The Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's highest honor and is widely regarded as the region’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. It celebrates the memory and leadership example of the third Philippine president after whom the award is named, and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same selfless service that ruled the life of the late and beloved Filipino leader.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation was created in 1957, the year the Philippines lost in a plane crash a President who was well-loved for his simplicity and humility, his passion for justice, particularly for the poor, and his advancement of human dignity. Among the many friends and admirers of the late President around the world were the Rockefeller brothers. With the concurrence of the Philippine government, the trustees of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund(RBF) established the Award to honor his memory and perpetuate his example of integrity in public service and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.
Supported by a generous endowment from the RBF, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) was organized in Manila in May 1957, with seven prominent Filipinos as founding members of the foundation's board of trustees. The Foundation has since implemented the Magsaysay Award program, pursuing the mission of "honoring the greatness of spirit in selfless service to the people of Asia". The first Ramon Magsaysay Awards were given on August 31, 1958, to five outstanding individuals working in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Sri Lanka, and a Philippine-based organization.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award program is managed by the RMAF board of trustees composed of seven Filipinos and two foreign Awardees serving staggered four-year terms. Annually, the RMAF solicits award nominations from a wide-ranging pool of international nominators. Nominations are carefully investigated and the awardees are determined after rigorous evaluation by the Foundation's board of trustees. Presentation Ceremonies are held annually in Manila on 31 August, the birth anniversary of the late President.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award was conceived to honor the greatness of spirit shown in service to the peoples of Asia regardless of race, gender, or religion.
From 1958 to 2008, the Award was given in six categories annually:
The category of Emergent Leadership was inaugurated in 2000 and is supported by a grant from the Ford Foundation. Starting in 2009, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is no longer being given in fixed Award categories, except for Emergent Leadership. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is presented in formal ceremonies in Manila, Philippines on August 31st, the birth anniversary of the much-esteemed Philippine President whose ideals inspired the Award's creation in 1957.
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