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Golden harvest for agricultural journalists


by Henrylito D. Tacio

Last July 28, the winners of the 14th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards were finally named after several months of waiting.

A timely piece that chronicles how local farmers are faring against the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law was chosen as Agriculture Story of the Year.  Philippine Star’s Louise Maureen Simeon won the coveted award for her article, “A year into tariffication, farmers feel worse off.”

Two journalists won two awards each. Cai Ordinario’s article entitled, “Gold leaf farming sector still searching for own El Dorado,” which discusses the country’s tobacco farm industry, was adjudged Tobacco Story of the Year. Another article she wrote, “Pre- and Post-Rice Trade liberalization law, big traders gaming farmer groups,” which details how Filipino farmers were affected by the rice trade liberalization law, was named Best Agriculture Story, National. Both articles were published in Business Mirror.

Former winner Frank Cimatu, who’s from Baguio, also took home two awards. He won the Best Agriculture Feature Story, Regional, for his story “How not to be dumped in February: Notes on tomato dumping,” which recounts the effects of the quarantine on the Cordillera farming industry. His other award, Best Story in Tobacco Product Alternatives, was for the article, “Philippine tobacco industry may also produce our first aid COVID-19 Vaccine.”

The Best Agriculture Feature Story, National, was won by Karl Angelica R. Ocampo for her work on the news story “MovefoodPH serves needs of both food producers, consumers,” which talks about an initiative that provides an online avenue for local food producers.

“Urban Farming Gaining Ground Amid Pandemic,” which discussed how urban farming can help one become self-sufficient, won for Sunstar Bacolod’s Erwin Nicavera the Best Agriculture News Story, Regional.

The Best Online Story award, a fairly new category that was instituted only in 2018, received many submissions. Vina Medenilla, content producer for Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture section (www.agriculture.com.ph) wins in this category for her story that illustrates how agriculture-tourism transformed idle land into a productive and sustainable enterprise for its community.

Two photographers, both previous winners, were again honored for their awesome photos. Wilfredo Lomibao of Sunday Punch (Dagupan) and the Philippine Daily Inquirer clinched the Tobacco Photos of the Year for his image, “Ocean of Gold Leaves,” which depicts a farmer drying tobacco leaves in Alcala, Pangasinan.

The Agriculture Photo of the Year which shows cardinal fish being dried on Halian Island in Surigao del Norte. Entitled “Fish Drying” and published in Business Mirror, it won for Erwin Mascariñas, a photojournalist from Mindanao, the Agriculture Photo of the Year.

Radio and television also have their fair share of winners. GMA Channel 7 blocktimer program Agriprenuer bagged Best Agriculture TV Program or Segment, for their segment “Agriculture Technical Institute, from arms to farms” produced by Team MMPI.

Rose Malekchan of DZWT 540 Radyo Totoo was named winner of Best Agriculture Radio Program or Segment for her piece “Polig Family Propagates Wild Berries, in the Kumpletos sa Rekados program.

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas, an agricultural journalist of Business Mirror, was named Oriental Leaf Award recipient. He has won five Bright Leaf Awards in various categories throughout the years. He now joins the prestigious Bright Leaf Hall of Fame with other previous outstanding awardees.

This year’s chairman of the board of judges was Krip Yuson, a columnist of Philippine Star. “It is during these times of uncertainty and despair when our desire for creativity is on fire,” the multi-awarded writer said.

Returning judges were former Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnist Rina Jimenez-David, University of Santo Toma Assistant Director for Creative Writing Ralph Gallan, advertising and fashion photographer Francis Abraham, columnist Albert Gamboa, PDI columnist Jake Maderazo, UP professor for Creative Writing Isabelita Reyes, Business Mirror digital content manager Ed Sallan, and PDI Inquirer photo editor Rem Zamora.

The two additional judges, both new, were Yvette Tan, Editor in Chief of Agriculture Monthly Magazine, and Manila Bulletin’s Agriculture Section Editor, and Kristine Bersamina, Managing Editor for Philstar.com.

The Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards has gone a long, long way. “What started out with less than a hundred entries during its inaugural year has evolved into thousands of entries scrutinized by top caliber judges looking for the best agriculture journalism has to offer for the year,” said the press statement.

In its 14th year, more than 600 entries competed for the chance to be called the best of the best in this annual competition that honors excellent stories and photos that are published, aired, or broadcast in print, radio, TV, and for the first time, online.

“This year’s theme, ‘Reimagining our tomorrow’ is very apt for us, at PMFTC and the Bright Leaf community. Our agility to adapt and pivot were tested in this unprecedented global crisis,” said PMFTC President Denis Gorkun.

The Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards continues to acknowledge the efforts of the Filipino journalists who painstakingly cover important issues to place one of the most important industries in the spotlight. 

According to PMFTC Communications Director Dave Gomez, the annual awards aims to uplift the agriculture industry by honoring the journalists who bring to the fore the issues of the agriculture workers to the general public.

“Your stories are the stories that matter to us,” Gomez said. “Your eyes are our window to our farmers’ plight. Your masterpieces are a reminder of the industry concerns we should pay attention to.”

To all winners, congratulations!

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