As a result of her 50 years of untiring work with farmers, farmworkers, and indigenous people, especially in Visayas and Mindanao, Sr. Michelle helped change unjust structures, brought peace in warn torn places and uplifted the lives of the rural poor.
Sr. Mary Michelle Gamboa RGS received the Bukas Palad (Open Palm) Award from the Ateneo de Manila University last July 16, 2013 during the convocation held at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
Sr. Michelle was one of five awardees honored by the Ateneo during the Traditional University Awards given as part of the series of celebrations to mark the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Other awardees were: Dr. Edmundo Nolasco (Lux-in-Domino Award); Sec. Jesse M. Robredo (Government Service Award –Posthumous); Atty Christian Monsod (Parangal Lingkod Sambayanan); Dr. Resil B.Mojares (Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi).
Motivated by Gospel Values, a Bukas Palad (Open Palm) awardee’s notable and invaluable contribution is unmistakable evidence beyond the ordinary of an understanding of the prophetic role of the Church in today’s world and giving tangible proofs of this in the service given especially to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the sick, the suffering – in faith, justice and love.
The award is also meant to remind Ateneans past and present of the need and worthwhileness of priestly and religious vocation for the service of God, the Church, our people, and the cause of the Kingdom of God.
The Ateneo cited that through her unflagging effort to improve the lives of the oppressed and neglected, Sr. Michelle embodies the Ignatian spirit of generosity and what Pope Benedict XVI calls performative faith-- a faith that "makes things happen and is life changing."
“As a result of her 50 years of untiring work with farmers, farmworkers, and indigenous people, especially in Visayas and Mindanao, Sr. Michelle helped change unjust structures, brought peace in warn torn places and uplifted the lives of the rural poor. In recognition of this, the Ateneo de Manila confers the 2013 Bukas Palad Award on Sr. Michelle L. Gamboa."
I want to thank the Ateneo de Manila University, through its Board of Trustees for this Bukas Palad Award, recognizing a simple missionary work. ‘I have not run the race, I have not fought the good fight to win an earthly prize,” but the prize overtook me by surprise and alarm.
I receive this award with all my partners in mind and I take this opportunity to thank them. They are the Indigenous Peoples in the hinterlands of Mindanao, sugar workers and landowners in Negros Occidental, urban poor in the cities of Silay, Bacolod and Davao, parishioners and prisoners in Muntinlupa. This honor is for all of us.
This is also a time to thank God for His blessings for my parents who left us a legacy of a simple lifestyle lived in honesty and justice and for the many brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and their children. They are my joys. The blessings of God’s call for me to enter the Religious of the Good Shepherd, where I savored God’s call for me and was formed to deepen my loved for God as a preparation for me to take part in the struggles of women, children and farmers against the evils in society.
I thank God and the different persons and groups who welcomed me to be part of their ministry of service.
Chito Foundation whose members and I were equally challenged by the problems in the sugar industry. I worked in the haciendas together with the landowners and workers towards the ideals of Human Development based on the encyclical of Pope Paul VI on, “Development of People.” It was a blessing that in spire of misunderstandings with some landowners of our ideals to work for a more humane system of farm administration and land sharing, our group, though small in number, stands steadfast and is, hopefully, an inspiration to the next generation. My gratitude to Ambassador Howard Dee and his wife Betty, the members and staff of Assisi Development Foundation. In the Foundation, we feel like one big family, where the ideals of St. Ignatius and St. Francis of Assisi keep us alive in the midst of risks and threats. It is in the Assisi family that I earned the courage to introduce and implement projects because of the trust and confidence given me.
From 1995-1998, I was blessed and privileged to be partner of our own Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. His Eminence sent seminarians to me in Mindanao for exposure as part of their pastoral year in formation. My relations with the seminarian widened my vision and the spirituality of my mission and developed in me a stronger attraction to missionary adventures.
I thank God for the “Piniyalan” Steward Community, organized to help in the parish. This is the group that decided to “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks,” And to work for reforms as soldiers of Christ helping people achieve their aspirations, to champion the promotion of sustainable agriculture, justice, peace and integrity of creation, so that in the words of Isaiah, “nations will never go to war, never prepare for battle again.”
I thank God for friends. In 1985, I was introduced by Mr. Howard Dee to then Mrs. Corazon Aquino, who with her friends, shared resources so we could launch, “Pagkaon” program to feed the hungry children of Negros. That was the beginning of our many years of friendship.
My gratitude for the experience of working with a holy man, the late Fr. Francisco Araneta SJ, in his parish in Bayanan, Muntinlupa, and the experience of working in diocesan programs in the Diocese of Bacolod under the late Bishop Antonio Fortich.
Now that I am old. I thank God that my provincial and my local coordinator still allow me to work as a farmer and baker.
All for the glory of God.
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