Finalists

JOHNNY MEDRANO (38)

With the gift of walking deprived of him, Johnny never had the chance to go to school when he was young. His family even feared that discrimination would destroy his hopes and dreams.

When his father died, however, he became the bread winner of the family and worked hard for the sake of his loved ones. His condition did not hinder him from learning new skills such as basket weaving, embroidery, and drawing. Because of his hard work and determination, he was able to send his siblings to school, two of whom have already finished college.

With the help of the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), Johnny was able to finish a vocational course (electronics) and now operates his own watch and cellphone repair shop. He has also become a prominent resource speaker for different seminars where he shares his stories and skills to others. Johnny’s life was recently featured in ‘Maalala Mo Kaya’.


RUSTIE QUINTANA (25)

Life was rough for Rustie as he was once one of the kids roaming the streets of Plaza Divisoria in Cagayan De Oro City. When his brother was arrested for an alleged involvement in illegal drugs, Rustie had to make a living washing cars, selling newspapers and plastic bags, and working for the Cogon Market. For a time, he also resorted to ingesting harmful substance to suppress hunger.

One day, while perched on a tree, it dawned on him how life can be painful for a lot of people. That’s when he made a vow to himself, swearing he will not let life’s cruelty ruin him and take away his dreams.

Eager to learn, Rustie was admitted to the Department of Education’s ALS program for free. Around the same time, he also discovered his talent in the arts. Selling his artworks allowed him to send his other siblings to school.

Rustie garnered achievements, being the recipient of multiple awards including one from the British Council’s I am a Changemaker program in 2005. In 2012, his organization was a recipient of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations Award. Rustie recently earned his degree in Development Communication in Xavier University - Ateneo De Cagayan. Often times, he would visit the kids of Plaza Divisoria and teach them about numbers and letters in an effort to inspire them to do better in life.


RODOLFO MENDOZA (53)

Born handicapped, Rodolfo Mendoza was expected to have a life full of judgements. He was being forced by his parents to study in a special school given his condition, but Rodolfo insisted to go to a normal school because he believed he could keep up with the rest of the students. True enough, his condition didn’t get in the way of his education. In fact, he even excelled in academics and became a dean’s lister for some time, and later earned a degree in Bachelor of Science in Commerce major in Accounting.

Although he was rejected several times by different companies despite passing the examinations, he did not let his situation crush his dreams. He made a way to reach out to then first lady Imelda Marcos and asked for an endorsement letter to help him get a job. His efforts paid off. Nowadays, he even extends a helping hand to his fellow PWDs as an advocate.

Rodolfo Agustin is now the president of Central Luzon Federation of PWDs, and Region III’s National Anti-Poverty Commission Representative for PWDs. He was also the co-founder of Nueva Ecija Association of PWD Multi-Purpose Cooperative (NEAP MPC). In 2008, he received the Apolinario Mabini award as the Disabled Filipino of the year.


RANDY HALASAN (32)

Having no experience in teaching, Randy decided to take a job to teach in a remote area in Davao’s Sitio Pegalongan, Malamba, Marilog District. With no cellphone signal and no electricity available, Randy planned on asking for reassignment after gaining substantial work experience. It would take him seven hours to get to the school from his home; two hours riding the bus, another hour by habal-habal traversing 10 kilometers of rocky roads, four hours of trekking Mt. Bangkalan, and crossing two rivers (Sinod River and Davao River).

After years of teaching and immersing himself in the local community, he aborted the idea of transferring to another school. Over time, he was able to appreciate his job and made remarkable achievements for himself and for his students.

Randy is now the teacher-in-charge of the school. Through his efforts, a cultural-minority high school was established. It was also because of him that bridges over the two rivers that he used to cross were built, and the tribe in Pegalongan are informed about their rights.

Randy was the sole Filipino Ramon Magsaysay Awardee of 2014.


EDUARDO HERNAL, JR. (45)

Described by his nominator as a dedicated soldier and a loving father and husband, Eduardo Hernal Jr. showcased resilience during the early years of his life. He comes from an underprivileged family barely able to make ends meet. Most of the time, there was not enough food on the table for everyone in the household.

Often times, he needed to skip classes to help his father till their land. During harvest season, he would endure the heat of the sun and would even spend weekends working to be able to afford school requirements.

He entered the military after graduating high school and asked to be assigned to the Philippine Navy Headquarters in Manila so he could still take a four-year course. Eduardo was in the military during the day, and a student at night and on weekends. He finished BS Criminology in 1992.

During an encounter with the Abu Sayyaf in 2003, he was shot on the head and back while helping a fellow soldier. He miraculously survived the traumatic brain injury (TBI) but it left him paralyzed.

Instead of investing his attention on the negative situation, he shifted his focus to the brighter side of life. He studied Theology and became a pastor.

Eduardo started opening his doors to others, helping those in need. Nowadays, he renders church services for free, sends scholars to school, and helps farmers earn a living.


JULIA MARQUEZ (78)

Growing up in a financially challenged family, Julia “Juling” Marquez faced a number of challenges in life.

Juling learned to make a living to sustain her studies when she was only eleven, following the death of her mother. She became a helper to a dried fish vendor and later became a vendor herself selling soap and matches.

Juling worked even harder for her secondary education, as a store keeper. All of her efforts paid off since she graduated elementary as the batch valedictorian and finished high school as the class salutatorian. Juling met her husband and got married at the age of 19. After seven years of being a housewife, she decided to continue her college education. She worked in the morning and studied at night. She eventually graduated from the Philippine Normal College (now Philippine Normal University).

All of her 13 children were able to finish college. Nowadays, Juling helps her community as an active member of the church and by sponsoring various medical missions. Her story was featured in one of the episodes of ‘Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’.


DON DE VERA (39)

Don De Vera is referred to as the “architect in wheels.” When he was five months old, his nanny accidentally dropped Don, which caused complications to his spine, leaving him unable to walk.

Don worked hard to fulfill his dreams of building houses and skyscrapers and did not let his condition hinder him from studying despite the likelihood of discrimination. He was not given any special treatment when he was studying and he proved to everyone that he could also excel. Accompanied by his personal assistant for five years, he eventually reaped the fruits of his labor. He expanded his expertise and finished his master’s degree in architecture as cum laude. Recently, he also earned his master’s degree in International Affairs in Comparative and International Disability Policy, which he is now maximizing to help his fellow PWDs.

Don recently joined the academe to inspire young designers of MAPUA Institute of Technology in Cabuyao, Laguna. With a burning passion to help, he holds free seminars and workshops in different colleges and universities in Manila. He also designed a permanent shelter for the Yolanda victims in coordination withh the National Housing Authority and Department of Public Works and Highways.


RICHARDSON NAVOR (28)

Richardson Navor, or Kuya Chard, was born with Cerebral Palsy. Rather than letting other people’s judgments get the better of him, he used his physical limitations to inspire and influence people.

During his college days, he did not show any signs of weakness to the people around him. Besides being elected as the council president, Kuya Chard also graduated magna cum laude and received multiple leadership and academic awards. When his mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer, he stepped up to be the main source of strength of his family. He did everything to look for monetary assistance from different people. He even sacrificed some of his allowance from his scholarship to save for his mother. Eventually, her mother was diagnosed cancer-free.

Kuya Chard, as a model and inspiration to many, is now a financial analyst in IBM Philippines. He continues to receive service awards and has formed an organization named People Uplifting the Student and the Handicapped (PUSH) to show his advocacy for youth empowerment and his support to PWDs.


CYPRIAN JADE BASA (19)

In 2013, Cyprian and his family lost their home during a super typhoon. Guided by his positivity, he was able to stand up and help his own family and his neighbors. He volunteered and asked for immediate help from his friends to help his community.

Cyp, as referred to by his friends, exerted numerous efforts to help his community and barangay with all means possible. He formed ‘Sama-sama Tayong Lahat Organization’ which aims to help by conducting feeding programs, clean-up drives, and tutorial services, among other activities.

At a young age, Cyprian already garnered various awards. He was one of the Ten Outstanding Boy Scouts in the country in 2012 and was also a finalist in Asia’s Outstanding Scouts. In 2014, he was a recipient of the Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Kabataang Pilipino award.

Cyp is currently enrolled at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas taking up Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.


NAPREY ALMARIO (25)

Naprey’s childhood was fine until he was 8 when polio changed his life. As difficult as it was, he eventually accepted the fact that he may never be able to walk again. However, Naprey continued to live his life to the fullest, surviving every challenge that came his way.

Although he had to “duck walk” to go around when he was still studying, this did not stop him from finishing his education. Naprey even took a master’s degree and graduated with flying colors.

Naprey later formed a volunteer group called Behind the Rolling Chair, which reaches out to various communities through different projects that help the poor and vulnerable children, especially those with disability. He also joined ABS-CBN’s Pinoy Big Brother Unlimited in 2011 as one of the housemates.