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2015 Ramon Magsaysay awardees: A legacy lives on
2015 Ramon Magsaysay awardees: A legacy lives on
Rappler compiles the best quotes from one-on-one interviews with the 5 awardees who hail from India, Myanmar, Laos, and the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – On this day, exacty 108 years ago, one of the Philippines’ most beloved leaders was born.

Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay, the 7th President of the Philippines, ushered in what many regard as the country’s “golden years.” 

He was called “Champion of the Masses” for his simplicity and desire to bring government closer to the people. Through programs, policies, and sheer force of personality, he restored the people’s faith in the government and military.

A shocked nation bore the news of his death in a plane accident on March 17, 1957. Magsaysay was then only 50 years old.

But his death did not extinguish the inspiration his life had been. His outstanding example continues to live on in those willing to carry the torch of servant leadership.

On Monday, August 31, a foundation in his honor will award 5 individuals from Asia who embody the values Magsaysay stands for.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is widely regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here are quotes from the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay awardees from their one-on-one interviews with Rappler:

Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, Philippines

Award-winning artist advocating for the conservation and promotion of pangalay, a threatened dance form Samal, Badjao, Jama Mapun, and Tausug peoples of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi

All photos courtesy of Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation

“On a bigger scale, we look back to our traditions because that’s what unites us. So we have to think of real symbols of our identity, rooted in our own culture.”

“We are faddists. Anything that comes along, we say, ‘Oh wow! I like to dance this!’ We spend so much time with those things, why can’t we spend some time on our own traditional dances?”

“We can always create something out of the past. Without that past, we just invent and invent. Nothing will come to maturity.”

Anshu Gupta, India

Founder of Goonj, a non-profit network that uses underutilized clothes and cloth scraps to provide clothing, blankets, mattresses, and even sanitary napkins for India’s poor


“Cloth is the first visible sign of poverty… If I don’t wear the basic pair of clothing and I wear something dirty, something daunt, something unwearable – which basically half the world ultimately wears – do you think your gatekeepers will allow me to enter? The fact remains, no.”

“For us, that small piece of cloth in the shape of a sanitary pad is a tool to create a dialogue, open up the subject, shun the culture of shame and silence, so that people will start talking about it. Once you talk about it, the solution comes.”

“You need to make people stakeholders. I think from our model that is the only thing people can learn, that the poorest of poor across the globe also have a voice, also have wisdom, also have willingness to participate. It is people like us who do not make them a part of it because of our vested interest.”

“You don’t need big things to be happy. Happiness comes from very, very small things.”

Kommaly Chanthavong, Laos

Founder of various initiatives focused on reviving the dying art of Laotian silk weaving while empowering women in rural communities

“Weaving has created a voice for women which they didn’t have at the time, placing them on the same level as the men within the community.”

“Weaving is part of our life, it’s part of my family’s heritage. We want to continue and develop this so it can be preserved for many generations to come.”

“President Ramon Magsaysay helped other people, especially those with fewer opportunities. It’s the same thing I want, to help those with fewer opportunities develop the skills to help themselves.”

Kyaw Thu, Myanmar

Award-winning actor and founder of a network that provides free funeral services to the poor and 24-hour medical emergency response

“The people’s tears are your tears. The people’s happiness is your happiness.”

“Whether you come from poor or rich, as long as you have a compassionate heart, you can feel for the people.”

Sanjiv Chaturvedi, India (winner of the Emergent Leadership Award)

Civil servant who has exposed corruption that fueled environmental crimes, financial scams, and irregularities in government programs

“I always thought it my duty to protect our natural resources, our financial resources because I was very clear that these belong to the people and they have first right over these things – not these corrupt people and vested interests. These people have to be fought at any cost.”

“Being young means you have lots of energy and your mind is pure. I think only the young persons can bring enough pressure on the establishment to reform them. Only thing is, you have to persist.”

“I want to raise awareness on how to shed the corruption, how to resist the evil forces, because as the resistance grows against these forces, only then can these changes be brought.”


 Who among the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees inspires you the most? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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