By Jofelle P. Tesorio, ABS-CBN News

THE HAGUE – Two Filipinas were recently given the highest award in The Netherlands for doing volunteer work for poor children in their homeland and compatriots here for more than 20 years.
On Friday, Cecilia Francisco-Lansang from Utrecht and Corazon van Campenhout-Alarcon from Schiedam received special calls from their mayors on the good news: they are both awardees of this year’s Koninklijke onderscheidingen (Royal honors), a yearly recognition for personal and special merits for individuals. It is awarded by the sitting monarch to any Dutch citizens or foreign nationals who have served the Netherlands.
Francisco-Lansang, 70, was awarded the Ridder van Oranje Nassau (Knight of the Order of the House of Orange) for her work as founder and pastor for the Word International Ministries (WIM) for 24 years and for her other volunteer works.
She started organizing meetings for Filipino migrants at her home in 1995. These meetings grew into community churches and became registered as Stichting (Foundation) WIM-Netherlands.
“The way in which the church is arranged in the Netherlands serves as a blueprint for the other WIN churches in Europe,” according to the recognition by the City of Utrecht.
Since 2006, she has also been active as the European coordinator at the Center for Sowing Seeds of Hope Netherlands, a feeding and education program for poor children in the Philippines, and has been a volunteer at the Bayanihan Foundation, Center for Filipino Women in the Netherlands since 1993.
“One of the help I extend is to counsel and help victims of violence and bring them to a safe place, if necessary and also leading workshop groups during training and also as a speaker on special occasions,” she said in a messenger interview.
Francisco-Lansang came to The Netherlands in 1995 to join her husband who fled the Marcos dictatorship. Helping and leading people runs in her blood.
“I am from Malolos, Bulacan, and my great, great grandmothers in Bulacan are part of the Women of Malolos group that Rizal wrote about,” she said.
She shares the award to her ministry and their networks like St. Havenlicht, a Dutch organization ministering to seafarers in the Netherlands and a partner organization of WIM in helping Filipino seafarers.
Meanwhile, Van Campenhout-Alarcon, 74, was awarded the Lid van Oranje Nassau (Member of the Order of the House of Orange) for her 33 years as a volunteer and board member of Bayanihan Foundation and as co-founder and board member of WIM.
She came to the Netherlands in 1986 to marry her Dutch husband Dirk whom she met in the Philippines while volunteering in Bacolod City. She was a teacher and activist who resisted martial law, promoting teachers’ rights then, serving as chairperson of the Alliance of Negros Teachers and Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
“A volunteer from the very beginning, she is a true pioneer who has been selflessly committed to Filipino women in the Netherlands for over 27 years,” according to her city’s recognition.
In a messenger interview, she said she was surprised by the call from the mayor and did not expect to get the award, adding that what she’s been doing is her duty to help her kababayans (countrymen).
Van Campenhout-Alarcon has served in various capacities in different Filipino organizations in the Netherlands such as the Kapisanan ng Sambayanang Pilipino (KSP), Damayan, Bayanihan, and other local Dutch volunteer organizations.
Her husband Dirk said she deserves the recognition.

“I am happy she got the award after 33 years… After we married in October 1986 she started to become active in different Filipino organizations. Mostly she is involved in helping Filipinas with all kinds of problems. In the background, I’ve been helping her with the things she is not able to do, like work on the computer or contacting government agencies. Hundreds of mostly women were helped or supported by Cora. She really deserves this decoration.”
The Koninklijke onderscheidingen (Royal honors) are awarded by King Willem Alexander through the mayors who come personally to the awardees’ homes. They read recognition awards and pin Royal medals and ribbons to the recipients. The process of nomination takes months where each selection is carefully validated.
Other Filipinos who have received the honor were Zenaida ‘Wads’ Wijnberg, Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza and Myrla Danao.
The award is usually announced the day before King’s Day (April 27). The awardees are gathered in a formal awarding reception in each city. However, the rites will be moved to later this year due to COVID-19 measures. Friends and families of the two Pinay awardees instead arranged online celebratory meetings with them.

(This article is originally published by ABS-CBN News: