“Make the world a better place, one step at a time.” - David Harilela
The search is on for this year’s The One Philippines (TOP), an annual humanitarian award that seeks for that person who can serve as an inspiration for all of us to spread goodness in this world.
The TOP is an off-shoot of the annual international award spearheaded by Rotary International District 3450 in Hong Kong that was conceptualized by businessman and Past District Governor David Harilela who made it is his mission to look for the “Mother Teresa of Tomorrow.”
Harilela brought the search in the Philippines in 2017, convincing Rotary leaders in the country to launch their own search, the winner of which will then compete with other nominees in Hong Kong’s The One International Humanitarian Award.
The first TOP winner was Dara Mae Tuazon, a college student who was nominated in 2018 when she was just 19-years old for her program, Bangketa Eskwela. Along with the recognition was a P1.5 million prize to help fund her advocacy.
TOP said, THE ONE was created with the intention to find and empower an individual who is the epitome of the compassion and selflessness that lives within us all.
Dara Mae became a social media sensation in 2017 when a photo of her teaching a street kid went viral. In the TOP website, Dara Mae’s story started when she noticed street kids singing for money at a food stall near her school, the University of the East, where she was then majoring in Elementary Education.
Finding out that the kids had no basic education, she decided to teach them. Before long, she was giving daily classes to the street children using her allowance and raising funds for learning materials and food.
Her school supported her advocacy and donated tables and chairs and other teaching equipment and with the help of volunteers, a class of 30 street kids were being taught on a daily basis. More than that, Dara Mae and her school expanded their advocacy to the parents and went beyond basic education but a comprehensive community project that addressed their health and wellness as well.
TOP gathered the nominees for an interview with Rotary leaders and at the end of the search, they bestowed to Dara Mae the major award as TOP’s “first unsung hero” last year. Two other finalists, Dr. Roel Cagape who conducts free clinics in Sarangani and painter, Chad Stamatelaky who opened his home to street children as well, also received P500,000 each.
Although the search was halted due to the pandemic, it is back in business and nominations are now being accepted for the TOP for 2022.
Any Rotary or Rotaract clubs in the country can submit to the TOP their nominee, along with a concrete project proposal as to how the prize money can be utilized to make their nominee’s programs more impactful. The winner of the TOP will be the country’s entry to the international search in Hong Kong as well.