Freedom Flames: Ignited by Hope and Love
Recipients of the Freedom Flames Award 2021, given by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, jointly dedicated their respective awards to the future of the Philippines. “In receiving this award, we’re renewing our commitment to build a nation of hopefuls,” said Leni Velasco, Executive Director of DAKILA, a network of artists and individuals that provides creative avenues to build a nation of heroes.
“Much of DAKILA’s work may strike others as loud, sharp, and fierce. But in truth, our work is guided by a strong sense of love, of tenderness to include, to serve, and to grow along with our communities,” expressed Velasco further.
Freedom Flames Award is a recognition given to individuals and organizations that work alongside the mission and values of Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and unwaveringly promote, defend, and increase freedom.
DAKILA is one of this year’s awardees together with AltMobility PH, a group of policy advocates passionate about making transport sustainable and inclusive; and +iMPACT Leadership, an organization working with the next generation of transformational leaders. DAKILA, AltMobility PH, and +iMPACT Leadership were recognized for leading social change, promoting smart mobility, and initiating meaningful engagement, respectively. The three groups accepted the Freedom Flame Award at the online event “Restart: A Celebration of Hope and Freedom” on 12 November 2021.
AltMobility PH has been in the forefront in the push to pass the Commuters Bill of Rights in Congress, and guarantee “safe, convenient, and affordable commute with dignity.” Ira Cruz, Director of AltMobility PH, explained that the majority of households in the country do not even own a car. “We want to allow people the freedom of mobility, access to livelihood and even opportunity - the basics in life that are not there for people that need it the most,” Cruz pointed out.
Cruz highlighted the work that AltMobility PH has done with local government units. “Little by little, we started seeing changes in our cities, maybe not as fast as we wish it would progress, but changes nonetheless,” remarked Cruz. “We continue to fight for a better city, one that is made for the majority of people,” he added.
Ivan Picazo, Executive Director of +iMPACT Leadership, acknowledged that the Internet has become a battleground for change especially during the pandemic. “As a youth organizer and advocate, we had to accept the fact that digital organizing is ground organizing,” articulated Picazo. “Our team believes that institutional changes start from and with personal relationships. With the pandemic, we adjusted to find a way to maintain the personal touch in our online activities,” he shared.
Picazo mentioned that +iMPACT always tries to create content that altogether informs, entertains, and transforms. “We provide information that can prompt people, especially the youth, to think about current issues; that would make them realize that they will be in charge of the country in a few years, so they might as well have a hand in its future right now,” stated Picazo.
Velasco echoed the need to balance messages and creativity. DAKILA organizes film showings. Velasco stressed that they choose movies based on their resonance as a creative medium. “At the end of the day, it’s still art, but we do believe that every film – may it be experimental, horror, or romcom, can always be presented in the lens of humanity. And I think that's the power of film,” described Velasco. “Art doesn't directly confront, but it doesn't mean it's less effective. Sometimes it's more powerful to be subtle and to wrap it up with creativity,” she continued. “We remain steadfast in our aspiration that we will be able to push our causes in the future up until DAKILA, ActiveVista, and all of us here are not needed anymore,” Velasco concluded.
“Because of the pandemic, the past months have been extremely challenging. Nevertheless, you have remained in the frontline to provide platforms for people not only to experience but to empower them to step up for real freedoms,” said Friedrich Naumann Foundation Philippines Country Director Rebecca Zistel.