Monday, June 1, 2015

The Outstanding Young Men Award – My Story

Receiving TOYM award at Malacanang palace from then-President Arroyo (2006).  Being myself, I may have cracked a joke (hence the smile) but I can't recall what.

The prestigious ‘TOYM’ or The Outstanding Young Men award has been in existence for more than 50 years.  JCI (Jaycees) and later on with Jerry Roxas Foundation, has been spearheading this effort to lookout for, and recognize individuals (and to quote:)
“whose selfless dedication to their profession or vocation has resulted in significant contributions to the welfare of their countrymen, as well as to the advancement of their fields of endeavour.”

In my typical simple life as a corporate employee, a mountaineer on the side, and later, an occasional ‘help organizer’ -  I was never aware of ‘society matters’ such as Presidential Lakandula awards, TOYM awards or organizations like the Junior Chamber International. 

So imagine my confusion when my team of promoters and colleagues from Primer Group and GMA Network, asked me to ‘attend a meeting’ regarding TOYM awards.  I saw both the excitement and worry in their faces – not understanding well what was going on.  I knew it was some sort of an award interview, but so what… right?!

at JCI 100th year Gala Event at Solaire's (May30,2015), here with co-TOYMs.  This event actually reminded me of TOYM, hence this post.

A quick memory check revealed that; yes, they did ask for some materials on my past projects, and my series of Climb for a Cause (I officially did 4 at that time), many things about my mountaineering conquest;  a mention that a team was managing the requirements for award nomination (to what level of effort, I have no idea); and the excitement in the faces of everyone involved in the process.
I just concluded that “it’s important”, failing to first google ‘TOYM’ (or rather Yahoo as I used it more often at that time) to understand it before the said interview.

So I walked in that room (I think inside DBP building) wearing my usual office uniform (i.e. smart casual attire).  I was led inside a big conference room where at first glance, I thought I was o.p. (a short of out of place) seeing guys in business dress, others in semi-formal, most of them exuding aura of authority or leadership.   I don’t know a single one except co-climber Leo Oracion. He was wearing blue jeans and white long polo.  I said a joke (referring to us both) that we were to attend a binyag (baptism event) and not a business session.

Slowly but surely, I felt some individuals’ uneasiness and perhaps even nervousness. No amount of power dressing can hide one’s emotions!  Every year, hundreds of nominations are submitted and only a few are chosen.  Celebrities, philanthropists, scientists, business men, politicians, and many other - throw in their application papers to hopefully "win" a TOYM slot.  I am still clueless about the award’s “magnitude”, so looking back it was a good thing for me.  Zero worries!

The clock ticked and tocked and there was a general slow in progress. I didn’t know that the screeners and interviewers where seriously discussing and deliberating in the other room.  Earlier, as I glanced around the room, I thought Mr. Miro (and another one) were the interviewers – seeing them both confident and wearing a suit!  We all laughed after learning that both of them were also nominees.

Soon my name was called and some said good luck – as if I was about to be sentenced.  But the interview was more like kuentuhan (story telling) and nothing else.  Or at least in my view.  I guess if you’re with former TOYM awardees and top JCI representatives - all with gleaming personal successes “inside them”, you won’t feel being barbequed at all.   With my somewhat short recall of that meeting, I only remember one TOYM interviewer who happens to be one of our national artists, the same one who made the TOYM sculpture award – Mr. Abueva.
Brandishing a specially sculpted award made by Mr. Abueva himself.  L-R: Mr. Penado (JCI National President 2006), then President Arroyo, myself)

I also failed to recall when the award confirmation was made (I think the same day) – and the proclamation was that – all 12 of us in the room will be awarded The Outstanding Young Men award!  Nobody was dropped from the short list!  I heard it was one of those rare years with more than 10 awardees.  We were all lucky I guess, I believe 12 is a lucky number.  (As well as 0-999 :)

For reference here are the other 2006 TOYM awardees:
Romero "Miro" Quimbo for government service (Pag-IBIG);
Louis Benedict Hernandez for business leadership,
Federico Hizon for broadcast journalism (BBC),
Vivienne Tan for business education/entrepreneurship,
Michael Allen Cacnio for arts/sculpture (some of his art work can be seen in Glorietta Art Galleries),
Dr. Rafael Consunji for medical community service,
Windell Rivera for science and technology-microbiology,
Dr. Mariella Sugue-Castillo for medicine-child protection,
Eugenio Isabelo Tomas Sanchez Jr for community development (Bo Sanchez is behind the series Kerygma), and
Samuel Soliven for education.
borrowing a photo of TOYM 2013's Emerson Atanacio (right-most in the pic).  At the JCI's 100yr Gala Event (with Mr. Cacnio as well).
Mr. Cacnio and myself attended the 100th year JCI Gala event, and I was surprised he still remember my ‘internal group speech’. He only shared partially but if I were to complete his thought, I think my message was:

“It became a consequential duty (of us TOYM awardees) to share the story, to share whatever success – to hopefully inspire the next generation to pursue their personal dreams, while at the same time contribute to general human welfare; and as a double-edged sword, the award is also a constant challenge to each of us to continually look for opportunities to further our cause.”  And I probably said that after a couple of wine drinks. ;)

In my case, what landed me this award was my series of NGO tie-ups using climb as my medium to raise awareness and fund for environmental and humanitarian needs.  Of course the well-celebrated 'Everest conquest' helped me (and Leo) boost our standing.  It was the first year for Pinoys to summit the highest peak. Not that I felt that I've accomplished so much, but we were also seen as messengers to others… 

The subtle message to connect what we do (or what we do best) to the welfare of humanity was now seen as a 'must-do'.  It's probably an added 'pressure' or a challenge, but it's where we consequently get more fulfillment and strength.

Echoing one line from the JCI creed “service to humanity is the best work of life”.   Indeed it is,  and I wish I can do so much more…

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