Inquirer Stories, Photo Top Agri Journalism Awards
November 17, 2019

The Philippine Daily Inquirer won three awards, including the top prize, at the 13th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards on Friday.

Apart from winning Best Agricultural Story of the Year, the Inquirer also won in the Best Agricultural News Story (National) and Best Agricultural Photo of the Year categories.

The Bright Leaf Awards, launched in 2007 by Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. seeks to acknowledge journalists’ efforts in promoting and creating awareness on issues concerning agriculture.

Gracing Friday night’s ceremony at Fairmont Hotel in Makati City were Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. Inc. (PMFTCI) president Dennis Gorkun, LT Group president Michael Tan, award-winning writer Alfred Yuson who chairs the board of judges, Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David and chief photographer Rem Zamora (both also among the judges), and several veteran journalists.

Challenged sector

This year’s awardees, Gorkun said, focused on agricultural practices and innovations in the face of adversity in the increasingly challenged sector.

The Best Agricultural Story of the Year—“Farm tourism grows in Leyte Village,” by Inquirer correspondent Joey Gabieta—was about farmers of Villaconzoilo village who endeavored to turn their third-class municipality into a thriving tourist farm.

Bright Leaf cited Gabieta’s March 10 piece for shedding light on how the villagers were “able to recover from poverty and violence by consciously cultivating a growing interest in farming and tourism in the region.”

Gabieta’s story prevailed over the other winning entries in the competition’s 12 categories.

Veteran photojournalist Willie Lomibao won the Agricultural Photo of the Year for his photograph “Salt Harvest,” taken in Pangasinan province and published on June 21.

He was cited for “highlight(ing) traditional Philippine agricultural practices by showcasing its beauty, as well as the clarity of the photographer’s vision.”

Inquirer business reporter Karl Angelica Ocampo won Best Agricultural News Story (National) for her report, “In Nueva Ecija, farmers keep their chill as El Niño scorches.” Her work, published on April 29, featured the solar-powered irrigation systems that sustained the rice paddies amid the intense heat wave in the province.

‘Cusp of change’

“A number of entries was focused on the transformation happening in Philippine agriculture,” Gorkun said in his opening speech. “Philippine agriculture is at the cusp of change, and Bright Leaf is transforming as well.”

This year, Bright Leaf introduced a new category—Best Story in Tobacco Alternatives—which Gorkun said emphasized PMFTCI’s commitment to alternative tobacco products and technology. Louise Simeon of the Philippine Star was the category’s first winner.

Influencing policies

While agricultural issues may often seem “invisible,” Yuson said, the prestige of winning the Bright Leaf Award “is proof that your works are being read, and it is influencing the way policies are made and viewers and listeners think about agricultural concerns.”

“Your stories highlight the importance of scientific thinking and research, showcase the resilience and survival instincts of the men and women who perform the work necessary to keep the industry alive,” Yuson said.

Apart from a cash prize, a new iPad and an all-expense paid trip to an Asian country, the awardees also receive a leaf-shaped trophy designed by artist Jodinand Aguillon and inspired by the Bulakeños’ paper-cutting craft called “pabalot.”

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