Missionary doctor, PH Eagle Foundation win 2018 Aboitiz awards

MANILA, Philippines – A missionary doctor for children with cleft palate and a foundation focused on preserving the Philippine eagle are this year’s recipients of the prestigious Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Incorporation (RAFI) Triennial Awards.

The foundation announced the winners in a ceremony held at the Bai Hotel in Cebu City on Friday, August 31.

Dr. Benedict Edward Valdez, president of the Maharlika Charity Foundation Inc in Davao City, took home the Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual, while the Philippine Eagle Foundation won the Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution.

Presented every 3 years, the RAFI Triennial Awards recognizes individuals and institutions “who committed themselves to building a more humane, equitable, and caring society.”

Valdez has made it his mission in the past 17 years to give children living in Mindanao and Palawan who are suffering from cleft palate a chance to smile, allowing them to live normal lives without fear of discrimination from their peers.

He created 3 cleft referral centers in the Caraga Regional Hospital, East Visayas Regional and Medical Center, and the Medical Mission Group Hospital and Health Services Cooperative.

“With that particular operation, it can make a person very sociable as we ourselves are social beings; secondary is just education. We love first, [but] how about those kids who were not able to marry their crushes or loved ones because they do not have the courage to face them?” said Valdez in his acceptance speech.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Eagle Foundation has been tirelessly working to save the critically-endangered national bird and its rainforest habitat since 1987.

The foundation has its own Philippine Eagle Center, an 8.4-hectare facility of trees that serves as home to Philippine eagles, monkeys, owls, and other wildlife. The facility is focused on preserving the Philippine eagle while at the same time providing an avenue for about 6,000 to 10,000 guests every month to learn about the conservation of the environment.

The foundation has also partnered with over 700 individuals from various tribes who are in charge of patrolling, reforestation, and protection of the forest.

“Our organization has been around for the past 21 years. We’re very much honored and this very important award inspires us to move forward and do more for our national bird and for the country,” said Jason Ibañez, director for research and conservation of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Now on its 7th run, RAFI has chosen as finalists 5 individuals and 5 institutions from the Visayas and Mindanao. Apart from Valdez and the Philippine Eagle Foundation, the other finalists are as follows.

Ramon Aboitiz Award for Exemplary Individual:

Eduardo Aboitiz Award for Outstanding Institution

Both Valdez and the Philippine Eagle Foundation each received a trophy and P500,000. The other finalists received a trophy and P200,000 each. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.