Which award is known as the Nobel Prize of Asia?

Everyone has heard the name of Nobel Prize at least once in their lives. Whoever wins this title makes it into the list of the best-known people in the entire world. This award has been around for decades. Sometimes, deserving people get crowned with the title, while at other times, the winning person stands questionable.

Despite its dubious selections on rare occasions, the Nobel Prize is the most revered award in the world. It recognizes individuals and organizations who make significant contributions to the world in various fields, from literature to science. It offers recognition to different people for their distinguished services in their respective fields. It is actually an effort to make this world a better place to live in. Through this award, people who have served for a better cause are appreciated for their efforts. 

The Nobel Prize is a well-known and much appreciated universal program. If it were to have an Asian equivalent, it certainly would be the Ramon Magsaysay Award. The award, instituted in the memory of the seventh president of The Philippines, Ramon Magsaysay, is given annually to individuals and organizations based in Asia who work for the betterment of the society. Just like the coveted Nobel Prize, it encourages people to play their part and provides them with the stage to showcase their world-changing capabilities. But unlike the original award, this one is conducted on a smaller scale to multiply the chances of recognition.

The idea of the award was put forward by the philanthropic organization named Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), based in New York. The trustees of RBF came up with the idea in April 1957.  When this idea was proposed to the policymakers, it was accepted in no time. It earned the support and aid of the Philippine government. So, it was decided to name the award after Ramon Magsaysay, who had earned his name as a great administrator during his tenure. Magsaysay died in an aircraft accident in March 1957. Though he died soon after the award was patronized, his services are still remembered and appreciated with it. The Ramon and Magsaysay award aims to show the world and propagate the practical idealism and public service of Magsaysay.

The steps towards the establishment of awards began with the formation of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) in May 1957. Seven popular Filipinos who were pioneers in various fields were chosen as the members of the committee. The RMAF is responsible for the selection of winners and the organization of award ceremonies. 

The Magsaysay Award carries a sum of $50,000, a felicitation certificate, and a medal on which the face of Ramon Magsaysay is depicted. It is presented in Manila on 31st August, the birthday of Magsaysay.

The first Magsaysay awards were presented in 1958. The awards were presented in 5 disciplines, namely Government Service, Public Service, Community Leadership, Peace and International Understanding and Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts. The winners of the inaugural awards were Chiang Mon Lin, Taiwan (GS), Mary Ratnam, Sri Lanka (PS), Acharya Vinobha Bhave, India (CL), Robert Dick, UK, and Mochtar Lubis, Indonesia (JLCCA), and Operation Brotherhood (PIU).

From 2001 onwards, a new category titled Emergent Leadership was added. It was instituted with the cooperation of the Ford Foundation. It is presented to individuals within 40 years of age who perform exemplary activities in Social reformation. Oung Chanthol from Cambodia and Dita Sari from Indonesia became the first winners in Emergent Leadership in 2001. From 2009, the awards in the initial five categories have been discontinued, and the awards are given without any categories except that of Emergent Leadership.

Additional reading:

Ramon Magsaysay Award (Wikipedia)

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