You can’t see the Great Wall of China from space, not with your untrained eye, anyway. But a hike along its jagged steps is still possibly the most intoxicating journey you’ll ever experience, as the winners of the 2014 Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards have found out.
Never mind if this southern side of the Great Wall’s Juyongguan Pass has already been mostly restored, looking more polished compared to its northern entrance. The eight winners gleefully explored the stretch of craggy stone patchwork ahead, soaking in more than 2,000 years of history.
The hike up looked daunting enough from a distance, but traversing its irregular, rugged footpath was a formidable ambition—especially for the regular tourist. How armored soldiers then, with heavy metal breastplates, leather clothing and all, ran up and down its uneven steps during an attack was beyond us.
And up the journalists went all the way to the peak, with some going even farther to check out more beacon towers, China’s oldest “messaging” system. (They would be lighted fiery red to warn villagers on impending invasion in the evenings, or made to pump a stream of black smoke in the day.)
“It’s something you do only once in your life,” said Liberty Pinili, an editor from Sun.Star Cebu whose three-part story, “Fish in troubled waters,” co-authored with the paper’s managing editor, Cherry Ann T. Lim, was awarded Agriculture Story of the Year.
The Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards, launched in 2007 by Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. (PMPMI) and now continued under Philip Morris International Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) when the company joined forces with Fortune Tobacco Corp. in 2010, is an annual journalism competition highlighting the most relevant agriculture stories in print, radio and television.
Late last year, in a formal ceremony, the winners were awarded trophies, cash and iPad minis (for the top prizes). Awardees have always been treated to Asian trips. The previous years have seen the Top 3 winners visiting Vietnam or Bali, Indonesia. This year, Bright Leaf feted all winners with a three-day, all-expense-paid trip to Beijing, China.
Winners included: Inquirer’s double-winner Gabriel Cardinoza, Tobacco Story of the Year (“Pangasinan farmers pin hopes on tobacco”) and Best Agriculture News Story National (“Carabao vanishing in Pangasinan”); Baguio Midland Courier’s photojournalist Harley Palangchao, Agriculture Photo of the Year (“Frostlandia”); BusinessMirror’s Mauricio Victa, Tobacco Photo of the Year (“Leaves of gold”);
Marid Agribusiness Magazine’s Henrylito Tacio, Best Agriculture Feature Story National (“The prospects of swine industry in the Philippines”); Sun.Star Cebu’s Flornisa Gitgano, Best Agriculture News Story Regional (“Cold weather’s toll now P26 million); dxND’s anchor Malu Cadelina Manar, Best Radio Program or Segment (“Panahon”); and ABS-CBN’s Ruben Gonzaga, Best TV Program or Segment (“Father’s Day Episode”).
On the trip with them were PMFTC officers and staff, led by director for external affairs Bayen Elero, director for fiscal and regulatory affairs Chita Herce, communications manager Dave Gomez, Didet Danguilan, and communications specialist Marco Angelo Eugenio.
For some awardees, the Beijing excursion was their first trip abroad. After checking in at the five-star luxury hotel Sofitel Wanda, though, they knew they were in for a treat.
The itinerary mostly followed the touristy route, visiting, apart from the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and stopping by the Olympic Green Village to take a quick look—and selfie—at the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube structures.
But the Bright Leaf team had even better plans. After nourishing their souls with Chinese history, they were wined and dined at some of Beijing’s finest restaurants, including a well-plated 10-course meal at Da Dong Roast Duck, listed on CNN Travel’s 20 Best Beijing Restaurants; Capital M for Riesling, Medoc and steaks; and the Michelin-star-awarded chain, Din Tai Fung, for some of its highly regarded dim sum.
“We saw the need of raising the issues, of putting into the public domain the concerns and development in agriculture. It is befitting we recognize the articles, both published and broadcasted on radio and TV, and the journalist behind it,” said Danguilan.
The judges are from the academe, government, industry and practicing journalists, who weeded through more than a thousand entries received last year, she said. All entries for judging bear only a special code to avoid biases.
At present, PMFTC is doing a road show in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to campaign for the awards, and to launch workshops and symposiums designed to complement the agriculture journalists’ careers. Last year, its first road show in Cebu paid off when the Queen City of the South took home three awards.
“The Bright Leaf serves as a channel in creating development consciousness in each region through journalism. We take them out on trips for them to gain experience and knowledge when they encounter a new culture,” she said.
The name Bright Leaf is culled from the vivid yellow leaves of Virginia tobacco, distinct for its flavor and aroma. Danguilan said its discovery once helped the struggling economy of North Carolina in the United States, hence it is a fitting name for the award.
Entries to the 9th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards are now accepted from professional Filipino journalists living in the Philippines, 18 years old and above. Only entries published or broadcasted between Sept. 1, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015, are eligible. Entries may be in English, Filipino or any regional dialect. Deadline for submission is Sept. 4.