The Ramon Magsaysay awards, Asia's version of Nobel Prize awards cancelled

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The Ramon Magsaysay awards, regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize, have been cancelled this year due to the global pandemic, the only third time the annual awards were disrupted in six decades.

The Manila-based foundation that hands out the awards said Tuesday it has no choice but to cancel the awards this year “with the COVID-19 pandemic practically immobilizing the world.” The awards were also cancelled due to a financial crisis in 1970 and a disastrous earthquake that hit the Philippines in 1990.

The awards are named after a popular Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash and honour “greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia.”

The more than 330 awardees so far had included leaders like the late President Corazon Aquino, an icon of nonviolent democratic struggle across the world, and Mother Teresa, who has been honored in the Catholic church as Saint Teresa and known globally for her missionary work for the poorest of the poor.

The Philippines is a coronavirus hotspot in Southeast Asia, with about 22,400 infections, including more than 1,000 deaths. It has eased lockdowns for millions of people in a tightrope move to bolster its economy, which contracted in the first quarter.

The Ramon Magsaysay awards are named after Ramon Magsaysay, the third president of the Republic of the Philippines after World War II. The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation awards Asian individuals achieving excellence in their respective fields and have been known to help others generously without anticipating public recognition.

The awards were traditionally given in five categories: government service; public service; community leadership; journalism, literature, and creative communication arts; and peace and international understanding. 5 of these, however, were discontinued post 2009.

-- with inputs from Associated Press

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