By Edrian Divinaflor, RMTLI NextGen Youth Leader
I first encountered the name Ramon Magsaysay back in 2011 while reading a history textbook. Unfamiliar with him, I asked my Mama what she knew about the late President. “Ramon Magsaysay is one of the greatest—if not the greatest—presidents of the country,” she responded. Confused, I asked her, “How do you know that he is one of the greatest presidents the Philippines has ever had?” All I heard were crickets.
I was curious because President Magsaysay tragically died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957, years before my mother was born. She was not able to witness the leadership of Magsaysay firsthand.
"Pres. Ramon Magsaysay has shown selfless leadership that places high value on the common good. His intentions in leading are clear and pure."
My familiarity with Ramon Magsaysay was deepened when I became aware of the Ramon Magsaysay Award and the people who receive it for their meritorious contributions to their community and in Asia. To have Asia’s premier prize and the highest honor named after you, I knew that Magsaysay was the epitome of greatness and action.
Fast forward to 2022, I once again encountered the name Ramon Magsaysay. This time, it was not because of books but because of what I do. I have since become a student leader in various organizations. Alongside leading my peers, I also joined like-minded individuals in promoting advocacies. These experiences led me to the NextGen Leadership Program spearheaded by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation—the organization that bestows the most prestigious award in Asia.
When I learned I was selected for the program, I decided to know more about Ramon Magsaysay—his victories, defeats, everything. There I realized that he was not a perfect leader. He had leadership gaps like any other leader around the world, but there are three things that I admire him for, and these are: 1) his transformative leadership; 2) his hopeful heart; and 3) his greatness of spirit.
"What I admired most about Ramon Magsaysay is that he was hopeful for the future. He had high hopes for us, the youth. He saw us as individuals who want action or listen to words that lead to action."
Transformative leadership. We cannot fully describe Magsaysay without saying he was a transformative leader in his time. Aside from being charismatic, he was a leader who mobilized his people. Magsaysay was a man of action, and that aspect is one that Asian leaders reflect today. As a youth leader, I uphold this value. I firmly believe that both the leader and their constituents must be moving toward a common goal. This leadership serves as my guiding compass in leading my constituents.
Hopeful heart. Not everyone who can lead a community has a hopeful heart. What I admired most about Ramon Magsaysay is that he was hopeful for the future. He had high hopes for us, the youth. He saw us as individuals who want action or listen to words that lead to action that would “eventually shape the nation and determine the course of history.” This value reminds me to put trust in the people we are serving. The success of a leadership journey is not solely dependent on the success of the leader, but also on the success of the masses. Thus, a leader must possess an optimistic attitude toward the youth, the masses, and the future.
Greatness of spirit. This value of Magsaysay manifests in the communities of the Magsaysay laureates. The late commander-in-chief has shown selfless leadership that places high value on the common good. His intentions in leading are clear and pure. Like him, I always remind myself of my "deepest why” in the things I do. I ask myself why I want to serve, lead, and advocate. If we are already in the process of knowing the answer, maybe, we are heading in the right direction. Our "deepest why” must be a product of selflessness and purity of intention—of the greatness of spirit.
These are the three things I learned about this great man. Twelve years ago, I only knew about him through my textbooks. But even though Ramon Magsaysay is gone, I know that I see his greatness in the souls of other young people who champion what he has started.
Today is President Ramon Magsaysay’s 66th death anniversary and today, we remember and honor him for his greatness and the greatness of his spirit.