WHEN we first began the MPower Awards, we had a simple goal: to give a platform to Moro and Moro-serving youth that had been quietly serving their communities. As young leaders, they are no longer part of the future. As active participants to the peace process, it is only right that we acknowledge and give a spotlight to their efforts.

Whether your “M” stood for Moro, Millennial, Mindanawon, or something else entirely, all are welcome. For the 2nd MPower Awards, we knew that we had to deepen our search for deserving Moro and Moro-serving youth in the country. This time, we sent out a call for nominations to our followers on Facebook, and the results did not disappoint; we were inundated with names of people that have advocacies that are as diverse as Mindanao itself: peacebuilding, public health, environment, social entrepreneurship, education, and social equity, just to name a few.

We were also fortunate to have our partners attend this event. From the Barmm, MP Dr. Marjanie Mimbantas of the Office of Bangsamoro Youth Affairs delivered a message on behalf of Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim. We also had Mr. Dominik Hammann of the GIZ – Civil Peace Service was also present, where he reaffirmed GIZ’s partnership with the Ateneo de Davao in the years to come.

Our MPower Awardee for the student category, Dechelle Escamillan, is a native of Siargao, Surigao del Sur who is currently studying in Mindanao State University – Main Campus. As former Vice President and now Student Adviser of the Student Action Force, she is an active volunteer in teaching Math and English to children living in IDP camps in Marawi. She is also our only non-Moro awardee, proving that one does not have to be a Moro or a Muslim to serve these communities.

For the Community-based Youth awardee, we have Mohammad Quium Abdulasis. He is an elementary school teacher based in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, and serves as the president of the Simunul Youth Guild. He has been an active volunteer that advocated for the Sama people to be active in the political process, especially during the deliberations between the then-Bangsamoro Basic Law.

For the young professional category, we have Asmarie Labao. A forester by profession, he is mostly known as a reporter for GMA-TV’s “Stand For Truth.” As the founding chairman of the Bangsamoro Youth Leaders (BYL) for Justice and Peace, he is active in promoting education through a scholarship fund that aims to develop young Moro professionals.

This is only the second of what I hope will be more MPower Awards to come. Keeping in tradition of our work in fostering a culture of dialogue, the #MPower Awards is but one channel for us to celebrate the diversity of Mindanao, of youth initiatives that have touched the lives of many.

To recall my opening remarks at the first MPower Awards in 2018, “we have not forgotten you. We remember, and because we remember, we are working to ensure that peace in all forms, peace in all sectors, peace in our hearts -- is achieved”.