NEW YORK, NY — A pediatric surgeon and a theatrical director from New York were among the recipients of the prestigious Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas conferred by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in a ceremony held at the Rizal Hall in Malacanang on December 5.
Dr. Francisca Tolete-Velcek, chief of Pediatric Surgery at Long Island College Hospital and Jorge Ortoll, executive director of Ma-Yi Theater Company, were chosen by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas for the Pamana ng Pilipino Awards which included Allan “Apl.de.Ap” Pineda of the Black Eyed Peas, Hollywood fashion designer Dianne Monique Lhuillier and Miami Heat coach Fil-American Erik Spoelstra, Mary Jane Al-Mahdi, CEO of the biggest testing laboratory in the Middle East; Dr. Delia Amaya, food technology expert in Brazil; Dr. Samuel Bernal, cancer specialist and lawyer who pioneered in stem cell research; Dr. Antonio Fernando III, an expert in the field of sleep medicine in New Zealand; Almira Astudillo Gilles, award-winning writer of children’s books; and Dr. Ruth Elynia Mabanglo, professor of Filipino language and culture in Hawaii.
Velcek is a highly experienced doctor who specializes in Pediatric Surgery as certified by the American Board of Surgery. She received her medical degree from the University of the Philippines in 1966 and completed her general surgical residency training at St. Clare’s Hospital Medical Center, New York City in 1971. She also completed her pediatric surgery fellowship training at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1975.
Velcek has published 44 scientific articles in international peer-reviewed medical and surgical journals. Velcek has delivered 155 lectures in national and international meetings. As chair of the medical missions committee of U.P. Medical Society in America (UPMASA), and has led medical-surgical missions to various areas of Philippines. She has also participated in multiple medical missions in Eastern Europe and South America.
Her research interests include Hirschsprung’s Disease, Spleen Immunology, Pediatric Trauma and Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Velcek has earned respect from her peers and was recognized with the Warren Wetzel Award for Excellence in Teaching from SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Sergio Award from Healing the Children Foundation, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.P. Medical Alumni Society in America (UPMASA).
She is consistently recognized by Castle Connolly America’s Top Doctors as one of the top medical specialists “throughout the U.S. and also in New York Metro Area who possess a high level of medical skill and expertise.” “Doctors included in Castle Connolly’s Top Doctor lists are selected after peer nomination, extensive research and careful review and screening by their doctor-directed research team. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be listed as a Castle Connoly Top Doctor.”
In addition, Velcek is a recipient of the Patients’ Choice Award as well as the Compassionate Doctor Recognition.
On the other hand, according to his profile in the Ma-yi Theater Company’s Website, Ortoll, “is an actor, director and stage manager, assumed the position of Executive Director for Ma-Yi Theater Company in 1991,” which was founded in 1989. Ma-yi’s primary mission is to develop and produce innovative plays by Asian American writers in New York City. He has worked with National Asian American Theatre Company, La Mama ETC, Public Theater, Manila Theatre Guild, Tanghalang Pilipino, Repertory Philippines, and Terre de Scene in Liguge, France, among others.
He also has served as panelist for the Nancy Quinn Fund of the Alliance of Resident Theaters in New York, and has represented the United States in the bi-annual conventions of ITI (International Theater Institute of UNESCO) in Athens (2002), Tampico, Mexico (2004) Manila (2006), and Madrid (2008). He was the sole invited representative of the U.S. at the Committee of Cultural Development Conference for Latin America held in Santa Marta, Colombia in September 2007. He was part of the steering committee of the First National Asian American Theater Conference in Los Angeles in June 2006, and one of three members of the executive committee that organized the highly successful First National Asian American Theater Festival held in New York City from June 11 to 24, 2007.
Ortoll holds an MBA degree from Columbia University and a B.A. in Economics and Accounting from Holy Cross College.
Among works produced for Ma-Yi nclude Wave by Sung Rno, Last of the Suns by Alice Tuan; The Romance of Magno Rubio by Lonnie Carter, The Square, Watcher and Middle Finger by Han Ong; L’il Brown Brothers by Chris Millado, Brecht’s Mother Courage And Her Children, adapted by Rodolfo Carlos Vera, Peregrinasyon by Chris Millado, Theory of Everything by Prince Gomolvilas, A Portrait of the Filipino As An Artist by Nick Joaquin, Flipzoids by Ralph Pena, and Pinaytalk by Chris Millado.
Meanwhile, recipients of the Banaag Award, which are given to Filipinos or associations who contributed to the promotion and advancement of interests of Filipino communities, were engineer Carlito Alpay, lawyer Imelda Argel, Tomas Avendaño Sr., Rafael Castaños, the Filipiniana-Europa V.Z.W., the Filipino Community of Seattle; the Filipino Digerati Association; Luzviminda Micabalo; Al Perez Jr., Lt. Eric Michael Quema, Robert Santos, the Stichting Bayanihan, and Ma. Luzviminda Tsai.
Two foreigners—Israeli medical specialist Dr. Gonen Haba and German reconstructive surgeon Dr. Christian Loehlein—received the Kaanib ng Bayan Award for their significant contribution to Philippine reconstruction, progress and development.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Manuel Cacdac, Dr. Christopher Guerrero and the Aguman Kapampangan UK received the Lingkod sa Kapwa Filipino Awards for their exceptional contribution to the progress and development in the country.
There are four categories in the Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, one of which is the Pamana ng Pilipino Award.
The other three are the Kaanib ng Bayan Award, the Banaag Award, and the Lingkod sa Kapwa Pilipino (LINKAPIL) Award.
The Pamana ng Pilipino award, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, are awarded to overseas Filipinos “who, in exemplifying the talent and industry of the Filipino, have brought the country honor and recognition through excellence and distinction in the pursuit of their work or profession.”
Since the start of the Presidential Awards in 1991, around 338 Filipino individuals and organizations from 44 countries have been conferred the honor.
Pamana ng Pilipino Awardees — Dr. Francisca Velcek (L) and Jorge Ortoll (R)