The Ramon Magsaysay Award was created in 1957, the year the Philippines lost in a plane crash a President who was well-loved for his simplicity and humility, his passion for justice, particularly for the poor, and his advancement of human dignity. Among the many friends and admirers of the late President around the world were the Rockefeller brothers. With the concurrence of the Philippine government, the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) established the Award to honour his memory and perpetuate his example of integrity in public service and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.
Supported with a generous endowment from the RBF, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) was organized in Manila in May 1957, with seven prominent Filipinos as founding members of the foundation’s board of trustees. The Foundation has since implemented the Magsaysay Award program, pursuing the mission of “honouring greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia.” The first Ramon Magsaysay Awards were given on August 31, 1958 to five outstanding individuals working in India, Indonesia, Philippines, Republic of China (Taiwan) and Sri Lanka, and a Philippine-based organization.
The awardees are:
Chen Shu-Chu from Taiwan.
She is being recognized for “the pure altruism of her personal giving, which reflects a deep, consistent, quiet compassion, and has transformed the lives of the numerous Taiwanese she has helped.”
Romulo Davide from the Philippines.
He is being recognized for “his steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of farmers in the Philippines, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities, and rediscovered the dignity of their labour.”
Kulandei Francis from India.
He is being recognized for “his visionary zeal, his profound faith in community energies, and his sustained programs in pursuing the holistic economic empowerment of thousands of women and their families in rural India.”
Syeda Rizwana Hasan from Bangladesh.
She is being recognized for “her uncompromising courage and impassioned leadership in a campaign of judicial activism in Bangladesh that affirms the people’s right to a good environment as nothing less than their right to dignity and life.”
Yang Saing Koma from Cambodia.
He is being recognized for “his creative fusion of practical science and collective will that has inspired and enabled vast numbers of farmers in Cambodia to become more empowered and productive contributors to their country’s economic growth.”
Ambrosius Ruwindrijarto from Indonesia.
He is being recognized for “his sustained advocacy for community-based natural resource management in Indonesia, leading bold campaigns to stop illegal forest exploitation, as well as fresh social enterprise initiatives that engage the forest communities as their full partners.”
The six 2012 Magsaysay awardees join 290 other laureates who have received Asia’s highest honour to date. This year’s Magsaysay Award winners will each receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late President, and a cash prize.