Award honours five Filipino expats in the UAE as heroes Video Credit: Irish Belleza

  • Five overseas Filipino workers are awarded Dakilang Bayani (Noble Heroes) 2018 at the Bayanihan Festival.
  • Dakilang Bayani awardees highlight their advocacies and service to the community.
  • Bayanihan Festival is a celebration of the Filipino culture. 

Dubai: Millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide are regarded as Bagong Bayani (modern-day heroes) for their sacrifices to provide for their families back home - expatriates from the UAE included. Many OFWs also engage in volunteerism and charity works and assist others improve their well-being.

In recognition of this, the five of them are awarded annually at the Bayanihan festival held in Dubai, since 2016.

This year, too, Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes along with four other judges selected five exceptional Filipinos as Dakilang Bayani (Noble Heroes) 2018 awardees for their Bayanihan (in the spirit of cooperation) advocacies.

They will receive this prestigious award at the Bayanihan Festival being held on Friday, December 21, at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Paul Raymund Cortes
Philippine Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes Image Credit: Supplied

Consul General Cortes told Gulf News: “The celebration symbolises the Filipino Bayanihan tradition where we gather together to show homogeneity among us, that we are here for one another; ready not just to celebrate but extend a hand, more so, in times of need, akin to the true spirit of Bayanihan. The Overseas Filipino Dakilang Bayani Award distinguishes itself from the other award-giving bodies because of its focus on service for the Filipino community. More than the trophies, plaques and medals usually associated with certain local and international achievements, the Bayanis (heroes) have hearts overflowing with love and arms extending with compassion, working and sharing their skills and talents for free to those in need.”

Noha Abdul Aziz Mohammad Al Rostamani, Director, Emirates National Development Program - Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), one of the judges, was very impressed to learn about the Filipino culture of Bayanihan.

She said: “I have seen many Filipinos who are doing a good job for the community and giving value to their country, and I am proud of them. They encourage the public to do good deeds, participate in public campaigns, give awareness and encourage entrepreneurships, volunteerism and contribute their time to help and support the needy.”

We interviewed the five Dakilang Bayani awardees to highlight their advocacies and service to the community - Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach, Assistant Professor, Skyline University College, living in Ajman for 12 years; Jose Reynante Papel, Shopper and Customer Marketing Specialist Manager – Unilever Gulf, living in Dubai for 12 years;

Jenifer Ocampo-Gonzales, Faculty of Canadian University of Dubai, living in Dubai for nine years; Romeo III Tumayao Puncia, Emergency Medical Technician in a Public Health Care Sector, living in Abu Dhabi for eight years; and

Sheryll Bacay-Agbing, HR Business partner, at a company in Abu Dhabi, living in Dubai for 16 years.

GN: Being chosen as Dakilang Bayani 2018, how do you feel right now?

Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach: It is so humbling to be chosen as one of the five Dakilang Bayani. Serving the community is a passion that I do with utmost sincerity. It is my humble way to remind myself that we don’t own anything in this world and that we are just stewards of God’s creation. As human beings, created with intellect and emotion, we are bound to understand other people’s needs. Every day, we are blessed with many things in life and such blessings teach us to keep our feet on the ground and to be kind to everyone.

Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach
Dr Sharon Mendoza-Dreisbach, Dakilang Bayani 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Jose Reynante Papel: I am honoured because I am truly thankful for the recognition. I am humbled because I know I am but one of the many Filipino heroes out there. I am equally challenged to do more and deliver more to create more impact to the bigger community.

Jennifer Ocampo-Gonzales: I am blessed, honoured and humbled by the award. I can’t wait to move forward and do more activities that I love most - to help others achieve their dreams.

Romeo III Tumayao Puncia: I am really surprised. I feel blessed and honoured to be recognised by the Philippine authority for this prestigious award.

Sheryll Bacay-Agbing: It is an astounding experience. I am proudly celebrating the honour accredited to me. However, I acknowledge the fact that this award has entrusted me with a responsibility of continuously and consistently demonstrate qualities of compassion and service to the community.

GN: What are your advocacies/contributions to the society?

Dr Mendoza-Dreisbach: I always describe myself briefly but with utmost significance that others might learn from me - I am an educator. I am a single parent. I am a breast cancer survivor. I am a cancer and environmental advocate. I believe that we have to love the Mother Nature; all people have the responsibility to take care of the Mother Nature. This is our home; we only have one home, if we don’t take care of Mother Earth, then where will we go? As an academic, I use this as platform for me to inculcate values, knowledge and awareness to the students in the UAE and the Philippines, the importance of taking care of our Mother Earth.

Papel: I am an advocate of sustainability, social entrepreneurship and community development. Sustainability – doing business without hurting the environment. We intend to help drive awareness, education and small actions for environmental protection and sustainability. Social entrepreneurship – doing business with a heart where the key driver is not just profit but profit, planet, and people are the ultimate metrics. I have founded I-Fund, which is a foundation that provides 50,000 Peso Seed Fund and set up support for top and viable projects from the Ateneo LSE UAE graduates. So far we have eight I-Fund awardees from Ateneo LSE UAE graduates. As a member of the Philippine Consulate Financial Literacy task force, we conduct Financial Literacy for Filipino expats in the UAE.

Jose Reynante Papel
Jose Reynante Papel, Dakilang Bayani 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Ocampo-Gonzales: My advocacies involve education, health and safety and psycho-social; providing counselling to our underserved and underprivileged Kabayans (compatriots) in the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo), Dubai and providing training for Philippine Consulate counsellors who are taking care of Assistance-to-Nationals program. I promote Philippine heritage and health and moral well-being by continuously providing workshops/seminars to the youth. I organise book drive campaigns, book donations to various schools in the Philippines. Leadership workshops for Filipino expatriates in Dubai in partnership with Filipino educators.

Jennifer Gonzales
Jennifer Ocampo-Gonzales, Dakilang Bayani 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Puncia: I represent the Philippines in my triathlon races in different parts of the world. I race with a purpose and my mission is to help the indigenous and tribal communities of Palawan, Philippines to have feeding and healthcare programs, education and school supplies, sports and leadership training, and more. Friends especially the triathlon communities, voluntarily gave their sports items, clothes, shoes, and many stuff for the tribal mission trip that I hold once or twice a year. My advocacy is #RACEwithaPurpose, I create awareness among the sport and other communities that we can use our talent and skills to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Bacay–Agbing: I am a social entrepreneur, HR business partner, servant leader and advocate of change. I am involved with Fil-HR, a non-profit organisation that works as a venue for fellow HR colleagues to connect with a professional network, to excel through career development opportunities and to encourage leadership development. At Entrepinoy Reintegration Program, a social enterprise initiative of the Philippine Labour Office in Dubai, we encourage overseas Filipinos get involved in agri-investment and social entrepreneurship. The Reintegration Program provides the doorway for economic and social reintegration, which assures a process of brain gain, in lieu of drain or loss of talent and human capital for the country, reducing the social costs of migration as it endeavours to assist returning OFWs and their families.

GN: Do you plan to do more community service for the year 2019?

Dr Mendoza-Dreisbach: When serving the community is in your heart, it will continue to live on. Touching the lives of other people and making them happy is my way of praying. The trials that came into my life will never be a hindrance to serve the community. Trials/challenges are like fuel that keeps me to go on and do what God wants me to do for others. Humility and gratefulness are my guiding principles in life to be of service to others.

Papel: I would like to continue to work with Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship (LSE) program in the UAE to continue to produce the new breed of social entrepreneurs. In Unilever, I would like to proceed with injecting my passion of pushing for sustainability and environmental vigilance in our trade programs and shopper activations in the Gulf region.

Ocampo-Gonzales: I dream of establishing a foundation for the underprivileged to help the elderly and the youth. I will concentrate on the youth - as they are important to us now, they are also crafting the course of the future of the next generation. I am proud to say that I have started the School’s Social Responsibility Program wherein the focus is spreading Philippine heritage.

Romeo III Tumayao Puncia
Romeo III Tumayao Puncia, Dakilang Bayani 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Puncia: In February 2019, I will represent the Philippines and the UAE as one of the 50 athletes from around the world to compete the Ultra-Endurance Triathlon event; this will also help the tribal communities to have their sports festival and basic needs in our Tribal Mission Trip in April 2019. I wanted to help improve the lives of the indigenous people and the tribal communities, especially the youth. I wanted them to go to college so they can help themselves and their families and be an inspiration to their communities. Recently we bought 2.6 hectares of land in Palawan near the tribal mission area, I pray that one day that land will be a place for new school, church, home for the aged and orphanages, training centre and sports and recreation area. Anything is possible.

Sheryll Bacay-Agbing
Sheryll Bacay-Agbing, Dakilang Bayani 2018 Image Credit: Supplied

Bacay–Agbing: Meaningful social impact is my major driver. With the help of my friends and other community volunteers, I would like to continue scaling up our current advocacies. In addition, for 2019, I would like to aggressively work on a unique social enterprise model that will help transform lives, transform a community and make a difference in the lives of Filipinos. With the current platform that we have, I would also like to bring together more OFWs to become change agents, to help find ways to provide opportunities for people to live, see opportunities and create potentials. My mantra: The best exercise for the heart is to lift someone up.

Bayanihan Festival 2018 is the biggest Christmas community gathering of Filipinos