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Lives to aspire for

These are the stories of the most recent five honorees of the Ginebra Ako Awards who come from different parts of society but with the same fire and passion to improve the life of others.




he new year brings forth anew resolutions and aspirations for a more meaningful, if not much more successful and happier, life. But since change on a worldwide scale is dependent on a lot of factors beyond one’s control, one can simply be the best at what one does and effect change within one’s circle.

These are the stories of the most recent five honorees of the Ginebra Ako Awards who come from different parts of society but with the same fire and passion to improve the life of others.

They are Aris Villaester Jail Warden of Tagaytay City Jail for Ginebra Ako Para sa Paglilingkod; Rey Bufi, founder of The Storytelling Project for Ginebra Ako Para sa Kabataan; Illac Diaz, founder and executive director of Liter of Light for Ginebra Ako Para sa Kalikasan; Pedro Abraham Jr., founder of Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-GaPi) for Ginebra Ako Para sa Entablado; and Lito Ramirez of the Philippine Volcanoes for Ginebra Ako Para sa Palakasan.

“There is no need to look far to be inspired. Simply look to the person beside you because, in real life, ordinary Filipinos are doing heroic deeds. These are the people that we want to pay tribute to,” Ginebra San Miguel marketing manager Ronald Molina said during the “Ginebra Ako: Year 2: Pagkilala sa Tunay na Tapang at Husay ng Pilipino” recently at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City.

Never-say-die and ‘malasakit’

Former Barangay Ginebra San Miguel playing coach Robert Jaworski praised the organizers and the awardees for embracing the never-say-die spirit and the Filipino trait of malasakit or caring for others.

“I believe that the most meaningful and fulfilling human experience is to make a difference in the lives of others and tonight, I’m so impressed by our selection. I’ve had so many outreach programs with Ginebra San Miguel but truly the second year of the Ginebra Ako Awards is something to talk about,” the former Philippine senator said.

Inspired by the award-winning “Ginebra Ako” campaign of Ginebra San Miguel, the awards program is a nationwide search that seeks to recognize and salute the extraordinary accomplishments of exemplary Filipinos who embody Ginebra San Miguel values –– matapang (courage), ganado (passionate) and never-say-die (resilient).

Relief for PDL

While all awardees and their efforts are laudable, Villaester stood out with his program for Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) through paintings at the Tagaytay City Jail. This project, which has earned over P1.5 million, has enabled these inmates to post bail while on trial.

In his speech, Villaester revealed that the P100,000 prize money that he received from the Ginebra Ako Awards will be used to pay the bail of deserving and qualified inmates.

Villaester said that he got the idea of selling paintings made from a certain “Buboy” who taught fellow inmates how to paint. Villaester then sought the help of University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas Fine Arts programs along with artist-friends.

“The proceeds help fund an inmate’s bail. I usually market the paintings on my Facebook page and some of my friends who also want to help. Gusto kong tumulong sa kanila kasi most of them they cannot afford to produce kahit (even) P10,000,” he revealed as he said the project has saved the government over P800,000 in fees.

We have problems, but God does not abandon us. Poverty is not a barrier for us to work hard for our dreams. I am inspired because I know there are people who believe in me and my potentials

“I have not mentioned these to brag about things that I can do for other people but rather to prove and influence each other that the essence of public service does not revolve on the money we are compensated for in rendering our duties, but more on the heartfelt fulfillment in changing the lives of people behind bars,” he said.

Telling stories

Rey Bufi founded The Storytelling Project (TSP) to spark, hope, inspire and instill the love of reading and learning to children in communities where literacy is low.

“I’ve noticed that reading is seen as something done in schools. We want to change the view of children, make it fun for them, and it’s not scary at all,” said Bufi, Ginebra Ako Para sa Kabataan awardee, in Filipino.

Bufi, who stays in the communities for almost a month to give daily storytelling sessions, added: “Reading is the foundation of all other subjects. If a child can’t read, he can’t understand the subjects in Filipino, Math, Science and English. My dream about The Storytelling Project is to reach many regions in the Philippines and that more children would benefit.”


Giving light

Using recycled plastic bottles, Liter of Light founder and executive director Illac Diaz came up with an environmentally-friendly lighting concept that has brought light to areas without access to electricity.

“Thirty-five percent of people’s earnings go to energy. There are crimes against women because of the lack of lighting. I said that we should make a corridor of light. The crime rate went down by 70 percent. That’s when groups of women started making solar lights. More than 1.5 households have already benefited. This increases every year, and there was a big change in the lives of the families who were given light,” Diaz said.

Music on a different plane

Ginebra Ako Para sa Entablado awardee Pedro Abraham Jr. founded the Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino or Kontra-GaPi in 1989 as a way of paying respect to tribes and indigenous peoples through the celebration of their culture and music.

“I’d like to think of the arts as another word for love. The power of dance, the power of music is that it awakens emotions. If you love your audience enough, you will do everything you can in order to generate a kind of communion with your audience. It’s not the applause that comes later. My aim is all the Filipinos to embrace the richness of our national culture,” Abraham said.

Rugby a second time

From his addiction to the substance called rugby, Lito Ramirez ventured into rugby, the sport, as one of the first Filipino homegrown rugby players of Philippine Volcanoes, the Philippine men’s national rugby team.

Ramirez was formerly a street urchin who survived on scavenging trash and begging and sniffing rugby glue. After he was brought to a shelter, Ramirez then discovered his love for the sport of rugby. Just recently, the Philippine Volcanoes captured the gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

“We have problems, but God does not abandon us. Poverty is not a barrier for us to work hard for our dreams. I am inspired because I know there are people who believe in me and my potentials,” he said.

“For youth, I hope they won’t get through what I experienced and I hope they are inspired to play and represent the country,” he added.

Candidates were chosen from

well-respected organizations around the country and passed through a screening committee. Each awardee was given a cash prize and a trophy featuring the iconic Ginebra San Miguel logo designed by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.

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