Updated: August 31, 2014 08:03 PM GMT
Philippines President Benigno Aquino, fifth from left, with the 2014 Ramon Magsaysay winners in Manila. (Photo by Gil Nartea)
This year's Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, was given to five individuals and one organization for "boldly building lives in daunting times".
Philippine President Benigno Aquino handed the awards in Manila on Sunday to Hu Shuli (China), Saur Marlina Manurung (Indonesia), Omara Khan Masoudi (Afghanistan), The Citizens Foundation (Pakistan), Wang Canfa (China) and Randy Halasan (Philippines).
"Each of these individuals has confronted, at times, long-standing problems or their latest permutations, and found innovative and inclusive ways to address them," said Aquino during the awards ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila.
Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize.
The award celebrates the memory of the third Philippine president after whom the it is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest "selfless service".
Carmencita Abella, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation, described this year's recipients of the award as "beacons of progress in Asia".
"All of them are creating bold solutions to deeply rooted social problems in their respective societies, problems which are most damaging to the lives of those trapped in poverty, ignorance, and unjust systems," Abella said.
Hu Shuli of China was recognized for "her unrelenting commitment to truthful, relevant, and unassailable journalism, her fearless promotion of transparency and accountability in business and public governance, and her leadership in blazing the way for more professional and independent-minded media practices in China."
Saur Marlina Manurung of Indonesia was cited for "her ennobling passion to protect and improve the lives of Indonesia’s forest people", and her leadership of volunteers in an education program "that is sensitive to the life ways of indigenous communities and the unique development challenges they face".
Omara Khan Masoudi from Afghanistan was honored for "his courage, labor, and leadership in protecting Afghan cultural heritage".
The Citizens Foundation of Pakistan received the award for its "social vision and high-level professionalism of its founders and those who run its schools," in pursuing their conviction that quality education is made available to all "irrespective of religion, gender, or economic status".
Wang Canfa of China was recognized for "his discerning and forceful leadership" in ensuring that "the enlightened and competent practice" of environmental law protects the rights and lives of victims of environmental abuse.
Randy Halasan, a public school teacher from the southern Philippines, was recognized for "his purposeful dedication" in nurturing Matigsalug tribal students and their community.
"I am hopeful that the honor they receive today will serve as a challenge to all of us, reminding us that, in our respective fields of expertise, we each have the capacity to help those who have less," Aquino said.
"This is an extraordinary award and it makes me feel very happy and fulfilled," said Halasan in his acceptance speech.
"For me, being a Magsaysay awardee is not about becoming popular. Rather, it is a strong call to have a greater passion to serve our fellow Filipinos and to become a true role model and inspiration for others," he said.
This year’s winners will receive a certificate, a medallion bearing the likeness of the late president Magsaysay, and a cash prize of US$50,000.