A spotlight on Filipino awardees


Lilia De Lima - Former PEZA Director-General

Twenty-one years after being hailed as the first Director-General of Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), Lilia De Lima has been  recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF) for “her unstinting, sustained leadership in building a creative and efficient PEZA, proving that the honest,competent and dedicated work of public servants can,indeed, redound to real economic benefits to millions of Filipinos.”

“Under Lilia De Lima’s leadership, PEZA enabled the rise of the Philippines as one the region’s top investment destinations,” as stated in RMAF’s citation.

In her response speech during the Presentation Ceremonies de Lima recounted what she went through during her term in PEZA.

“It wasn’t all a walk in the park. We inherited an extremely bloated bureaucracy. Trimming the fat by six percent  was a long, tortuous and emotionally-draining process.  It was the most grueling experience of my public career,” recalled the former Director-General of PEZA from Iriga City.

Reflecting on her career, De Lima said, “I cannot solve the problems of the world but if in my own little area I can make a difference, then I must make that difference.”

In 1995, De Lima was appointed as the PEZA Director-General by then President Fidel V. Ramos.  The RMAF described her term — which lasted until her retirement in 2016 — as “nothing short of spectacular.”


Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA)

The Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) is one among the six awardees, but the only organization to receive the honor this year.

“In electing the PETA to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes its bold, collective contribution in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia,” the citation for the Association in the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Awards read.

“First, shocked and then great joy. Celebration talaga,” said PETA President Cecilia Garrucho when asked about PETA’s initial reaction upon learning that they are one of the recipients of the award.

PETA, who is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was created with the initial vision of coming up with a “national theater” in the Philippines.  Starting small, the organization started in the historic city of Intramuros, Manila which eventually emerged  victorious in the ‘70s through their groundbreaking productions, all produced in Filipino, the national language.

“After martial law was declared, PETA stayed active, together with other groups, in staging theater as a medium for protest and conscientization even under dictatorship,” the citation further read.

The productions were well accepted by the audience for its “artistry and social relevance”, especially during the Martial Law under the Marcos regime, which the PETA considers as their most challenging yet rewarding time.

“We continued to do plays but we always have to be creative,” PETA Executive Director Ma. Gloriosa Santos-Cabangon said when asked how did the theater group survive the dictatorial regime.

“Those were challenging times but to your question, I think that was also the period wherein it really brought out our creativity.  Kasi when the times are so repressive, you don’t have money pa. Ay talaga namang magiging creative ka na (It will make you creative).  So we are very proud of that part of our history,“ Cabangon proudly tells the Asian Journal in an exclusive interview.

A Filipino who has finally felt at home

In her response speech held during the formal Presentation Ceremonies held on Thursday, August 31, Garrucho recalled how she felt when she watched “Bayaning Huwad,” a powerful play about Philippine history and heritage staged by PETA. This was the time she got amused by the “sheer beauty” of the Filipino language and culture.

“I remember asking. How have I become a total stranger in my language and to my culture? That play changed the entire direction of my life.”

“I felt that as a Filipino, I have finally come home,” said Garrucho.

The play inspired Guidote to join PETA where they were taught early on that whatever they learn as artists, they were to share by teaching other, especially non-theater people.

Bringing out the creative power 

Garrucho recalled how they would go out in small teams to barangays in different parts of the country and their purpose was always to draw out the creative power of ordinary folk.

“This [creativity] was Cecile Guidote’s  [PETA founder] original mission, that the theater workshop aims to bring out, [in] her belief was each and everyone of us citizens, rich or poor, naka-aral or hindi (educated or not), there is a creative power stored in each one,” said Garrucho.

The PETA president also said the workshop’s function is to bring out the creative power. She explained that the PETA workshops aim to bring that creative power.

“So that’s also the principle of the workshop, it’s called the Gold Mind Theory. Each one has a potential gold mind, ilalabas mo ‘yun, (you let it out),” said Garrucho.

PETA is now operating as a collective of “artist-teachers.” Its major units include Kalinangan Ensemble, its repertory and performing arm; the School of People’s Theater (SPT) is PETA’s training arm, the School of People’s Theater engaged in year-round training and community development; and a Special Programs unit that is responsible for specific advocacies.

Call for support

“Theater cannot exist by itself, on its own because it has to have an audience, “ said the PETA president.

Garrucho called for support for the theater by watching or by joining their workshops.

They also have a theater association program where people can subsidize poor school children’s tickets.

“You have to come and help for theater to survive. The stronger the theater is, the stronger the community is,” Garrucho said.

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