Despite its dubious selections in rare occasions, the Nobel Prize is the most revered award in the world. It recognizes individuals and organizations who make significant contributions to the world in various fields, from literature to science. If the Nobel Prize has got an Asian equivalent, it certainly is the Ramon Magsaysay Award. The award, instituted in the memory of the seventh president of The Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, is given annually to individuals and organizations based in Asia who work for the betterment of the society.
The idea of the award was put forward by the philanthropic organization named Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), based in New York. The trustees of RBF came with the idea in April 1957. They earned the support and aid of the Philippine government and it was decided to name the award after Ramon Magsaysay, who had earned name as a great administrator during his tenure. Magsaysay died in an aircraft accident in March 1957. The award aims to show the world and propagate the practical idealism and public service of Magsaysay.
The steps towards the establishment of awards began with the formation of Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) in May 1957. Seven popular Filipinos who were pioneers in various fields were chosen as the members of the committee. The RMAF is responsible for the selection of winners and the organization of award ceremony. The Magsaysay Award carries a sum of $50,000, a felicitation certificate and a medal on which the face of Ramon Magsaysay is depicted. It is presented in Manila on 31st August, the birthday of Magsaysay.
The first Magsaysay awards were presented in 1958. The awards were presented in 5 disciplines namely Government Service, Public Service, Community Leadership, Peace and International Understanding and Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. The winners of the inaugural awards were Chiang Mon Lin, Taiwan (GS), Mary Rutnam, Sri Lanka (PS), Acharya Vinobha Bhave, India (CL), Robert Dick, UK and Mochtar Lubis, Indonesia (JLCCA) and Operation Brotherhood (PIU).
From 2001 onwards, a new category titled Emergent Leadership was added. It was instituted with the co-operation of Ford Foundation. It is presented to individuals within 40 years of age who perform exemplary activities in Social reformation. Oung Chanthol from Cambodia and Dita Sari from Indonesia became the first winners in Emergent Leadership in 2001. From 2009, the awards in the initial 5 categories have been discontinued and the awards are given without any categories except that of Emergent Leadership.
Ramon Magsaysay Award (Wikipedia)