Saturday, July 21, 2018
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At Large

Celebrating two laureates

Congratulations are in order for the two Filipino laureates in this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards. The two awardees are Peta, or the Philippine Educational Theater Association, the only organization among the winners, and Lilia B. de Lima, former director general of Peza, or the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

Peta is a beloved theater institution that only recently marked its 50th year of existence. Since its founding in 1967 by
Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, Peta has become the country’s foremost exponent of socially aware theater, mounting both original and adapted plays and musicales while “spreading the word” through workshops and lectures among school and community groups. I have many fond memories of nights spent enjoying Peta productions, both in its original home in Fort Santiago and its present quarters in Quezon City. I’m sure Soxy Topacio, one of Peta’s pillars who passed recently, is cheering loudly from heaven, applauding the group’s latest and most deserved commendation.

I had to wipe my eyes to make sure I wasn’t reading the citation wrong. The Magsaysay Awards Foundation was honoring Lilia de Lima and not her niece, Sen. Leila de Lima, who is currently detained on trumped-up drug charges. In any case, an honor for either of them would not be amiss.


Recently retired, De Lima was the first director general of Peza, serving for 21 years to establish what the award body called “a model institution of honest and committed public service, and a key contributor to the nation’s economic growth.” Indeed, she proved that she and Peza could work with the national government regardless of who was in power, showing us that, as her citation points out, “honest, competent and dedicated work of public servants can indeed redound to real economic benefits to millions of Filipinos.”

Not just congratulations but also immense gratitude to Peta and De Lima!

What’s going on at the Department of Trade and Industry? A DTI assistant secretary recently filed at the Office of the Ombudsman charges against a department undersecretary for allegedly pressuring an officer in charge of the Bureau of Product Safety to issue an administrative order requiring cement importers to secure an import clearance certificate (ICC). However, the department administrative order (DAO) exempts cement manufacturers-importers from the requirement.

Such a requirement, said observers, would “drive cement importers out of the market” and leave consumers at the mercy of local manufacturers who can then dictate cement supply and pricing.

The DAO, say those active in the construction business, would bring back the so-called cement cartel which in
2015 caused cement prices to spike up to P300 per bag. At present, cement costs hover around P197 per bag. Would this not slow down the momentum of the government’s vaunted “build, build, build” drive?

“Naka-boundary na ako!” said a smiling Jingjing Romero toward the close of the opening of her exhibit “Postcards from Mamita.”

Aside from securing sales for 71 of the 74 paintings on display (some had been snagged months before, after Jingjing began posting her paintings on FB), she must have also meant securing the “boundary” for her intended beneficiaries: scholarships for young men pursuing priestly studies in a seminary in Cabanatuan.

There is another “boundary” involved. Jingjing, a PR maven and active in civic and social circles, took up painting lessons and working on her canvases while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. Knowing next to nothing about the visual arts, she says she astounded even herself when she began churning out painting after painting, mostly visual memories of her travels around the world. They were meant to be mementos for her grandchildren, who call her Mamita, until her cousin, the newly appointed Bishop Oscar Solis of Utah, told her about the plight of many young men who felt called to the priesthood but could not afford the years of training.


Today, thanks to the sale of her paintings, Jingjing says she feels confident she could send at least four young men through seminary training. Meanwhile, her doctors recently proclaimed her “cancer-free.”

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TAGS: Filipino laureates, Lilia B. de Lima, peta, Peza, Philippine economic zone authority, Philippine Educational Theater Association, Ramon Magsaysay Awards
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