by Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News
NEW YORK — CNN Hero of the Year 2009 winner Efren Penaflorida is back in New York; this time, as one of the five finalists for the CNN Superhero of the Decade.
On the 10th anniversary of the Heroes Awards, CNN honored a special Superhero of the Decade, on top of the 2016 CNN Hero of the Year awardee.
Jeison Aristizábal was named this year’s CNN Hero, for providing educational and medical support for youth living with disabilities in Colombia. Aristizábal also won $100K.
The CNN Superhero of the Decade went to Pushpa Basnet, for providing housing, education, healthy meals and medical services to children forced to live with their parents inside Nepal’s prisons. Basnet took home $50k.
Each of the CNN Superhero Finalists received $10,000, including Penaflorida.
“Ibig sabihin nito marami tayong matutulungang na mga kabataan…I’m here naman to represent yung mga kids natin sa kariton classroom and our volunteers; yung mga students natin, at yung mga Pilipino, Mga kababayn natin sa Pilipinas,” said Penaflorida. “Itayo yung bayan natin at ipakita sa buong mundo na dun sa malilit na bagay na ginagawa nating mga kabayanihan may maitutulong ito sa bayan natin.”
7 years ago, Penaflorida, a teacher and social worker, was named CNN Hero for his unconventional way of bringing education to school dropouts in the Philippines — through a kariton, or pushcart, classroom.
Aside from the $25,000 prize for nominees, Penaflorida also received $100,000 for being named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year.
He said of his social mission: “Ginamit namin yun to build a school, meron kaming eskwelahan ngayon sa Cavite, and duon naming hino-hold yung kariton senior high school, kariton open high school, kasi the program expanded already, hindi lang kami sa kalye, we have a stationary facility na para sa mga bata.”
Penaflorida says the money he received from the prestigious title went a long way.
“Malaki yung nabago sa buhay namin,” he shared. “Kasi in the beginning nung nagtutulak pa tayo ng kariton, parang, people were laughing at us, tapos ni-ri-ridicule nila tayo, hindi sila believe sa ginagawa natin… ang kariton naman sa Pilipinas hindi simbolo ng education, simbolo ng poverty.”
Penaflorida hopes the kids of his kariton classrooms will also pay their education forward.
“The same impact na narecieve ko from my mentor na si KB, talagang siya ang nagturo sa kin na mahalin ko ang pag-aaral and the same din yung hope ko maging impact nito sa kanila mahalin nila yung pag-aaral, naniniwala kami na ito ay powerful tool para maging productive nag isang tao, maging asset siya ng society,” he says.
To be named one of the top 5 finalists, he says, is an honor.
CNN Heroes recognize remarkable individuals like Penaflorida, who work tirelessly to make the world a better place.
The prestigious CNN nominations have given him a platform to share his story, get much needed funds to continue and improve the kariton classrooms, and to help provide opportunities for his people.