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Antonin Kelian Kallouche/Gulf News Performers during the Bayanihan Festival at Zabeel Park yesterday. Image Credit:

Dubai: Five noble heroes were handed Dakilang Bayani Awards - the highest honour bestowed by the Philippines Consulate - at the Barrio Fiesta Bayanihan Festival at Zabeel Park in Dubai on Friday.

The awards are the consulate’s way of recognising the contribution of exceptional overseas Filipinos and are held during the community’s annual Christmas celebration, with the name of the festival ‘Bayanihan’ meaning ‘spirit of cooperation’ or ‘unity’.

As well dancing and singing contests, there were also fashion shows and Filipino food stalls, plus live entertainment from singer Yeng Constantino, actor Sam Milby and actress Bela Padilla. But the award-giving, held every year since 2016, took pride of place amid the festivities.

Chosen by a panel of eight judges including Philippines Consul General Paul Raymond Cortes, a list of 47 nominees was shortlisted to 21 from which five were selected.

These awardees were chosen based on their contributions to elevate Filipino identity and foster goodwill not only within the Filipino community but across the UAE as a whole.

The five winners were, Reynaldo Buenaflor Angulo, an office employee in Dubai, who has been living in the UAE for the past 30 years, Elena Cruz, the head of brand and CSR at Emirates NBD, who has lived in Dubai more than 20 years, Leo Barrameda, the manager of the International Collector Programme at Art Dubai, who has lived in the UAE for 11 years, Captain Conrado Ramos Quizon, an Air Force pilot, and Dubai resident of 11 years, and Marjorie Nazaret, the principal of Al Alfiah Filipino Private School, who has lived in Sharjah for 20 years.

Angulo got his award for helping patients at Rashid Hospital, as well as inmates of Dubai Central Jail, and also for his assistance in the repatriation of bodies back to the Philippines. His work among the Filipino community in the Satwa neighbourhood was also noted.

“The humbling feeling is amazing because my main aim in what I do is to share kindness and hope, and nothing more,” said Angulo. “I am happy that the extra miles that I did for other souls, from whom I never expected anything in return, did not go unnoticed.”

Cruz was honoured for leading a corporate volunteering project at Emirates NBD that has 4,000 members who have dedicated over 120,000 hours of community work winning this year’s UN Impact 2030 Global Innovation Award. She was also recognised for leading the bank’s financial literacy initiative and their work towards helping people of determination.

“I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to serve and lead,” said Cruz. “I am thankful to the Filipino community and to the bank where I work, for giving me the opportunity to lead and give back; and be a part of the bank’s strategic advocacies to create shared value with customers and partners.”

Barrameda, a director of the Philippine Business Council, was awarded for helping Filipino entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners in the UAE.

Together with friends and supporters he also adopted an indigenous community in North Cotabato, Philippines, and organised feeding programmes and medical missions partnered with cargo companies to send supplies to out-of-school youth in the community. Together they have also provided assistance to 250-plus students in North Cotabato this year.

“I am extremely grateful for the recognition and overwhelmed because I did not expect to be chosen,” said Barrameda. “I’ve been doing years of community service and having this citation is a bonus.”

Quizon was honoured for similar work among the indigenous communities of Mindanao, providing school supplies while supporting a children’s cancer hospital in Davao.

“I had mixed emotions when I received the announcement by email,” he said. “I guess I was born to serve the Filipino people, not only the overseas Filipinos but also our brothers and sisters at home.”

Nazaret was recognised for her work in the local education sector and for her efforts to improve the education system at home.

“I am overjoyed by the recognition that was given to me, but at the same time I am humbled by the experience and the achievement. While I celebrate this milestone, I wish not to bask on it as I am aware of the added responsibility that comes with it. Instead, I intend to use it as a motivation to continue revolutionising Filipino education for our younger generation.”