Echaves: Awards plus

I AM gay. I know how it is to go through a phase of self-worth. That’s why I want to help my peers develop better self-worth.”(Interview response from a multi-awardee from a state university.)

“My father and I live in Bohol, while my mother works as a housemaid in Manila. Ours is not the usual Filipino family.” Meet Ed, summa cum laude, University of Bohol.

“I use my mother’s family name. My father and my mother live together; they’re not married. I don’t know why my father did not give me his last name.” That’s Hanz Denzil, magna cum laude, Silliman University.

“I am 20 years old, the eldest among five children. My parents don’t have jobs, so I’m the sole breadwinner. Because I work very hard, sometimes I get tired. But I’m not angry with my parents for making me finance all my siblings’ schooling. That is my destiny.” Listen to Richard, multi-awarded student leader, Negros Oriental State University.

“I grew up feeling loved. But in my kindergarten years, I realized every child was not as lucky as I was. Five years later, I started a school project with my father’s help aimed at helping protect children and women.” That’s Jessie Lou, cum laude, University of the Visayas.

“I don’t have a girlfriend. I’m focused on getting book donations to distribute to children who have none. Hopefully, my future girlfriend will have the same passion.” Meet Adriel, summa cum laude, University of San Jose-Recoletos.

Their honesty proved too much for us judges. At various moments, we either hurriedly reached for a hankie, or drank water to force
the lump back down our throat.

Their depth of experience, wisdom beyond their years, and sensitivity to others’ needs rang so authentic, you could hardly believe they were teenagers or just out of college.

Together with 14 others, they were the nominees for the 2015 Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP), Region 7.

So there we were, all five judges privileged to read their voluminous bid books capturing their achievements inside and outside of school.

Competitions in 10 regions will eventually run up to the final choice of 10 awardees this July, from a total base of 120 nominees for 2015. Assessment criteria are academic performance, responsible and exemplary leadership, social responsibility, solidity of values, and personality.

TOSP has actually been around for the last 37 years, steadfast in its search for and recognition of young students who have contributed to nation building.

The brainchild of businessman and civic leader Jose Concepcion, TOSP was set up in 1961 to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of national hero Jose Rizal.

When martial rule was declared in 1972, TOSP went into hiatus, but re-emerged in 1989 after the return of democracy under the Corazon Aquino leadership.

TOSP awardees eventually continued their mission of nation building in their professional and personal lives, some participating in national and local governance like Ched chair Patricia Licuanan, lawyer Ricardo “Dong” Puno, the late senator Raul Roco, and his wife Sonia.

Inspiring others is equally noteworthy. “I’m here not for the award, but to tell my story.” Hear it from Hermilo, cum laude, Holy Name University.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

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