DR. Jose Ramon Martin Alleje, Lodema Doroteo, Edilyn Lopez, sister Sophie Renoux, and Rogelio Timbal are the five finalists for The One Philippines (TOP) 2022 Humanitarian Awards, selected from 38 candidates endorsed by Rotary Clubs from all over the country. TOP is the annual search for the most outstanding unsung hero, who exemplifies the Rotary's ideal of Service Above Self, but finds difficulty in funding the good that he [or she] does for the most marginalized of our fellow Filipinos.
Dr. Jose Ramon Martin Alleje left a promising medical practice in Metro Manila to serve as a physician in the remote Calamian Island group in Palawan. The island doctor started his practice in a nipa hut, with the examination table serving as his bed. Serving in these communities for the past 15 years, Alleje has established a multi-services clinic. He is engaged in a rehabilitative malnutrition program for the children, digging deep into his funds and appealing to family and friends to fund the medical outreach programs that he holds yearly for about 400 beneficiaries.
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Lodema Doroteo was the first to graduate from college from the Dumagat tribe, a poverty-stricken indigenous people who live in St. Ines Mountain in Tanay, Rizal. Doroteo is determined to bring education to her people. She has obtained sponsors to fund the education of Dumagat young women to enable them to pursue their careers. It is a bold move, as the Dumagat women are expected to submit to the men. Doroteo challenges her scholars to help improve the quality of life of the Dumagat tribe. She has successfully included the Dumagat tribe in the "Living Traditions" series, hoping this will sustain interest in the tribe and allow the culture to thrive and survive.
On a visit to Mindanao, Edilyn Lopez of Leyte witnessed how the children of the B'laan tribe in Sarangani crossed rivers, some of them chest-deep, and clamber up and down the terrains of mountains for up to five hours a day to go to school. This inspired Lopez to initiate "Project 'Gumne'" ("Home" in B'laan), a 168-sqm-dormitory for 60 B'laan students and 12 teachers to spare them the difficult travel between home and school, especially when the monsoon rains hit. This keeps the students from falling into child marriages or forced child labor. Although travel to Sarangani poses many challenges including the threat of insurgent activities, Lopez remains undeterred.
Sister Sophie Renoux, a French nun, arrived in the Philippines in 1997 and saw that many Filipino children lived in the streets, exposing them to prostitution, violence and abuse. She started ACAY Missions Philippines and established programs for girls who experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other trauma, for children in conflict with the law, and the parents of these youth. In 2014, ACAY France was established in Marseilles by applying the expertise and experience gained in Manila.
For the past nine years, Rogelio Timbal has been president of the Bayoan Mangrove Association in Candijay, Bohol. Timbali oversees Candijay's mangrove forest, a 163-hectare area turned over to him for safekeeping by the government — without funding. He supervises the planting of mangroves along the river banks to prevent erosion and guards the mangroves against hired cutters who make charcoal from the carbon-rich mangrove roots. The mangrove is a buffer against typhoons. In 2021, the mangrove forest shielded the 27,000 residents of Candijay from Typhoon "Odette." Nearby Barangay Ubay, which had no mangrove forest, was razed down. Had Timbal turned over the area to the government, it may have been almost completely denuded or turned into fishpond leases.
The most outstanding unsung hero will be declared this week at the Manila Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. The winner will take home a total of P1.5 million for his [or her] declared advocacy. The winner will also receive voluntary donations from attendees to the Gala Night.