MANILA, Philippines – In 2003, a 19-year-old Jaton Zulueta Jr. started an informal teaching career on a literal graveyard shift.
He would gather out-of-school youths living in mausoleums in the Manila South Cemetery to give them basic reading and math lessons.
Using games and visual aids— he would sometimes rely on the dates on tombstones to help students practice arithmetic— Zulueta’s class ballooned from 60 students to over 300 in two years.
Zulueta, now a successful entrepreneur, continued that advocacy by establishing AHA! Learning Center, which runs teaching sessions in physical classrooms near the same cemetery up to five days a week.
On Wednesday, Zulueta was named among 11 honorees of the 2018 batch of The Outstanding Young Men, or TOYM.
Under the theme “Inspiring Lives Towards Nation Building,” this year’s crop of TOYM honorees were selected out of a total of 180 nominees. The institution seeks to recognize men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 who have shown selfless dedication to their professions, contributions to their countermen and advancements in their chosen fields.
Joining Zulueta were Dr. Nassef Manabilang Adiong (international relations), Jamela Aisha Martinez Alindogan (international journalism), Cherrie De Erit Atilano (agribusiness), Karl Kendrick Tiu Chua (economic development), Bernard Faustino La Madrid Dy (public service), and Rodne Rodiño Galicha (environment conservation).
Also named were Fatima Peñones Ibias-Lanuza (government service/law enforcement), Dr. Erika Fille Tupas Legara (education innovation), Katerina Tolentino Leyritana (public health), and Dr. Mark Anthony Santiago Sandoval (Medicine/Endocrinology).
TOYM Foundation officials leading the event were president Bienvenido Tantoco III and chair Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Alindogan is an award-winning correspondent of Al Jazeera English, whose coverage includes news events and even conflict areas in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. She is also co-founder of Sinagtala Centre for Women and Children in Conflict, which opens “safe spaces” such as toy libraries to war survivors.
Dr. Legara made her name in data analytics in the Philippines and abroad as a former scientist with the Singapore government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research. She was part of the team that built a machine learning model to predict water levels in Angat Dam, Metro Manila’s main water source.
Adiong, described as a prolific academic, has written research papers on important but little-understood topics including the Moros and the practice of Islam in The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Atilano turned down an Ivy League education to help build the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm. That experience led her to pursue the establishment of social enterprise AGREA Agricultural Systems International and non-profit AGREA Agricultural Communities International Foundation for so-called farm schools.
Chua, a former World Bank senior country economist, has been undersecretary of the Strategy, Economics and Results Group of the Department of Finance since Sept. 2016. He is best known for playing a key role in the DOF’s tax reform agenda.
Dy, a city Mayor, was credited for transforming Cauayan from a “once neglected” location into a smart city that harnesses technology to boost competitiveness in its agroindustrial and tourism industries.
Galicha is the Philippine manager of Washington-based The Climate Reality Project, vice chair of Greenpeace Philippines, and chair and president of Bayay Sibuyanon Inc., a local organization in Romblon province working on cultural heritage and ecology.
Lanuza, a police officer from the Tabangnon Tribe, an indigenous people of the Agtas, was among those recognized in the Search for Country’s Outstanding Police Officers in Service (COPS) by the Metrobank Foundation Inc. in 2016.
Dr. Leyritana early on sought to specialize in the treatment of HIV at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. That pursuit helps land her a training stint at the New York Presbyterian Hospital and the founding of Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, a non-profit organization that aims to bridge the gaps in HIV healthcare.
Dr. Sandoval obtained his medical degree from the UP Manila, graduating as salutatorian. He is board certified in internal medicine and endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism. Through a partnership he helped establish between UP Manila and the local government of San Juan, Batangas, Sandoval teaches about diabetes self-management education.
During the event, Pangilinan lauded the diverse backgrounds of the honorees.
“At the end of the day, the awardees symbolize far more than themselves. They represent a generation ready and willing to change the Philippines,” Pangilinan said.
The TOYM is a joint effort by the TOYM Foundation, the Junior Chamber International Philippines and the Gerry Roxas Foundation.
Nominees were screened by a panel of past TOYM honorees chaired by Richard Javad Heydarian. The other members of the panel were Ronivin Pagtakhan, Philippine Daily Inquirer business reporter Doris Dumlao-Abadilla, PSupt. Byron F. Allatog, Randy Halasan, Engineer Jose Ramon Aliling, Dr. Eugene Mende and Earl Martin Valencia.
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