Just because they’re not in the country doesn’t mean they’re not helping. Filipinos overseas contribute in many ways and play an important part in making the Philippines a truly global presence.

In Malacañang on Dec. 5, President Aquino handed out the 2012 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas. The awards—given out every two years to Filipinos abroad who excel in their chosen fields, and to other individuals and groups who provide assistance to Filipinos in other countries—were made possible by his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, in December 1991 through Executive Order No. 498.

Four different awards were distributed, including the Pamana ng Pilipino Award, which are conferred on Filipinos abroad “who, in exemplifying the talent and industry of the Filipino, have brought the country honor and recognition through excellence and distinction in the pursuit of their work or profession,” according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which oversees the awards. This year’s Pamana awardees were led by professional basketball coach Erik Spoelstra of Miami Heat, Hollywood fashion designer Diane Monique Lhuillier, and Black Eyed Peas member Allan “Apl.de.Ap” Pineda.

It’s a shame that Spoelstra and Lhuillier—both of whom have made a mark in their fields—were unable to attend the event. But the equally popular Pineda was there to receive the honor, to no one’s surprise. The performer has made a habit of returning to the Philippines to help in whatever way he can, particularly the young people of Pampanga, where he has roots. He has been consistent in giving back to his community—with no strings attached, his admirers point out.

The Pamana awards honored a diverse but equally bright assembly: Mary Jane Al-Mahdi, CEO of the Middle East-based Geoscience Testing Laboratory; Brazil-based food technology expert Dr. Delia Amaya; stem cell pioneer Dr. Samuel Bernal; New Zealand-based sleep specialist Dr. Antonio Fernando III; bemedalled children’s book author Almira Astudillo Gilles; Hawaii-based Filipino language and culture expert Dr. Ruth Elynia Mabanglo; Jorge Ortoll, executive director of the Ma-Yi theater, and pediatric surgeon Dr. Francisca Tolete-Velcek, both based in New York.

Among the three other award categories are the Banaag Awards for Filipino individuals or groups that advance the interests of Filipino communities. The awardees were engineer Carlito Alpay, lawyer Imelda Argel, Tomas Avendaño Sr., Rafael Castaños, the Filipiniana-Europa V.Z.W., the Filipino Community of Seattle, the Filipino Digerati Association, Luzviminda Micabalo, Al Perez Jr., Lt. Eric Michael Quema, Robert Santos, the Stichting Bayanihan, and Ma. Luzviminda Tsai.

The Kaanib ng Bayan Awards are for foreigners who have contributed significantly to Philippine reconstruction. This year the honor went to Israeli medical specialist Dr. Gonen Haba and German reconstructive surgeon Dr. Christian Loehlein.

Finally, the Lingkod ng Kapwa awards for Filipino individuals and organizations that make exceptional contributions to the Philippines’ progress and development were received by neurosurgeon Dr. Manuel Cacdac, Dr. Christopher Guerrero, and the Aguman Kapampangan UK. In all, 29 persons and individuals were honored that night.

With these awardees as fine examples, it is clear that the Philippine contribution to the world’s brain resources are noteworthy and admirable. Now it’s time for them to give back, and they can do worse than help their motherland in ways not necessarily financial, though it will count a lot.

Indeed, the President took time to talk about the terrible devastation wrought by Typhoon “Pablo” in eastern Mindanao. “I’m happy to say that we have made progress in how we anticipate and respond to natural disasters. Just as the government has become proactive, I’ve seen a greater spirit of cooperation among Filipino citizens,” he said. But he also aired an earnest plea to the awardees: “Lend a helping hand.”

Let the honor and recognition be an opportunity for Filipinos living away from home to always work for the good of Filipinos everywhere. In this season of love and hope, it’s timely to remember the biblical injunction “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”

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Tags: 2012 Presidential Awards , Allan “Apl.de.Ap” Pineda , Diane Monique Lhuillier , editorial , Erik Spoelstra , Filipinos , Giving , opinion , Pamana ng Pilipino Awards

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