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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Heroes among us

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By Jessica Asprer

After a year of delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos feted four teachers, three soldiers, and three police officers. 

This year’s 10 awardees join the ranks of 675 Filipino public servants honored for their exemplary values, service, and care for the community. 

(Top) OUTSTANDING PUBLIC SERVANTS. The Metrobank Foundation names this year’s Outstanding Filipino Awardees that include (from left) Lou Sabrina Ongkiko, Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag, Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan, and Jason Albaro.

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(Bottom) Outstanding Filipino Soldiers and Police Officers (from left) Technical Sergeant Jake Belino PAF, Colonel Augusto Padua PAF, Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Boongaling, Police Lieutenant Colonel Gerard Ace Pelare, Police Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Pablito, and Police Senior Master Sergeant Mary Joy Ylanan.

“During this extended period of unease, we are fortunate to be inspired by the dedication of public servants and front liners who are steadfast in their mission,” said Metrobank Foundation president Aniceto Sobrepeña.

On the front lines of education

During the virtual awarding ceremony on August 6, Lou Sabrina Ongkiko, Master Teacher I at Culiat Elementary School, lauded as “Quezon City’s Transformative Educator”, was awarded for her work in ensuring learning continuity amid the pandemic, and strengthening STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.

“Transformative kasi naniniwala po ako na sa pamamagitan ng edukasyon, kaya natin gumawa ng pagbabago […] para sa gayon, ‘yung mga estudyante naman natin ang magdadala ng pagbabago sa kanilang pamilya, sa komunidad, at sa ating bansa,” Ongkiko explained.

Ongkiko was also recognized for her seminal 2013 TEDx on her vocation as a public school teacher, and contributions such as launching the COVID-19 comics for children and hosting two weekly educational radio programs to aid students in distance learning.

Dahil hindi tumitigil ang mga bata mangarap dahil lang may pandemic, at habang may batang gustong matuto, nandito po tayo at magpapatuloy po tayo,” the educator affirmed.

Jason Albaro, dubbed “Muntinlupa City’s Global Science Educator”, shares the same zeal as a STEM teacher here and abroad. 

The teacher awardee leads the “I DID IT!” (Invention Driven Instructional Design and Innovation Transfer) program that trains students in scientific literacy through progressive learning experiences that encourage them to innovate.

The Teacher III at Muntinlupa National High School also co-manages the first chlorella microfarm in the Philippines.

Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag, a professor at the University of Santo Tomas, champions the use of digital media both for pedagogy and her pharmacovigilance advocacy.

“I engage legislators, policy-makers, barangay health workers, physicians, nurses, pharmacists about the dangers of substandard drugs,” she shared. “Itinataguyod ko ang kahalagahan kung bakit dapat ang bawat isa sa atin ay maging mapanuri sa gamot na ating iniinom.”

The two-time former president of the Philippine Medical Association was also recognized for her efforts in the capacity-building of healthcare professionals in research through digital workflows in research management. Dr. Calimag is hailed as “The Philippines’ Proactive Organizational Health Leader and Pharmacovigilance Advocate”.

Also promoting e-learning, Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan started a college-wide initiative on the use of educational technology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine “to make learning visible”, she said, and to help medical educators use online digital tools and learning management systems in blended learning.

Dr. Isip-Tan advocates the improvement of knowledge about endocrine disorders on social media.

Gallant defenders

Ginawa po natin ito nang may diwa, galing, at malasakit,” said Technical Sgt. Jake Belino, recognized as the “Philippine Air Force’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Vanguard” for his commanding roles in several disaster response activities such as search, rescue, and retrieval operations and the management of missing persons and the dead.

Belino organized teams during the Marawi strife and the mass casualty landslide in Benguet because of Typhoon Ompong.

Lt. Col. Elmer Boongaling, “Philippine Army’s Peacebuilder for Safe and Resilient Communities”, has made peace-building his mission.

In 2019, he commanded the 33rd Infantry Battalion operations in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao that reportedly led to the apprehension of drug personalities and terrorists, and the confiscation of drugs and firearms.  

“If we continuously communicate mainstream peace-building, naniniwala ako na in the long run, we will be able to really attain durable peace, sustainable peace,” he said.

Peace sometimes calls for unconventional measures.

This is why “Philippine Air Force’s Airpower Innovator for Peace”, Col. Augusto Padua has been rallying his troops in the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 2 to drop leaflets instead of explosives.

Since 2019, the strategic aerial leaflet-dropping operations has been his unit’s approach to counterinsurgency along with persuasion flights in Region II’s hinterlands that saw 103 individuals abandoning the armed rebellion.

Building trust, safeguarding lives

Philippine National Police Senior Master Sgt. Mary Joy Ylanan has long been pursuing justice for victims of sexual abuse and human rights violations, which led to the arrest of many felons in Bogo City, Cebu, and the rescue of women and children.

She believes what people need is “pulis na ang bilis tumulong sa lahat”.

As a police, Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare protects people; as a lawyer, he provides free legal counsel in Region VII, thus earning him the tag “Talisay City’s Police Chief Protector and Counsel”. 

Pelare authored Oplan Limpyo, a community-based campaign against illegal drug use and trade.

“I believe in the saying that ‘He who wins the crowd, wins the war’. We were able to protect the city of Talisay from the menace of illegal drugs,” he said. 

P/Lt. Col. Jonathan Pablito, hailed as “Western Visayas’ Organizational and Community Transformation Lead Strategist”, was credited for the reduced crime volume and stronger community engagement after taking charge of Iloilo City Proper and Malay-Boracay police stations.

Equipped with skills in institutional reforms and strategic communication, he served as the chief of strategic communication of P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 (Peace and Order Agenda for Transformation and the upholding of the Rule of Law), PNP’s Integrated Transformation Program.

Ang akin pong advocacy is really PNP transformation. We want a capable, effective, and credible police service with the aid of almighty God.”

While the world remains at a standstill, heroes are on the move, rendering their service and braving the frontlines in ways they can. 

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