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The 2006 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership - Response of Antonio Meloto
by Antonio Meloto
Ramon Magsaysay Award Presentation Ceremonies, August 31, 2006, Manila

The Honorable Chief Justice, Chairman and Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, distinguished guests, fellow Awardees and dear friends.

It is a great honor for me to receive this award in behalf of our countrymen who have not given up hope for our country and have not stopped caring for our people.

We face the challenge of bringing our nation out of poverty from 400 years of feudalism that has rendered 70% of our people landless—depriving them of dignity, security and the motivation to aspire for a better quality of life. We also face the challenge of liberating our people from the slave mentality borne out of our colonial past, and of restoring their self-respect and confidence to succeed and live with dignity in our own country and anywhere in the world.

We have produced many great men and women who love this country. They have sacrificed their lives to liberate our people from our enslavement to the past. But it has taken us a while to get our act together. We looked for solutions from government, we relied on great leaders and felt the frustration when they were unable to solve our problems, particularly poverty and corruption, which are massive and widespread. We did not have the confidence to look for solutions in ourselves nor the perseverance to bring out the best in one another. We did not have the boldness to demand heroism from ourselves as Filipinos nor the passion to inspire heroism in others.

This award is a celebration of ordinary Filipinos who have found their strength, their voice and their power because they have decided to stop blaming one another and decided instead to work together. Gawad Kalinga is a concrete, everyday expression of people power on the ground. This country is being transformed community after community, town after town, through multi-sectoral cooperation—following the path of peace. It is the bayanihan spirit that is moving Filipinos all over the world to re-connect with their motherland and help the towns and provinces where they come from.

Today this award honors the faith and the sacrifice of members of Couples for Christ who started this movement and have lovingly served the GK communities as caretaker teams. We also honor the residents of the Gawad Kalinga communities coming from the poorest of the poor who have regained their dignity—are moving from beneficiaries to benefactors and are helping themselves and one another.

We thank our partners from universities and schools, from civic and religious organizations, from NGOs and from corporations who have transcended business rivalry to build our nation. We thank government, both national and local, for proving to us that they can rise above partisanship for the greater good. We thank Filipinos abroad who have not stopped loving our country and have given us their continuing and invaluable support. We thank non-Filipinos who believe in Gawad Kalinga and see it as a model to help reduce poverty and resolve conflict.

I thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for honoring the sacrifice of ordinary Filipinos and for recognizing Gawad Kalinga as a viable template and a vehicle of hope for other developing countries like the Philippines.

I thank my family for loving me—for sharing my love for my country, and my poor countrymen, and my passion for Gawad Kalinga.

I thank God for His beautiful plan that I was born a Filipino.

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