Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima commended community pantry organizer Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non and Olympic gold medalist Hidilyn Diaz for being hailed as 2021 Filipinos of the Year by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, said both Non and Diaz deserve the accolade because they served as inspiration and symbol of hope amid adversity and challenges.
“Together with the grateful nation, I heartily congratulate Ms. Hidilyn Diaz for being Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year Awardee among other heroic and excellent Filipinos,” she said in a handwritten message.
“This is a very well-deserved honor and recognition to a very inspiring Olympian and Filipina. Your historic victory takes the country to new heights and respect in the world of sports, and brings so much inspiration to our youth,” she added.
In a separate letter to Non, De Lima wrote: “Congratulations on being chosen as Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year.
“You have been red-tagged and demonized for your efforts but you soldiered on. Hindi ka nagpatinag sa anumang ibato nila sa iyo, and in the process, you inspired a movement that gave us hope, made us believe in the goodness of humanity amid a life-threatening crisis,” she added.
Inquirer named Diaz and Non as 2021 Filipinos of the year last Jan. 23, noting that both of them “did the heavy lifting” in their own special way.
“One in a Tokyo stadium for a nation on a long, frustrating quest for its first Olympic gold, the other in a Quezon City village where the pandemic had left the poorest households unsure of their next meal,” Inquirer noted in a statement.
“Though they had different personal goals and motivations, taking paths that didn’t intersect, both ended up raising the collective morale of Filipinos during a most daunting and unprecedented health crisis,” it added.
Non is known for setting up the original community pantry dubbed as “Maginhawa Community Pantry” in Maginhawa, in Quezon City, while Diaz became an icon in Philippine sports after winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal.
“Both served as examples of self-driven missions, of the will muscling its way forward: a Zamboangueña who dreamed of improving her family’s lot by picking up a barbell, becoming a new icon in Philippine sports; a civic-minded 20-something who set up a community pantry on a sidewalk, inspiring a nationwide ‘bayanihan’ movement – only to be Red-tagged,” Inquirer further noted.
The lady Senator from Bicol said Diaz lifted Filipinos’ spirit and brought people “golden joy” at a crucial time in the country.
“The amount of work, sweat, blood, tears and sacrifices you endured to win the country’s first gold in the Olympics is not only a historical feat but also a source of great pride and honor for all of us,” she said.
Meanwhile, De Lima lauded Non, 26, for not letting her age get in the way of the efforts she’s willing to make for the country and her fellow Filipinos.
“Kung tutuusin, sa edad mo and with all the perks your talents and skills can possibly give you, you could have chosen to enjoy your life, walang stress, walang sakit ng ulo. But you chose to stand for genuine compassion and love for the needy.
“Maraming salamat sa inspirasyon, Patreng. Laban lang tayo, laban lang,” she said.
Every year since 1991, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has sought to recognize Filipino individual or group who, in the judgment of the newspaper’s editors, made the most positive impact on the life of the nation. This is the first time that the Inquirer’s selection of the Filipino of the Year resulted in a tie.
It may be recalled that in 2015, then Justice Secretary De Lima, along with then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan, dubbed as the “Tres Marias”, was named Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year.
In giving them the accolade, Inquirer noted that “their backgrounds are stellar yet as low-key as their demeanor. They were never crusading politicians or self-styled street parliamentarians.” (30)