Presidential Award to Norwegian in Philippines

Erlend E. Johannesen, founder of StreetLight Philippines, was among 23 distinguished and outstanding overseas Filipinos and foreign-based organizations from 11 countries winning the Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas (PAFIOO) 2016.

They were honoured by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte honoured during the Awarding Ceremonies on Monday 19 December at the Malacañan Palace.

Johannesen is known for his commitment to help the impoverished children of Tacloban City. Although quite young, he has nonetheless dedicated the past 12 years rescuing orphans and street children from drugs, crime, starvation and prostitution, writes the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila.

“For more than a decade now, Streetlight Philippines has offered a shelter and safe haven to children where they are guided and educated. Norwegian Parliamentarians and the Embassy paid a visit to StreetLight Philippines in 2015 and were able to witness how Johannesen and his team stood firm in re-establishing their centre after it was damaged by super typhoon Haiyan.”

“The NGO today has a school, orphanage, computer centre and library because of the efforts of Johannesen in collaborating with other organizations that were willing to help get the operations of the centre going again and reach out to more children in the streets.”

‘This is a highly-deserved award for Mr. Johannesen as he continues to be a big brother to the children of Leyte. He is an inspiration to youth who are seeking to make a difference in the world’, said Ambassador Erik Førner.

The Presidential Awards is a biennial search for overseas-based individuals and organizations which have dedicated their work in the service of Filipinos, selflessly supported relief, rehabilitation and development programs in the home country, or who have excelled in their field or profession.

The awardees were thoroughly screened from a total of 103 nominations from 22 countries by four different committees from the Philippine Diplomatic Posts, inter-agency technical committee, multi-sectoral executive committee, to the Office of the President.

In offering his snappiest salute to the awardees for their accomplishments and assistance to their fellow Filipinos and to the Filipino community, the President echoed one of his favourite quotes by Stephen Grellet in appreciation of the collective accomplishments by the Presidential Awardees: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

The Presidential Awards have four categories – Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL), Kaanib ng Bayan Award, Banaag Award, and Pamana ng Pilipino Award.

Erlend E. Johannesen was one of the Kaanib ng Bayan Award winners, which is conferred on foreign individuals or organizations for their exceptional or significant contribution to Philippine reconstruction, progress and development, or have significantly benefited a sector or community in the Philippines, or advanced the cause of overseas Filipino communities.

A first in the 25-year history of the awards system since its inception, the Norwegian also delivered the response speech on behalf of this year’s PAFIOO awardees. According to Mr. Johannesen “the Filipino culture is truly the most remarkable, beautiful culture there is. The world has so much to learn from it.”

“Where the Filipino spirit prevails, so will hope,” Johannesen added.

The Presidential Awards is organized by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (, an agency under the Office of the President tasked to promote and uphold the interests, rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos, as well as to maintain strong and mutually beneficial ties between overseas Filipinos throughout the world and the motherland.

This is the second time that a Norwegian has been conferred with the Kaanib ng Bayan Award under the Presidential Award. The Ma’Ma Children’s Center of Norway was awarded in 2006.

About Joakim Persson

Freelance business and lifestyle photojournalist

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