Ninoy Aquino, Manny Pangilinan, Sharon Cuneta, and Hidilyn Diaz are in shared company not just for their fame, but along with nearly 500 other Filipinos, have four letters tagged to their names: TOYM.
The Outstanding Young Men (and Women) of the Philippines or TOYM have been recognized by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) or Jaycees since 1959 and the list of honorees reads like a who’s who of any field of interest in the country.
For the first time, previous awardees were gathered and honored at a gala night on Saturday to mark not only the 59th year of the TOYM, but also the 70th anniversary of the Jaycees.
To some of the awardees, the TOYM is both a privilege and responsibility that grows even after they receive the coveted trophy.
Dr. Geraldine Zamora was honored in 2016 for her achievements in her field, among them being one of the few Filipino rheumatologists to be recognized abroad.
She has also helped raise assistance for patients at the Philippine General Hospital through concerts and fashion fundraisers. Zamora believes her advocacy work was the main reason she was nominated and selected.
“I didn’t think what I was doing was enough to win a national award. In the first place I wasn’t doing it for an award,” she said of finding out she won.
“So when I saw the letter, email, I really cried because I didn’t expect it and I’m really grateful.”
Aside from private practice, Zamora continues serving at the PGH and is helping develop a disease database.
“I really felt that my actions should be worthy of being a TOYM so I should make sure I deserve the award. I should strive to continue making an impact,” she said.
The 2018 round of the TOYM received a “record-breaking” 122 nominations when it closed in August, said JCI national chairman Rey Felix Rafols.
Aside from the Jaycees, the TOYM Foundation and Gerry Roxas Foundation help administer the award which is given to people aged 18 to 40.
Formerly awarded to men, the TOYM–previously known as Ten Outstanding Young Men–has included female recipients since 1984.
Among journalists, women have usually been honored by the TOYM in the past 3 decades, such as Loren Legarda in 1992, Jessica Soho and Marites Vitug in 1993, Malou Mangahas in 1994, Maria Ressa in 2002, Kara David in 2007, Karen Davila in 2008, Patricia Evangelista in 2015, and Chiara Zambrano in 2017.
The new batch of awardees will be announced and recognized in Malacanang Palace in December.
Rustans CEO Donnie Tantoco, who was awarded TOYM in 2004 and currently heads the TOYM board said the award is not only about accomplishment, but more importantly, character.
He added, the search for outstanding Filipinos is more important today amid a lack of positive influences for the youth.
“We’re looking for people who want to accomplish, who are ambitious, but they have a good heart, they have compassion–not just make a lot of money, they have real value to society.”
Tantoco said he took the “biggest risks” and “boldest challenges” of his life after receiving the award and despite some personal crises along the way, it has helped keep his path straight.
“The TOYM award I have is in my office, I see it all the time. It’s kind of a conscience, it always reminds me I was given that award for values they felt I have, a mission they felt was a worthy mission,” he said.
“It gives me strength not to sell out on my values. So it’s a huge responsibility.”
Their advice to young Filipinos who could possibly follow in their steps as TOYM?
For Zamora: “Continue doing good, because what we are doing is not geared toward winning awards.”
Tantoco had this: “You have to find the intersection of where the world’s greatest needs are and where those needs intersect with your greatest source of passion. And once you find that, that’s where you find your mission. I’m sure you will do it very well.”