PETA wins prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia’s premier prize and highest honor

Image by Facebook, PETA, RMA

The Ramon Magsaysay Awards (RMA), dubbed as “Asia’s premier prize and highest honor,” have recognized PETA, (no, this is not People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, but Philippine Educational Theater Association) as one of the recipients of the 2017 RMA.

PETA was recognized for “empowering communities for development through theater arts” during the announcement of winners at the De La Salle University – Rufino Campus on Thursday.

PETA is the only ‘organization’ among the 2017 awardees. It joins five other awardees from across Asia:

  • Yoshiaki Ishizawa, of Japan, for his efforts to restore Cambodia’s cultural monuments such as Angkor Wat;
  • Lilia de Lima (no again, read, it’s not Leila de Lima) of Philippines, whose decades-long work with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority demonstrated her “sustained, nonstop and credible public service;”
  • Abdon Nababan, of Indonesia, for his advocacy on behalf of the Adat or indigenous communities of his country;
  • Gethsie Shanmugam, of Sri Lanka, who has worked on rebuilding war-scarred lives, especially women and children; and
  • Tony Tay of Singapore, for a volunteer movement he founded to address hidden hunger.

RMA said, referring to PETA: “In electing the Philippine Educational Theater Association to receive the 2017 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes ‘its bold, collective contributions in shaping the theater arts as a force for social change, its impassioned, unwavering work in empowering communities in the Philippines, and the shining example it has set as one of the leading organizations of its kind in Asia.’”

On its fiftieth year, PETA was founded with the initial vision of creating a ‘national theater’ in the Philippines. PETA stayed active, together with other groups, in staging theater as a medium for protest and conscientization even under a dictatorship.

PETA has fostered people’s creativity in combining the traditional and contemporary; infusing this creativity into the pedagogical practices of the country’s schools and advancing a people’s development agenda by empowering communities and releasing their creative energies to effect positive social change.

According to RMA, over five decades, PETA has produced 540 original, translated, or adapted plays, reaching an audience of close to a million across the nation and abroad. It has helped form more than three hundred community-based culture collectives and conducted training workshops that have involved 4,650 artists, school teachers, community leaders, and development workers.

Still, these ‘artist-teachers’ remain clear-eyed and steadfast about the future. PETA president Cecilia B. Garrucho asserts, “Our vision is to have a nation of fully-actualized citizens, creative, and able to find a way, a solution, even when it seems like there is none.”

In a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday, PETA said it is honored to be recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

“We share this recognition with generations of PETA artist-teachers-members, with our board, staff, and our leaders who have dedicated their creative talents in shaping relevant Philippine theater and to empowering communities for development. We also share this with our partners here and abroad who have supported our vision of a Philippine theater in the service of society,” PETA said.

“This recognition, which comes as a blessing on PETA’s 50th year, only inspires us to strengthen our commitment to transform lives through theater,” the group added.

Image by Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation