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Science awards for media personalities

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by Henrylito D. Tacio

(Author’s Note: This article came out in 2018 in Edge Davao. We are reprinting it here for the record)

I have been writing science features and reports since 1986, the year when I joined a non-government organization. Actually, I was inspired to write science stories after attending a workshop convened by the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) in Davao City. They came to the center and one of the organizers invited me to join after knowing that I was a freelance journalist.

At first, I started focusing on agricultural stories for Greenfields and Agribusiness Weekly. Later on, I branched out to environmental features as some issues were related to agriculture like soil erosion, deforestation, and biodiversity. Most of these stories came out in a weekly dispatch distributed by the Press Foundation of Asia.

After writing a story on the problems of pesticide use in the Philippines, I began unearthing some health stories in relation to agriculture and environment. It was a matter of time that I discovered the global issues of climate change, water crisis, and degradation of coral reefs. Most of my features and articles were published in various newspapers (Philippine Daily Inquirer, MalayaManila Chronicle and Bulletin Today) and magazines (Mod, Woman’s Home Companion, Express Week, Philippine PanoramaFocus PhilippinesWoman TodayPhilippine Free Press, Philippines Graphic, and Mr. & Ms.).

In Davao City, I commenced writing agricultural stories and inspirational features for Ang Peryodiko Dabaw (with Antonio M. Ajero as editor-in-chief). I continued doing so when the paper was renamed as Sun.Star Davao.

Before leaving for the United States to write a technical paper on water and population – with award-winning book author and journalist, Donald “Don” Hinrichsen in 2000 – I was already writing stories based on researches conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), mostly those being conducted by the scientists from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.

Since then, I received several journalism awards, including the Hall of Fame in science reporting from PPI in 1998 and Journalist of the Year from the Rotary Club of Manila. There were also other recognitions from various award-giving bodies.

Recently, I got a recognition from the DOST through its Bantog: The Science for the People Media Awards. “We are pleased to inform you that you have been chosen to receive the Bantog Media Professional Award for Media Practitioner in Print,” wrote Dr. Richard P. Burgos, the director of DOST’s Science and Technology Information Institute.

I was excited to hear the news since I had never received any award from DOST. But then, there were three winners to be named and I didn’t know which place I won. “Winners will be known during the awarding ceremony,” Ma. Lilibeth P. Padilla, the project manager of the Bantog team.

The awarding was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. The invitation said the program will start at 11 in the morning and so I was at the center 30 minutes earlier. “Better early than late,” I told myself.

Also, at 10:30, I received a text from my friend, Miguel Ongpin, whom I invited to attend the awarding ceremony. He said he was “a mere few meters from Roxas Boulevard.” At 10:50, he texted again: “Okay, I am here outside.” He parked his car, went inside and then asked: “Do I register.”

I was supposed to answer him back when I saw him in front of me. It was my first time meeting him in person. We “talked” and exchanged notes and ideas through our Facebook accounts. It was great to see him in person and for him to watch me to receive my first award from DOST.

Since I didn’t know who the winners were, I kept silent. I was assured to get third place with a P25,000 cash prize to go with the trophy and plaque. So, when the Outstanding S&T Journalist for Print was called, I was ready to claim third place. But the host announced the name of Paul M. Icamina, my former science editor and now writing for Malaya Business Insight.

I was now excited. I may settle for second place and get a P50,000 cash prize, the same amount which my friend Ian O. Flores got for winning the Outstanding Regional Media Practitioner. He is a consistent winner in the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Award (BLAJA) and writes for Sun.Star Pampanga.

True enough, I got second place for my article that came out in Marid Agribusiness Digest. This was my second journalism award for the magazine; some years earlier, I got the Best National Feature Story for my pig story in the BLAJA.

Winning the coveted P100,000 cash prize was Stephanie B. Tumampos for her article that came out in Business Mirror.

Bantog, which means eminent in English, defines “the radiance of the stars or prominent individuals in their respective fields of practice.” It recognizes the important role of media practitioners (print, radio, television and online) in government and private practice, who made significant contributions to the promotion of science and technology information.

The recognition was patterned after the first S&T Media Awards – also known as the Dr. Jose L. Guerrero Awards held in 2012. It has four categories: Institutional Media Award, Outstanding S&T Journalist Award, Outstanding Regional Media Practitioner, and Outstanding Information Officer Award.

All in all, 47 entries were received by the Bantog Awards team. They were given to the board of judges composed of Reynaldo H. Hulog, executive director of Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas; Queena N. Lee-Chua, professor of the school of science and engineering at the Ateneo de Manila University; Raymund Enriquez Liboro, commissioner of the National Privacy Commission; Erwin Lemuel Oliva, head of the content management for Digital Marketing of Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company; Ramon R. Osorio, vice president and head of corporate communications of ABS-CBN Corporation; and Ma. Theresa H. Velasco, dean of the college of development communication at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.

“Just to give recognition and convey appreciation to our media on the important contribution they are making to create more awareness on the importance and on opportunities offered by science and technology,” Science Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña said when asked about the relevance of the 2018 Bantog Awards.

“You are our bearer of good news, ensuring that the right information is received where and when it is needed,” the science secretary said in his message. “Through the years, you have been our reliable partners, fully committed to giving information that will prove beneficial to our people.” – ###

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