities.

Founded in 1966 by the Aboitiz patriarch as a philanthropic organization, Rafi has evolved through the years as a leading center for education and leadership training o the Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

The core areas of concern include education, leadership and citizenship, micro-finance and entrepreneurship, culture and heritage, and integrated development highlighting on community development, health and the environment.

The past individual Triennial Awards Laureates are Warlito Laquihon in 1999, Eddie Alih in 2003, Ramon Piang Sr. in 2006 and Dr. Chelsea Cacaldo in 2009.

The past institutional awardees are the Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative in 1999, Cebu CFI Community Cooperative in 2003, Lihok Pilipina Foundation Inc. in 2006 and Visayan Forum foundation Inc. in 2009.

Western Visayas has two individual Awards Finalists in 2003 who are winners in their own rights. They are Ruth Corvera of CPU Katin-aran Center and “Nanay Cubing” Jacobina Dimaymay of Barangay Malabor, Tibiao, Antique.

Corvera, 80, set up the CPU Katin-aran Center and for 25 years, was able to serve 70 barangays in Iloilo and Antique by creating Katin-aran centers in “empowering people to reach their potentials for God.”

Nanay Cubing, 79, a community organizer, was able to gather the bangus fry catchers of Tibiao into a dynamic livelihood enterprise.

She was also instrumental in organizing the sugarcane “sacada” labor force into a profitable endeavor of the labor sector in Antique. (LCP)