Philippine PassportMANILA — President Benigno S. Aquino III has honored 29 outstanding overseas Filipinos and foreign-based organizations at ceremonies for the 2012 Presidential Awards for Filipino individuals and organizations abroad.

The awarding rites, which highlighted the celebration of the Month of Overseas Filipinos (December), were held on Dec. 5, 2012 at Malacañan Palace.

Twenty-two Filipinos, five Filipino organizations, and two foreign nationals from 14 countries are this year’s awardees.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) said the awardees are “living testaments to the enduring spirit of bayanihan, perseverance, hard work, and exemplary service towards the advancement and improvement of the lives of Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad.”

CFO said the awardees were thoroughly screened from a field of 137 nominees from 26 countries by three different committees composed of representatives from the government, civil society, media, academe, religious and business sectors.

President Aquino picked the awardees from the nominees recommended for the awards by the three committees.

Following are the categories of the awards and the awardees:

Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino Awards. The awardees in this category are Filipino individuals and organizations overseas noted for their exceptional or significant contribution to the progress and development in the Philippines.

Given the awards are Dr.  Manuel A. Cacdac, a neuro-surgical doctor based in Boston, Massachusetts, who treats disadvantaged children afflicted with hydrocephalus in the Philippines; Dr. Christopher M. Guerrero, a medical doctor based in Chicago, Illinois, who addresses the health needs of his kababayans in Nueva Vizcaya; and the Aguman Kapampangan UK, a charitable organization which aims to develop cultural awareness among second-generation Filipinos in London, while it undertakes philanthropic activities in Pampanga.

Kaanib ng Bayan Awards. The awardees are foreign individuals or organizations recognized for their exceptional and significant contribution to Philippine reconstruction, progress and development or advancing the cause of overseas Filipino communities.

The recipients of the awards are Dr. Gonen Haba, specialist surgeon, who has contributed to the well-being of overseas Filipinos in Israel; and Dr. Christian Loehlein, an expert in reconstructive surgery who has treated Filipinos with harelip and cleft palate problems.

Banaag Awards. The awardees are Filipino individuals or associations overseas recognized for their contributions to the efforts to advance the cause of overseas Filipino communities or sectors.

Honored with the awards are Engineer Carlito E. Alpay, who advocated for the extension of Philippine professional licensure examinations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Attorney Imelda L. Argel, immigration lawyer and journalist, who promoted the mutual recognition of skills and qualifications of Filipino migrants in Australia; Tomas P. Avendaño Sr., a member of the Multicultural Advisory Council of British Columbia, who extends support to new migrants in Canada; Rafael S. Castaños, who is instrumental in strengthening the ties that bind the Filipino communities in Alaska; Luzviminda S. Micabalo, who promotes Philippine culture and heritage appreciation in the Filipino-American community of New York and Nevada; Al Perez Jr., commissioner of San Francisco Entertainment Commission, who promotes Philippine culture to the Filipino community in San Francisco; Lt. Eric Michael B. Quema of San Francisco Police Department, who protects the Filipino American community and provides training services to the Philippine National Police; Robert Santos, a civil rights leader whose work in urban housing and community development helped many immigrants in the US; and Ma. Luzviminda Tsai, who initiated projects that advance the interests and welfare of fellow Filipino migrants in Taiwan.

The organizations that received the Banaag Awards are Filipiniana–Europa V.Z.W., a multicultural non-profit organization, that promotes migrant women empowerment in Belgium through educational and cultural activities; Filipino Community of Seattle, a non-profit organization in the State of Washington, which has been committed to serving the needs of Filipino-Americans since the 1930s; Filipino Digerati Association, a non-profit organization of IT professionals, who enhance the skills of overseas Filipino workers in UAE; and Stichting Bayanihan, a self-help women’s organization which aims to advance the participation, integration and emancipation of Filipinas through empowerment in The Netherlands.

Pamana ng Pilipino Awards: The awardees are Filipino individuals overseas who have given the country honor and recognition through excellence and distinction in the pursuit of their work or profession.

The honorees in this category are Engneer Mary Jane A. Al-Mahdi, who is the CEO of Geoscience Testing Laboratory, the biggest independent testing laboratory operating in the Middle East; Dr. Delia R. Amaya, a retired professor of the University of Campinas and a food technology expert in Brazil; Dr. Samuel Bernal, a cancer specialist and lawyer, who is a pioneer in stem cell research in the Philippines; Dr. Antonio Fernando III, a psychiatry professor and expert in the field of sleep medicine in New Zealand; Almira Astudillo Gilles, an award-winning writer and editor in the US; Dianne Monique Lhuillier, who is a leading bridal couturier and fashion designer in the US; Allan “Apl.de.Ap” Pineda, former member of the famous Black Eyed Peas Group, who never forgets his cultural roots and who supports youth education program in the Philippines; Dr. Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo, professor at the University of Hawaii, who is an advocate of Filipino language and culture in the US; Jorge Z. Ortoll, who is executive director of Ma-Yi, a premier Asian-American theater company in New York; Eric C. Spoelstra, who is the first Filipino-American head coach to win the US National Basketball Association (NBA) championship for the Miami Heat team; and Dr.  Francisca Tolete-Velcek, who is a multi-awarded pediatric doctor and academician in the US.

In giving the awards, President Aquino was assisted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Secretary Imelda M. Nicolas, CFO chairperson.

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