2018 Dr. Jose Rizal Award Program Recognize Outstanding Fil-Am Youth

“What does Dr. Jose Rizal’s poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, mean to you? Imagine that you were Dr. Jose Rizal and had one last chance to share advice to your fellow countrymen, what advice would you give?”

These were the questions posed to Filipino American students from the Washington DC area, who participated in this year’s Dr. Jose Rizal Youth Awards. For the selection process, all candidates were asked to submit a video reflection and a personally written poem on Dr. Rizal’s poem “Mi Ultimo Adios” or My Last Farewell.

Eight (8) outstanding students were recognized at the annual awards ceremonies held at the Philippine Chancery Annex on February 9. They are: (Elementary) Ashley Lea Cabanayan Shrestha; (Middle School) Katherine Gillen, Arabella Palor, and Benedict Hilario; (High School) Patrick Aguda and Sarah Menchaves; and (College) Natalia Fernandez and Franz Jeremy Sandil.

The annual youth awards, organized by the Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC) and in partnership for the first time with Sentro Rizal Washington DC, aims to recognize Fil-Am students for their academic excellence, leadership, and volunteerism within their communities.

In her opening remarks, PAFC President Krystle Canare told the honorees that they are “the inspiring youth leaders of our community” who “model the way for what a more just society will look like in our future.” She encouraged them to “Continue to learn, continue to listen and continue to lead, because leaders live in the future and lead us into a better tomorrow.”

Atty. Ed Logan, a renowned member of the community through his expertise as a lobbyist and humanitarian work, also gave an inspirational speech for the awardees and guests.

“We must strive to educate ourselves with the truth of what is right and what is good,” Logan reminded the awardees of the importance of education and of serving a life with a purpose just like Dr. Jose Rizal.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, Canare, and Mr. Ramon Antonio Paterno, co-founder of the Dr. Jose Rizal Youth Awards Day, handed out the certificates to the awardees. They were assisted by PAFC Vice President John Victoria, who served as emcee. He also led the selection committee for the 26th Dr. Jose Rizal Youth Awards.

“Jose Rizal placed great importance on the youth. On the one hand, he inspires an unwavering belief in the ability of young people to learn from the experiences of their elders and in their courage to initiate changes. On the other hand, Dr. Rizal continues to exhort the present generation to instill the right values in their children and make sure that they grow up to be productive and upstanding members of society,” Ambassador Romualdez said in his closing remarks.

GMA Pinoy TV is a major sponsor of the awards program. Awardees and their families enjoyed light refreshments at the conclusion of the formal ceremony

“Stand Up for your Rights!”

To the question, “Imagine that you were Dr. Jose Rizal and had one last chance to share advice to your fellow countrymen, what advice would you give?” the following are some responses:

Award Recipients Profiles:


Ashley Lea Cabanayan Shrestha is a 5th grade student at Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Glenarden, MD, where she received the Principal’s Award for Academic Excellence, Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Math, and Honor Roll. Ashley is an award-winning violist at her school and Prince George’s County Kids Symphony Orchestra. She participated in Destination Imagination and is a volunteer for Mabuhay, Inc. Ashley is the daughter of Aanand and Glenda Shrestha.


Katherine Gillen is an 8th grade student at Gustin Middle School in Arlington, VA, where she received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence in Recognition of Outstanding Academic Excellence, Certificate of Excellence for the Spanish immersion program, and “A” Honor Roll for the entire school year. Katherine is a member of the National Junior Honor Society, Lightning soccer team, and Nikes basketball team. Katherine is also recognized for her artistic talents, having participated in multiple recitals and festivals for piano for over ten years and directed three films that were officially selected for Arlington Student Film fest. Katherine is the daughter of William and Maria Eden H. Gillen.

Benedict Hilario Benedict is a 6th grade student at St. Joseph’s Regional Catholic School in Beltsville, MD. where he received Student of the Quarter & First Honors for the entire year, 2nd place in the annual religion bee, winner of the Zener-Bloser National Handwriting contest, and academic excellence award recipient in the subjects of advanced math, science, social studies, and language arts. He is a class representative for student council and member of the safety patrol, calligraphy club, and recycling club. Outside of school, Benedict serves as an altar server at St. Joseph’s Parish Church and an honors student at Marilou Padilla Gallardo’s Piano studio. Benedict is the son of Anthony R. Hilario and Irma C. Hilario.

Arabella Palor is an 8th grade student at St. Columba School in Oxon Hill, MD, where she received Principal’s Honors for the entire year and 1st place in the science fair. Arabella served as class president, a member of the student council, quiz bowl, math team, safety patrol, and varsity soccer team. Arabella is active in her community as a choir, lector, & altar server at St. Columba Parish, member of the Archdiocesan Honors Band, member of Yoyo Inc.’s Hulala group, Youth for Christ, and volunteer for Ft. Washington’s Nursing Home and Arnold House Homeless Shelter. Arabella has received recognition as a Johns Hopkins Gifted and Talented Student, won 3rd place in a national essay competition for veterans, and won the conservation award for the Junior Division County Science fair. Arabella is the daughter of Christopher and Dulce Palor.


Patrick Aguda is a 10th grader at James Madison High School in Vienna, VA, where is received a certificate of recognition for academic excellence for a 4.0+ GPA the entire year. Patrick is an active volunteer in the community, volunteering for Wreaths Across America in Arlington Cemetery, Her Dogs, Inc Kennel Cleaning, and Our Lady of Good Counsel’s Simbang Gabi holiday services. Patrick is a member of the robotics club. American Red Cross, and Bethesda’s All-Stars Youth Bowling League. Patrick is the son of Leandro T. Aguda and Pacita B. Aguda.

Sarah Menchavez is an 11th grader at Riverside High School in Leesburg, VA, where she is a member of the National Honor Society and received an academic letter for having a GPA above 4.3. Sarah was captain of her Varsity Cross Country team and a member of various sports teams and clubs such as: Varsity Track and Field, Endorphin Fitness Triathlon, Science National Honor Society, Riverside High School Triathlon Club, Students for a Cure, and Spanish National Honor Society. Sarah is the daughter of Celestino and Melissa Menchavez.


Natalia Fernandez is a Freshman majoring in Business at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she received a presidential academic scholarship for $18,000 and was recognized on the Dean’s list for the entire year. Natalia is a member of the George Washington University Philippine Cultural Society, worked as a swimming instructor for children, and earned advance placement exam credit in Psychology. Natalia is the daughter of Noel and Monica Fernandez.

Franz Jeremy Sandil is a Junior majoring in Health Care Management and Policy at Georgetown University. He is the president of Club Filipino at Georgetown and Deputy of Marketing for TEDx Georgetown. In 2017, Franz was selected to be a part of Kaya Collaborative, an organization that invests and tackles the underlying problems of economic dependence, social inequality, and migration in the Philippines through partnerships with various local social ventures. Franz is the son of Maria Cecilia Sandil and Philip Bernardo Sandil.

Congratulations again to the young leaders of the community. For more information on the Dr. Jose Rizal Youth Awards Program, contact communications@pafcdc.org.

Dr. Jose Rizal Youth Awards Programming Committee: (L-R) Brandon Bartolome, John Victoria (Event Chair), Krystle Canare, and Darrell Artates. Not Pictured: Lalie Gavino, Philippine Embassy Cultural Section Staff

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