(Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
#pinoytopthinkerstoday is an annual gallery and listing of living Filipino thinkers, movers and shakers, and shapers of the Philippines who excelled in their respective field of endeavors. They are admired for their insurmountable contributions and great impacts to Philippine society and Filipinos worldwide given their unique talents, skills, and intellect. This online ranking which started in 2008 is an affirmation that the Philippines can definitely produce world-class thinkers, artists, scientists, sportsmen, industrialists, nationalists, globalists, and great leaders.
This year’s theme is all about recovery and resilience.
The wrecking supertyphoon Haiyan last year certainly made us stronger and resilient that caught the eye of the international community because of our sense of community and indomitable spirits. As another tropical storm Ruby clouded with strong magnitude hit the Philippines in early December before the year ends in 2014, the international community has lauded the national government and its sub-governments for our preparedness and consciously setting the standard of lessened casualties or modern human survivorship amidst impinging catastrophes.
We emerge even stronger. The Philippines has remained the darling of investments by continuously positioning itself as the economic leader in South East Asia as we hosted the World Economic Forum this blessed year.
Given the scenario, the Philippine economic environment propounded by relatively good business climate and sturdy government fiscal expenditures has solidified several market fundamentals to place the country in the world map of investments today.
Signs of economic recovery inspired by the Philippines continuous rating upgrade from reputable global credit rating organizations affirm the current administration’s structural reforms as demonstrated by the significant improvement of the country’s position in international governance and competitiveness surveys. With these significant economic reforms, the government focuses on improving transparency and accountability in line with the goal of promoting economic growth and poverty reduction.
Hopefully these economic and political momentums would not be spoiled hence it will translate into inclusive growth. Rest assured that the Philippines will remain relevant today and the government shall continuously sustain the economic boom!
Behind this recovery and resiliency are top Filipino thinkers who have excelled and contributed in big ways to their respective field of endeavors to make the Philippines a success story today in spite of broad issues that need to be reformed to become a developed nation-state.
As the Philippines welcomes 2015, the Argentinean-Italian Jesuit Holy Father Pope Francis will visit Manila to bless Filipino survivors of supertyphoon disaster-stricken faithfuls in Tacloban City. Other Catholics in and out of the country will pay homage to one of the friendliest popes of post-modern times, as Filipinos did welcome the late Pope John Paul II when he visited Manila in 1995 who has become Filipinos favorite saint in recent times.
Below is the list of my roster of Filipino top thinkers today, the movers and shakers, and future shapers of the country, with their surnames in alphabetical order:
Benigno S Aquino III - (Philippine president) – he is consistent in my list by having the most number of citations in my annual ranking. This Atenean economist is best in surprising his Filipino constituents as he continuously paves a way for brighter future to many poor families by alleviating them from poverty and punishing corrupt politicians with his economic and political reforms. Even if he has rift with the judiciary by making his prerogative pork barrel as unconstitutional, still the international credit rating agencies upgraded the Philippine sovereign debt to investment grade. Majority of the Filipino people still believe in him and put trust in his governance. His ‘Aquinomics’ approach in making our economy reemerge has become his magic wand to help the country turn-around from the curse of being tag the ‘sick man of Asia’. With his recent pronouncement that he will no longer run for reelection as president in 2016 is a living testament of his parents’ true legacy of democracy.
Nora Aunor – (actor’s actor, people's superstar) – she definitely deserves to be bestowed with the National Artist award. But for many Filipinos, this petite yet talented Filipina actor shall remain as the people’s superstar of Philippine movies. Her great and stellar filmography and musicology elevated her into an iconic “transmedia artist” when Nora C Villamayor was awarded with UP Gawad Plaridel in the University of the Philippines. This distinguished award is the highest honor by UP to media practitioners who excels in two media platforms and embodies the lofty ideals of nationalism. While accepting the award, she said that her dream seem to have come true as a graduate of the university. Multi-awarded and critically-acclaimed actor, recording artist, and producer whose films she starred in are studied in film schools and universities. La Aunor is best remembered in her iconic films such as Himala, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona, The Flor Contemplacion Story, and Thy Womb in which she has received numerous acting awards locally and internationally.
Henry Bensurto Jr – (maritime lawyer) – the Philippine Daily Inquirer has this to write about this prime Filipino maritime lawyer: a career diplomat and is one of the Philippines’ leading experts on maritime security and the West Philippine Sea issue. He was part of the Philippine team that filed the arbitration case against China on the West Philippine Sea dispute, which is now pending before an Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague. This UPian (political science) and Bedan (law) alumnus has been recognized several times for his groundbreaking work on Philippine maritime security and the territorial disputes within the West Philippine Sea. He received the Presidential Order of Lakandula (rank of Grand Officer), one of the highest honors given by the Philippine Government, for his foreign policy contributions toward the Philippines’ approach to the West Philippine Sea disputes. Likewise, he received the Presidential Award of Gawad Mabini (rank of Commander) for his leadership and contributions to the passage of the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines Law in 2009. He pursued further studies overseas, graduating from Oxford University in 1996, under the Chevening Scholarship, with a Distinction in Public International Law and Merit in International Trade. He also has a Diploma on the Law of the Sea at the Rhodes Academy of Oceans Law and Policy in Greece.
Darlene Marie Berberabe (PAG-IBIG fund president) – the ex-wife of basketball legend Samboy Lim is not your typical love adviser because she works for PAG-IBIG but she’s the 1999 class salutatorian of the UP College of Law who was appointed as the chief executive officer of the Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno who became a game changer at PAG-IBIG Fund who implemented innovative programs and reforming the once problematic organization. In 2012 she won the CEO Excel Award from the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2013, she became the first woman to win the Outstanding Chief Executive Officer in Asia and the Pacific. This year, she received the Silver Award as Female Executive of the Year in Government or Non-Profit from Stevie Awards in New York. PAG-IBIG, under her adminisration, also received the Senior Management Team from the same prestigious award-giving body.
Antonio Carpio – (senior associate justice) – he has lambasted China’s controversial 9-dashed line claim in the South China Sea when his powerful and provocative public lectures being held in various academic institutions are jam-packed. When he lectured his “Historical Facts and Historical Lies in the West Philippine Sea” which I moderated at NDCP, his captured audience included SND Voltaire T Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Catapang. He noted that China has yet to present specific historical evidence to support its claim. While he clarified that the Philippine claim is based on international law and historical maps that could debunk China’s claims. Justice Carpio obtained his law degree from the University of the Philippines where he graduated valedictorian and cum laude in 1975. He placed sixth in the 1975 Bar Examinations. He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from Ateneo de Manila University in 1970. He also became the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Philippines Law Journal of the UP College of Law; Editor-in-Chief of the Guidon, the school paper of ADMU; and Managing Editor of the Philippine Collegian.
Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr – (AFP Chief of Staff) – he may be named after two generals Gregorio del Pilar and Pio del Pilar, sill Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr is destined to be the top honcho of the Philippines armed forces. After graduating from the Philippine Military Academy, he pursued graduate courses in the University of the Philippines and National Defense College of the Philippines. Prior to his promotion as the Chief of Staff of the AFP, he was the Vice Chief of Staff and former head of the AFP Northern Luzon Command and 7th Infantry Division. He took up international short courses in Australian Defence College and China’s National Defence University. In some web accounts, he is credited in the normalization of Northern and Central Luzon from a hotbed of communist insurgency to peaceful area ready for further development. His mantra calls for “Kawal Disiplinado, Bawal Abusado, Dapat Asintado,” is a mission-vision for men in uniform to become proficient in fire and maneuver and be able to avoid collateral damage; be respectful of human rights; adhere to international humanitarian law and rule of law, as well as, the rules of engagement of the IPSP Bayanihan. Given the many challenges of the globalized 21st century in the armed forces, he wants to equip military officers with adequate knowledge as they confront the many challenges this century will bring on and commands his men and women to be alert to mother nature’s wrath with natural disasters as one of the security threats they need to combat.
Charo Santos-Concio – (president of ABS-CBN) – she’s the empress and queen of Philippine broadcasting media. In 2010, I cited her in my roster as the fifth yet first woman President of ABS-CBN. But with her palpable and unstoppable achievements to date in one of the most influential industries in the country, she has all the reasons to be thankful due to her solid ingenuity and contributions to Philippine mass media. An alumna of Harvard University for advanced management course she has earned; this versatile and multi-awarded Filipina actor and host of the longest-running drama anthology, recently awarded the Female Executive of the Year in Asia, Australia or New Zealand and Woman of the Year – both from the prestigious Gold Stevie Awards in New York. She was recognized and awarded because of her stand out triumphs and leadership manifested through ABS-CBN’s continued high ratings, increased company revenues, Star Cinema’s box office success, successful 60th anniversary and the network’s public service initiatives for the victims of various calamities in the Philippines.
Rodrigo Duterte – (city mayor of Davao) – they call him ‘the punisher’ or the ‘next president’. He is noted for transforming the City of Davao from the murder capital to ‘the most peaceful city in Southeast Asia’. Attorney Duterte obtained his law degree from the San Beda College and his baccalaureate degree from Lyceum of the Philippines University. During his stints as mayor of Davao since 1988, 1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007 – some of his political reforms led him to champion certain advocacies and made him win several awards for Davao including the National Literacy Award. He amended liquor ban, speed limits for all vehicles, aid for Visayas, and emergency response. Although he has been criticized by human rights groups for tolerating extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, many Filipinos like his feisty approach just like in many action movies. Under his leadership, he made Davao one of the most livable cities in Asia.
Karen Davila – (broadcast journalist) – her credible stint as a moderator during the World Economic Forum in Manila has enlivened cable news channel. She was in her natural element as a smart and multi-awarded broadcast journalist surrounded by high-profile intellectuals and business people during the said forum. She is a pro and adequately trained as one of the news presenters of ABS-CBN’s Bandila and an anchor in her own morning program Headstart on ABS-CBN News Channel, aside from being heard of on her DZMM program. This UPian mass communications alumna and frustrated fashion designer found her edge in TV broadcasting and won numerous awards both locally and internationally in her career, including two awards from the prestigious New York Festival. In 1999 she received an award for Best Medical Report in the CNN World Report Competition and the 2005 UNICEF Child Rights award. She was awarded the 2008 Ten Outstanding Young Men Award for Broadcast Journalism. In 2010, she was chosen as one of the “Young Global Shapers” of the World Economic Forum. In 2013, she was cited as one of the Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service.
Miriam Colonel-Ferrer – (peacemaker, political scientist) – this no non-sense and unassuming lady peace negotiator is a University of the Philippines political science professor. She has been with the government peace panel since 2010 before assuming the lead role in 2012 as the successor of Justice Marvic Leonen, formerly the head of the government peace panel. She is the first woman to chair the said post and was considered as one of the 27 Filipinos nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Under her leadership as the chief peacemaker, she already submitted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to the leaders of the Philippine Congress that would bring the peace panel to the next crucial stage in the roadmap to the Bangsamoro political entity which is the formal legislative process. She graduated cum laude from UP Diliman with a philosophy degree and a master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies from the University of Kent at Canterbury while finishing her doctoral program in political science at the University of Helsinki. She juggles her roles as wife, mother, professor, negotiator and peace advocate according to her interview with Inquirer Lifestyle. Achiever of the same league, Prof Miriam Colonel-Ferrer is also the sister of equally cerebral woman Sheila Colonel, now the dean of academic affairs of Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Prof Ferrer has mentored me with other UP scholars when we study-toured Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore in the second Southeast East Asian Regional Exchange Program.
Gilas Pilipinas and Philippine Azkals – (best Filipino entertainers) – they made us believe that Filipino basketballers and footballers are world class! That our dreams are reachable and can become a reality! The talent and skills they exuded and executed during the FIBA World Cup in Spain and AFF Suzuki Cup co-hosted by Singapore and Vietnam in 2014, are signs that sports science in the Philippines must synergize the optimal youth and energy of this country. Basketball is a unifying sport to many Filipinos while football is getting the same attention what basketball had in the past. Both sports now are becoming favorites past time and can draw huge following for a lot of young and hip Filipinos. Stand out players in Gilas Pilipinas and Azkals are becoming household names, same as true with the national teams of the Philippines they represent in basketball and football – the Gilas Pilipinas and Philippine Azkals! With the biggest breaks they are getting in the international arena of world sports, there’s no reason why our Filipino sportsmen will nonetheless pursue excellence and honor. Truly, the Filipino athletes are world class and talented. I hope that the government and private sectors will continuously pour in more support because they definitely entertain Filipinos worldwide. You are the badge of honor and inspiration to myriads of young Filipino people globally and virtually! Because of our ballers’ success, the Philippines is proposing to host soon the FIBA World Cup in Manila. This year we also saw the prowess and world-class talents of Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team as the best peddlers in the world. The Philippines’ youngest ice skating icon Michael Christian Martinez wowed us with his defying stunts one to the top figure skaters to watch for from a land where it does not snow but blessed with talented people.
Joey Salceda – (governor, green economist) – his provocative and controversial policy for married couples to check-in to motels during natural disasters to avoid scandals in evacuation centers irked some moralists yet his pragmatic reforms are well-applauded by policy-makers. Recently, President Aquino himself approved his appointment as director and Asian representative to the Board of the Green Climate Change of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Asia. To cite his blog, he was named UN global champion for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction for his novel ideas implemented in his province which became a standard for many local government units around the country. This progressive and multi-awarded governor was once a presidential economic adviser and three-term congressman in Bicolandia.
Mahar Lagmay – (disaster scientist, professor) – the iconic ‘Project Noah’ of the Department of Science and Technology widened Lagmay’s clout as one of today’s reliable scientists when he spearheaded the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), aimed at helping the Philippine government and the Filipino people in disaster preparedness and response efforts to have a more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system particularly in high-risk areas in the country. The said project will harness technologies and management services for disaster risk reduction activities. As a UP professor of National Institute of Geological Sciences, he debunked the viral 14-minute Youtube video about the ‘Microwave theory’ of supertyphoon Haiyan which explains that the microwave pulses observed in the West Pacific caused a heavy rotation to develop that created large storm which was man-made. Dr Lagmay’s research interests include theoretical and experimental research on the reciprocal influence of volcanoes and their basement. He has done studies on landslides, lahar and flood disasters in the Philippines including the 2006 Guinsaugon rockslide debris avalanche, 2006 Mayon lahars, 2009 Ondoy and 2011 Sendong floods. He is an active netizen in social media with a mission to disseminate information about the science of disasters in layman’s terms.
Antonio Meloto – (social entrepreneur) – his wisdom on business social entrepreneurship is part of ADMU’s brand of build philosophy. This brand merges social business and rural development. It is a patriotic fervor of rebuilding or itayo the nation-state and not the other way around of pulling it down or ibagsak! As the father and founder of Gawad Kalinga, a non-government social organization known for building houses for the poorest of the poor; another pet project called GK Enchanted Farm is Gawad Kalinga’s platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help local farmers, and create wealth in the countryside. Most of his volunteers in the farm are rich kids who graduated from top private universities in Metro Manila (ADMU and DLSU) and who received degree and pedigree from their respective Alma Mater, but mostly are half-Chinese or half-Indians. Most foreign working students and volunteers in his farm come from France and the United States. They are the Proof of Concept as they sell the farm’s mission because of their successful testimonials. As an economics degree holder through a Far East Bank scholarship and being a US-educated for his MBA course, he became a successful professional that led him to his Utopian dream of a better Philippines by 2024 where there will be no squatters or informal settlers in the country. He is one of the most trusted Filipinos according to Reader’s Digest and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee.
Manny Pacquiao – (pound-for-pound king, evangelist, congressman) – this reformed Filipino ring icon and post-modern Pinoy Hercules is back with a vengeance. From a pound-for-pound-king by knocking Mexican, American, and British gladiators, he became a serious politician, actor, entrepreneur, producer, recording artist, evangelist, basketball coach-player, commercial endorser, host and family man. He’s an icon of his own league who is looked up to by A-list Hollywood stars. His rags-to-riches story has inspired many Filipinos but some envy him and aspire for what he has achieved. He has even been awarded with honorary degrees by academic institutions because of his contributions to world sports and for his various socio-civic activities. He could even become the next Philippine senator or Vice President of the country with his undisputable popularity. But Pacman knows well his game and strategy. As a young achiever, he has no more things to prove to himself but to face Floyd Mayweather as his foremost nemesis in the pound-for-pound king title in the ring and his future political ambitions.
Manny Pangilinan – (tycoon, visionary) – MVP as he is fondly called in the business community is a cum laude Atenean economist with MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania who controls conglomerates ranging from telecommunications, television, mining, toll ways, rail transit, hospitals, electric and water, housing, properties, sports teams and more. A single yet serious business-minded billionaire; yet this media mogul, industrialist, philanthropist and visionary is a leading advocate of public-private partnerships. There was a time he even wanted to forge oil drills with the Chinese in the contested West Philippine Sea. Through him, Manila was able to host the FIBA Asia Championship in 2013 and now he aspires for Philippines to host soon the World FIBA Championships.
Grace Poe – (senator) – she might be the third female president of the Philippines if the bright stars will align with her political destiny and the voice of the Filipino people will continuously support her in 2016 and beyond. As the daughter of FPJ, she will get vindication of her father’s once desired seat of power. But in all fairness to her, this debater from UP Manila and US-educated petite senator is most likely the woman to beat, emerging with freshest name to recall, and could carry herself with oozing credibility to run for presidency or vice presidency come election time. Major political parties welcome her in their line-up and would like to forge alliance with her. She needs to be smart and strategic as more Filipino people will expect much from her.
Miriam Santiago – (senator) – she’s the queen of Philippine memes and pick-up jokes. Her cerebral attributes is legendary being a magna cum laude back in college at UP Visayas and cum laude in the UP College of Law at Diliman with master of laws in University of Michigan. She’s a debater and editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian, at the same time. But this feisty senator and Asia’s original iron lady walk her talk. After nearly three years being elected a judge at the Hague-based International Criminal Court, she stepped down and deferred taking her oath citing her lazy bone marrow health condition. But her electrifying legal career and public service as the youngest regional trial court judge in Manila, commissioner of the bureau of immigration and deportation, secretary of agrarian reform, former presidential candidate, party leader, being popular and no non-sense senator, and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee prove her worth as a true public servant in contemporary Philippine politics.
Chito Sta Romana – (award-winning journalist, sinologist) – every time he lectures at NDCP, I would introduce him by reading his prolific profile: he’s an Emmy award-winning, former ABC News Beijing Bureau Chief and China expert was a student activist who went into political exile in Beijing starting in the 1970s martial law era. A LaSallian where he became a student council president, took graduate courses in development economics in UP Diliman, and earned his master’s in international relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Massachusetts. He has covered many historic events in modernizing China for ABC News, from the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations, the 2001 US-China crisis over Hainan plane incident in 2001, the Sichuan earthquake, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 Beijing summit meeting of US President Barrack Obama and then China president Hu Jintao. He also worked with ABC anchors like Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer and Bob Woodruff when they reported from China.
Michael Tan – (UPD chancellor, medical anthropologist) – he’s known for his commentaries on various social, political, cultural, and medical issues in his column ‘Pinoy Kasi’ for the Inquirer since 1997. This medical anthropologist, professor and former chair of anthropology, former dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy started to make a name for himself in non-government organizations with his notable and numerous research and publications on sex and sexuality, reproductive and sexual health, pharmaceuticals, health policy, and indigenous medical beliefs. He obtained his PhD in social and political science from the Medical Anthropology Unit of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands; a master’s in anthropology from the Texas A&M University in the US and finished veterinary medicine in UP Diliman. He was also schooled in Xavier. Previously elected as a member of the country’s National Academy of Science and Technology in 2012, citing his contributions on “sustained outstanding scientific research, teaching, advocacy and development work particularly in his consistent efforts to revitalize scientific research on and in the use of traditional medicine, develop rational drug policies, and understand the social and behavioral dimensions of HIV/AIDS prevention and of reproductive health promotion.” As the current chancellor of UP’s flagship campus, he envisions “a UP in terms of a shared culture of academic citizenship built on collegiality, a sense of justice and fairness, and ethics.”