At Large

Mining the TOWNS ‘diamonds’

During the selection process for this year’s batch of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service, president Olivia “Livie” Ferry said the board of judges and TOWNS officers “realized that we were dealing with a diamond mine.”

The “diamonds” were of course all the women who had come to the jurors’ attention, resulting in a finalists’ list of 25, and of them, the most brilliant diamonds of all, the 12 eventual laureates.


The new TOWNS honorees range from Chiara Zambrano, a broadcast journalist covering the most dangerous stories; to Xyza Bacani, an overseas worker who devoted years to documenting the OFW experience in Hong Kong. They include Karla Gutierrez, an opera singer who, apart from performing, devotes her days to developing young talent; Carmina Bayombong, a finance specialist who heads an NGO that seeks to help young people earn college degrees; and lawyer Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad, who champions alternative dispute resolution.

Two of the awardees are Muslims: Samira Gutoc, who ran and lost in the May senatorial elections but continues her work in behalf of her fellow Maranao and Muslim Filipinos; and young peace promoter and educator Rohaniza Usman.


Also represented were women in technology and science: Reena Estuar, an information technology specialist who works to bridge research and real-time application; Gay Jane Perez, a member of the team that developed Diwata, the country’s first satellite that monitors climate and other geographic data; Geraldine Zamora, a medical doctor who uses the arts to help in healing and rehabilitation; and Stephanie Sy, an AI expert who uses data to identify priority needs of both private establishments and local governments. Clarissa Delgado, awarded for her work in founding Teach for the Philippines, which seeks to channel young graduates toward the teaching profession, was abroad at the time of the announcement, but would have felt right at home among her outstanding peers.

True to the name of the awards, the women have proven that it is possible to serve the greater good, even as they seek to fulfill both personal and professional goals. Asked who inspired them in the years they sought to establish their credentials, most cited their parents, mentors, bosses and spouses. These champions all had one thing in common: recognizing their worth from a young age and encouraging them down untrodden paths.

And yet, as Zambrano pointed out, she was disturbed that misogyny was “becoming normalized” in today’s setting. The other women agreed with her, with some saying that focusing on their work and lifegoals was their way of shielding themselves from the brickbats and put-downs that came their way.

Their “ates” in TOWNS are showing the way. About the same time as their names were announced, the TOWNS board authorized the release of a statement calling on the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to “dismiss with finality” the protest filed by losing candidate Bongbong Marcos against Vice President Leni Robredo.

The TOWNS statement noted that “it has been clearly established that there is no shred of evidence of cheating as posited by Marcos.” The group “strongly urged” the high tribunal “to respect the will of the electorate and end this protest now. Uphold the will of 14-plus million voters who chose Vice President Leni Robredo,” adding that “it is the only right thing to do,” and reminding them that “restoring the integrity of the Supreme Court as the last bastion of democracy is in your hands.”

Also present at the announcement rites was TOWNS honoree and weightlifting Olympic medalist Hidilyn Diaz who, when asked about the response of the Philippine Olympic Committee to her complaints about the way the sports program is being run, simply replied: “The sports establishment is so messy!”

My prayers then for our latest sports heroes: Carlos Edriel Yulo, who won for the country its first gold in the world gymnastics competition; and boxer Nesthy Petecio, who also clinched gold in the Aiba Women’s World Championships in Russia.


Noteworthy is that both Yulo and Petecio come from poor families, with their road to medal glory paved by their own hard work and talent, and the support of their families, coaches and supporters. Maybe Hidilyn can give them pointers along the way to the Olympics.

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TAGS: At Large, Olivia Ferry, outstanding women, Rina Jimenez-David, TOWNS
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