ZSL's Madz Blanco, Net-Works Project Manager in the Philippines, has received a special award for his exceptional contribution to marine conservation. ZSL's Dr Nick Hill attended the awards ceremony and explains why Madz is a true inspiration.
The awards, now in their 57th year, recognise outstanding citizens from the Southern Leyte region of the Philippines, where Madz is from. Madz was nominated by the mayor of his local municipality, Hinundayan. It was the first time that someone had been nominated in the field of marine conservation.
I was lucky enough to be in the Philippines at the time and I went along to the ceremony with Madz and his family. It was a wonderful event and a proud moment for Madz and his wife Luchie. Never one to let an opportunity pass, Madz used his short acceptance speech to talk about the issue of marine debris and put a challenge to the government of Southern Leyte to do more to address it. His speech was the talking point of the reception afterwards, and everyone was fascinated by the Net-Works story.
When I asked him what the award meant to him, Madz said: “I come from very humble beginnings but have always had big ambitions. I see this award as a victory for ordinary people, who dedicate their hearts and minds to pursuing their dreams, and through their focus and commitment, help make a difference in the world. I accept it with great humility and I hope that it will inspire and invigorate my work in marine conservation.”
Madz was in good company at the ceremony, with many of the other awardees equally impressive in their accomplishments. They included the first female combat pilot in the Philippine Air Force, who was recognised for her work in humanitarian disaster relief and counterinsurgency combat; an international expert in the field of organisational development; and one of the youngest people ever to pass the Bar exam in the Philippines.
The day after the ceremony I was reflecting on how, in today’s fast-paced world, our focus is always on getting to the next thing. Rarely do we stop and take the time to look around us and recognise the amazing work that people are doing. Madz's award was a moment to do this, and I know I speak for everyone in the Net-Works team when I say that he’s a true inspiration to all of us.
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