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‘No matter how simple we are, we can do good and serve’ – Fisherman ‘Kaka Dodoy’

By Joselle Dela Cruz

A Filipino fisherman was among the five recipients who formally received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered as Asia’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize, on Nov. 30.

Roberto “Kaka Dodoy” Ballon was recognized for his work in leading the fishing community in Zamboanga Sibugay to restore the mangrove forests and other marine aquatic resources for their livelihood.

In his acceptance speech, Ballon said his only desire as a “simple fisherman” is to offer himself to serve and provide for a better environment.

“No matter how simple we are, we are capable of rising above our weaknesses, capable of choosing what is good, and ever capable of making a new start,” he said.

Ballon also encouraged his fellow fisherfolk to cooperate with the government to sustain and protect their coastal habitat.

“Let us support our fishery program while being faithful to the laws and local policies that augment coastal measures in our pursuit for better production and environmental preservation,” he said.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who graced the virtual ceremony, said “compassionate leadership” is needed during times of crisis and leaders should draw inspiration from the lives and works of the five laureates.

"For too long, service has been treated as taglines at worst, and as acts of charity at best. When people are in dire need, it is supposed to be the structures of society that address these needs — and not some benevolent leader handing down projects and programs as a lord of the manor does to his servants,” she said.

In her congratulatory message to Ballon in September, Robredo hailed Ballon’s initiative and shared her working experience with the fisherman.

Photo credits: Leni Robredo/Facebook

“Isang ordinaryong mangingisda na binago ang buhay ng mga kapwa niya mangingisda sa Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay dahil sa sakripisyo, pagod, at determinasyon,” she said.

“Buhay na buhay muli ang fisherfolk community nila at, selflessly, binabahagi nila ang kaalaman at aral sa iba pang mga communities,” she added.

The 53-year-old fisherman is a community environmentalist who helped form Gamay ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion (KGMC) or Association of Small Fishermen of Concepcion that focuses on mangrove reforestation and aims to preserve the coastal environment in his village of Kabasalan in Mindanao.

Aside from Ballon, other awardees include:Steven Muncy, a humanitarian and peace builder working all over Southeast Asia; Muhammad Amjad Saqib, a poverty alleviation visionary from Pakistan; Firdausi Qadri, an affordable vaccine champion from Bangladesh; and WatchDoc, media truth crusaders from Indonesia.

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