Seven stories, seven inspiring Filipinos

By Yahoo! Southeast Asia Editors

When we started the 'Pitong Pinoy' project, we thought it would be hard to find seven Filipinos who have made a remarkable difference.

After all, it's not everyday that you run into people who could actually devote their entire life in serving others or champion advocacies that are seemingly hard to accomplish.

But we gathered an overwhelming number of nominations—from loving parents, courageous law enforcers, devoted health workers, brilliant artists, magnanimous celebrities, exemplary athletes, astute youth leaders, inspirational public servants, to simple folk who have touched others with their kindness.

Believe us, it was a tough job to choose seven amazing Pinoys. Nonetheless, it is heartwarming to read stories of change, volunteerism, and selflessness.

Thanks to all your nominations, we finally have the seven people who make us prouder to be Pinoys (in alphabetical order):

1. Alexis Belonio. This engineer figured out an out-of-the-box way to make use of rice husks. He created a cooking stove designed to help poor people have access to hot meals.

Belonio invented a environment-friendly rice-husk stove which has a fan in its base. It provides air used in the conversion of rice hulls into gas—helping poor families cook without needing expensive fuel.

Belonio could have gotten a patent for his invention and gain millions from it; yet he left it patent-free so the technology would be free for everyone to use. His efforts have already been recognized abroad but shouldn't we appreciate him first?

2. Jean Enriquez. If you want to see female power at work, you'd have to meet this woman.

Despite the danger of drawing the ire of huge human trafficking syndicates, Enriquez continues to fight for the welfare of Pinays. Her steadfast efforts to empower Filipino women is admirable.

She heads the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific, which vigorously fights sex tourism, the mail-order bride trade, pornography, and sexual exploitation.

Enriquez also holds education camps among young women to ensure that they are not vulnerable to abuse. She also oversees the healing process of survivors and makes sure they get a second shot at having a decent life.

3. Jay Jaboneta. All it took him was one Facebook status message to change the lives of dozens of children in a far-flung village in Zamboanga.

When Jaboneta learned that 200 children in Layag-layag village had to swim to get to school everyday (painstakingly making sure that their books, if there was any, wouldn't get wet), he knew had to do something.

Through a Facebook status message, Jaboneta was able to raise funds—as much as P70,000—on the first week of his call for donations.

A Facebook group "Zamboanga Funds for Little Kids" was later established, expanding his advocacy's reach.

Now, the kids of Layag-layag go to school in their bright new yellow boats, each aptly dubbed as "New Hope."

4. Tomas Leonor. For Leonor, initiating change literally begins with a single step.

To raise funds for cancer-stricken children at the Philippine Children's Medical Center., Leonor organized 'StepJuan' and volunteered to travel sans any motored transportation.

Leonor's belief that cancer must not kill the hopes and dreams of children motivated him to walk hundreds of kilometers.

His walking expedition started on April 4, 11 at Allen, Samar. To date, StepJuan's Leonor has walked a total of 1,241.5 kilometers and taken 2,887,208 steps in seven islands, ten provinces, 86 municipalities, and 20 cities.

5. Heidi Mendoza. She made headlines and risked her life to expose supposed corruption in the military, allegedly led by ex-Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Mendoza braved Senate hearings and bared details of suspicious military transactions, strengthening the multimillion plunder case against the former general.

In all likelihood, she could've chosen a simple, quiet life but she decided to take the road less traveled for the sake of the country.

She has recently been appointed by President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino as commissioner of the Commission on Audit and we have high hopes that this would pave the way to clean and honest governance.

6. Anna Oposa. A lot of people claim to care for the environment but how many actually go out of their way and really work beyond lip service?

Oposa, director of the Law of Nature Foundation, has proven her love for Mother Earth by vigorously working on protecting marine life.

She also initiated "Save the Philippine Seas," spurred by recent reports of massive coral reef destruction in several parts of the country. Her initiatives made quite a huge social network ripple and united Filipinos through a national blog day to save the Philippine seas.

She is also lobbying to strengthen laws for environment protection, a long-term goal that we hope would live on far beyond our grandchildren's life spans.

7. Tzarina Saniel.In the age of e-books, tablet apps, and the internet, one would easily prefer going online instead of going to the library. But for Saniel, nothing beats a real book—the feel of the old manuscript, the smell of the paper and the idea that it has cultivated the minds of many.

Bibliophile Saniel has collected and preserved old Filipino books, even original manuscripts from Jose Rizal.

Because of her inspiring advocacy, she is definitely noteworthy for keeping Pinoy literature alive.

If your nominee did not make it to this list, fret not. This is just the beginning of our collection of good news and stories of how Filipinos beat the odds and make a difference.