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THE FILIPINO OF THE YEAR is the Inquirer’s way of applauding a living Filipino individual or group who made the biggest positive impact on the life of the nation in the year just past.

Established in 1991, the honor first went to Raymundo Punongbayan, since passed on, for his heroic and single-handed efforts to save lives and educate Filipinos during the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions. An exception was made in 2004 when the Inquirer editors voted almost unanimously for presidential candidate and movie king Fernando Poe Jr., a few days after he died.

For 2009, the “Ondoy” volunteers and donors emerged as the predominant choice, earning 20 of the 36 votes cast by editors and assistant editors, from among six nominees.

THEY WERE LIFESAVERS TO THE multitudes who struggled to keep their heads and hopes above water, whether against the torrents of destruction or the slow currents of despair. They were the volunteers and donors who, in countless ways, helped the battered populace—and the nation’s downcast spirit—recover from the devastation wrought by Tropical Storm “Ondoy.”

The Inquirer salutes them as the 2009 Filipino of the Year.