In 2024, the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards Shines A New Light

17th Bright Leaf Agri Journalism Awards Now Open For Entries

Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards Shines A New Light In 2024

Bird Flu, Rice Consumption Stories Bring Bright Leaf Honors To BusinessMirror

FOR the second time in a row, the BusinessMirror, the country’s leading business newspaper, won two awards in a single year at the 12th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards.

This is the first time a single news outfit won two awards in two consecutive years since Bright Leaf began in 2007.

BusinessMirror’s 22-year-old reporter, Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas, bagged the Best Agriculture Feature Story (National) of the year, the same award he received last year from the award-giving body.

This year, jurors adjudged Arcalas’s story titled “Fowl farmers’ fears persist 1 year after bird flu flare-up: PHL poultry raisers on ground zero still coping,” as worthy of honor.

The story focused on the outbreak of the Avian Influenza (AI), which began in Pampanga, and the lives of the poultry raisers a year after the tragedy. It also unveiled the plans and reforms the government would undertake to ensure a better response to future AI outbreaks.

The article was also the BusinessMirror’s first multimedia story as the business paper ventures into the digital age of reportage.

The story “Snapshot of rice-consumption data remains grainy as Pinoys grapple with supply, prices,” which Arcalas coauthored with his senior reporter Cai U. Ordinario won the Best Agriculture News Story (National). This is Ordinario’s first Bright Leaf award and adds to her third-straight Best Macroeconomy Reporter award from the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines.

The article focused on the data challenges in food consumption in the Philippines, particularly on rice consumption. The story revealed the government uses two conflicting data sets to determine rice consumption nationwide.

“Beyond the simple recitation of facts that are uncovered by those practicing agriculture journalism, there is the engagement between tone and diction and, above all, the provision of new knowledge and awareness that are anchored on science,” writer and Philippine Star columnist Krip Yuson said in his speech at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati City. Yuson is the head of the panel of judges for this year’s Bright Leaf Awards.

This year’s winners also included Henrylito Tacio of Edge Davao who bagged the Agriculture Story of the Year Award for his series, “The grass that feeds Filipinos.” The award for Tobacco Story of the Year—“Is tobacco the next ‘miracle crop’?”—went to SunStar Pampanga’s Ian Ocampo Flora.

Wilfredo Lomibao of Philippine Daily Inquirer claimed his trophy for his photo titled “Pond Harvest,” and Erwin Beleo of The Star Northern Dispatch was named the winner for Tobacco Photo of the Year for “Chill Only.”

Baguio City-based journalist Hanna Lacsamana won the Best Agriculture Feature Story-Regional for her story, titled “Making farming viable for millennials,” published in the Baguio Midland Courier,and Baguio Chronicle’s Karlston Lapniten’s “Brewing enough coffee for the Filipino Cup” was named Best Agriculture News Story-Regional.

For Best Agriculture TV Program or Segment, Agri Tayo Dito of ABS-CBN Regional was named winner for their four-part series on biotechnology.  Malu Manar of DXND Kidapawan was named winner of Best Agriculture Radio Program or Segment for the “Vermi Composting sa Urban Household” episode of the program Bida Specials.

Ma. Victoria Conde of Rappler won the first ever Best Online Story award for “How beekeeping helped a Sorsogon coconut farm.”

Selecting this year’s winners was a panel of judges composed of some of the country’s most respected names in photo, print, broadcast and online journalism, advertising and fashion photography and members of academe.

Joining Yuson in the panel of judges were Francis Abraham, Pennie Azarcon-de la Cruz, Rina Jimenez-David, J. Albert Gamboa, Jake Maderazo, Ramon Osorio, Isabelita Reyes, Edwin Sallan, Sev Sarmenta, Marby Villaceran and Rem Zamora.

SunStar Pampanga Scribe Is 1st Kapampangan In Journalism Hall Of Fame Award

PASAY CITY Multi-awarded reporter Ian Ocampo Flora was formally inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Bright Leaf Journalism awards, as he was presented with the Oriental Leaf Award in ceremonies held at Fairmont Hotel here.

Flora is the first Kapampangan to be part of the elite Bright Leaf Hall of Fame.

Dave Gomez, corporate communications manager of PMFTC, formally presented Flora with the award.

Flora is also a five-time winner of the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards. He won in the 7th Bright Leaf Journalism Awards 2013 for Best Agriculture Feature Story and Tobacco Story of the Year in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively. Flora's articles dealt with issues on adaptive climate change initiatives and the tobacco industry.

In 2018, Flora was the first regional winner of the Bantog: The Science for the People Media Awards given by the Department of Science and Technology-Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII).

Flora also bagged two of the major awards in the Philippine Agricultural Journalists-San Miguel Corp. (PAJSMC) "Binhi" Awards held at the Makati Diamond Residences in 2019.

Flora won first place in both categories of Environment Journalist of the Year and first place for Agribeat Reporter of the Year. Flora's body of works in the said categories includes compelling articles on environmental conservation, as well as community news on agriculture, climate change and fisheries.

Flora also won the Climate Change Story of the Year for his story "Economic losses and lesser yield: Agriculture sector faces greatest impact from climate change," which detailed the economic impact of climate change in the agriculture and business sector of Region III.

In 2018, Flora was awarded second place for Environment Journalist of the Year and third place for Agricultural Journalist of the Year by the Binhi Awards. Flora was recognized for his articles in the field of environment, agriculture and climate change in 2017.

Flora also won the Best Agri Story of the Year for his article "Water Crisis by 2025: Pampanga groundwater source in danger." The article discussed the looming water problem in Central Luzon.

Flora covers the science and technology, agriculture, culture and arts, and provincial politics in Pampanga. He is also SunStar Pampanga's resident society columnist.

GMA News Agri Stories Win Big At 13th Bright Leaf Awards

Two agriculture stories produced by GMA News were recognized during the 13th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards held in Makati City over the weekend.

Published by GMA News Online, “A Very Long Summer” won the award for “Best Agriculture Online Story.” It was penned by Jessica Bartolome and Dona Magsino with compelling videos produced by Adrian Bantigue and Kristel Serrano.

The narrative followed the five-month journey of two rice farmers in Morong, Rizal in the face of a “mild” yet devastating El Niño.

As the farmers waited for rain, their story unraveled equally significant and pressing issues that grip the agriculture sector other than the dry spell.

On the other hand, the “Best Agriculture TV Program or Segment” was bagged by a special report by Tina Panganiban-Perez, “Drought in Numbers: Farmers Farming No More.”

This in-depth report, produced through the combined efforts of GMA News Special Assignments Team and GMA News Research, tackled the issue of why the Philippines—an agricultural country—faces the threat of losing the next generation of farmers as more youth move away from the fields amid the various challenges in the farming sector.

The two entries were among the 12 stories that stood out from 500 other entries in various categories for the 13th Bright Leaf Awards.

Organized by the PMFTC Inc. to recognize the contribution of media in raising awareness of the agricultural industry in the Philippines, the annual awards is judged by a pool of experts in the diverse fields of print, online, and broadcast journalism, photography, film-making, advertising, and the academe.

Dr. Isabelita Orlina Reyes, Francis Abraham, J. Albert Gamboa, Ralph Semino Galan, Edwin Sallan, Gabriel Fernandez, Rina Jimenez-David, Sev Sarmenta, Rem Zamora, and Jake Maderazo were led by award-winning writer Alfred “Krip” Yuson in the selection of winners as Chairman of the Board of Judges.

Yuson thanked the participants for putting their time and effort in producing exceptional content about the country’s agriculture sector.

“Your stories highlight the importance of scientific thinking and research in making sure that our farms and fisheries are able to withstand and survive during the harshest of weathers. You showcase the resilience and survival instincts of the men and women who perform the work necessary to keep the agriculture industry alive,” Yuson noted in his keynote speech. —VDS, GMA News

PMFTC To Launch IQOS By June Next Year, Bats For Government Regulation

HILIP MORRIS-FORTUNE Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) is gearing up for the Philippine launch of its smoke-free product, IQOS, in the first half of 2020.

This was announced by PMFTC President Denis Gorkun during a press conference at the sidelines of the 13th Bright Leaf Agricultural Journalism Awards held in Makati City on Friday, November 15. He said they were confident that IQOS will offer Filipino smokers “a much, much better alternative” to unsmoke.

Initially, the target market in the Philippines are cigarette smokers who buy cigarettes in packs. These account only about 14 percent of the estimated number of cigarette smokers in the country.  Majority of cigarette smokers buy per stick in retail stores. In the future, however, he said the company will find a way to make IQOS accessible to those who buy per stick.

“We are hopeful to launch it sooner than later.  I would like to see it in the first half of the year,” Gorkun said. IQOS, a tobacco heating system, will sooner or later replace PMFTC’s cigarette products in the Philippines, as the company embarks on the path to a smoke-free future.

Big challenge: tax

A bigger challenge faced by IQOS at the moment is the Philippine government’s plan to tax the electronic or e-cigarette industry.

Still, Gorkun is hopeful the tax increase will be gradual so as not to discourage people from making the shift from smoking cigarettes to using smoke-free products.

“Taxation is nothing new.  Taxation has to be taken with a gradual approach.  The key is to make sure that the tax increases are in line with GDP goals and inflation,” he said.

“The problem with cigarettes is combustion.  The tobacco is burned at a very high temperature which releases an enormous amount of chemicals,” he added.  IQOS, on the other hand, uses an electronically controlled heater. Like most e-cigarette devices, IQOS has a button that turns on the heater, giving the user a real taste of heated tobacco.

According to Gorkun, research and development of the product succeeded in allowing heated tobacco to minimize the release of chemicals, while insisting that the best thing for nonsmokers is not to start smoking; and for those who want to stop, the best option is still to quit smoking.

IQOS is billed as the most successful smoke-free product, with more than 12 million users around the world.  Around 9 million IQOS users have completely stopped smoking.

Philip Morris has 50 markets around the world, and it claims 13 million users have successfully stopped smoking.

Farmers won’t be dislodged

Meanwhile, Gorkun said the transition to a smoke-free Philippines will not adversely affect Filipino farmers, as Philip Morris’s smoke-free product works “very, very well with Filipino farmers.”

Real tobacco leaves will still be in demand with IQOS, he said.

“It is the same tobacco leaves used in cigarettes,” he said.

According to Gorkun, taxation on e-cigarettes, or smoke-free products like IQOS, must be proportionate to the risks, citing studies by the US Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Health of the United Kingdom declaring IQOS safe.

Filipino smokers, he added, should be encouraged to switch to a much, much better alternative. This means, he said, the taxation must be risk-proportionate so as not to make the alternative to cigarettes expensive.

“The taxation must be lower than cigarettes,” he reiterated.

Gorkun supports the idea of regulating e-cigarettes, like all other tobacco and nicotine products, so as to ensure the safety of the products and its use by Filipino consumers.

“The key for all nicotine and tobacco products is to be regulated.  A good example is the United Kingdom.  There are millions of people who use this product.  They need to be regulated appropriately.  But if we want to make the Philippines smoke-free, we need to make sure that the regulation allows us to talk to smokers and explain the product to them.  That is the key,” he said.

Judging The Palanca, BLAJA And Ginebra Ako Awards

A total of 56 writers, including 32 first-time awardees, received the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature on Nov. 8. Now in its 69th edition, the much-awaited Palanca Night was held at the traditional venue, the Rigodon Ballroom of Manila Peninsula Hotel. What broke tradition for the second straight year was the late date, more than two months past the customary First of September. Last year also saw a delay, till October.

The Palanca Foundation presented a posthumous award to Milagros Palanca-Furer, the initial proponent of the awards way back in 1950.

Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo received the Gawad Dangal ng Lahi and was guest of honor and speaker. She spoke eloquently on “Building a Bridge Between ‘Hard Literature’ and ‘Pop Fiction.’”

Veteran poet Lamberto E. Antonio was inducted into the Palanca Hall of Fame after winning his fifth First Prize Award with his entry, “Turno Kung Nokturno at iba pang Tiyempo ng Rilyebo sa Pagberso.” He became the 26th Palanca Hall-of-Famer.

Other big winners were Jerking Guzman Pingol with “Agaw-anino” for the Grand Prize for the Nobela and Reine Arcache Melvin for the Grand Prize for the Novel for The Betrayed, which AdMU Press’ Bughaw imprint has already published as a book.

Reine or “Bonnie” flew in for a few days from Paris where she works as an editor. In transit, she also got word that her first novel also won the National Book Award from NBDB/Manila Critics Circle.

Since the Novel and Nobela categories are only open every two years, it’s possible for a published title to be submitted as a Palanca entry. Given this consideration, the judges for the Novel — D.M Reyes, Sarge Lacuesta and this writer — have suggested that supplementary prizes be added to the Grand Prize, to allow strong contenders who submitted manuscripts better chances to also gain publication.

On behalf of the sponsors, Dang Cecilio-Palanca remarked:

“Creative writing demands unique perspectives, freshness of approach, strength of imagination, supreme use of language, and the sharing of human experience in an unforgettable manner.

“In this day and age, the challenges to writers have become even more formidable, as they have to contend with many other forms of communication that have become popular. But fiction, poetry, drama, screenplays and essays still present the greater opportunities to memorialize human conditions, whether in their utmost simplicity or inexhaustible complexity.”

Now in its 13th year, The Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards (BLAJA) were given last Friday, Nov. 15, at the Fairmont Hotel.

The top four prizes went to Joey Gabieta of PDI with “Farm Tourism Grows in Leyte Village” for Agriculture Story of the Year; Willie Lomibao of PDI with “Salt Harvest” for Agriculture Photo of the Year; Jasper Arcalas and Elijah Felice Rosales of Business Mirror with “Tax Thrust Threatens Tobacco Tillers’ Take” for Tobacco Story of the Year; and Laila Austria of Business Mirror with “Golden Leaves” for Tobacco Photo of the Year.

The other winners were: Amielle Ordoñez of GMA-7 with “Drought in Numbers: Farmers Farming No More” for Best Agriculture TV Program or Segment; Sheila Tubalinal of DZMM 630khz with “Sa Kabukiran” for Best Agriculture Radio Program or Segment; Karl Ocampo of PDI with “In Nueva Ecija, Farmers Keep Their Chill Even As El Niño Scorches” for Best Agriculture News Story - National; Ofelia Empion of Baguio Midland Courier with “Veggie Farmers Learn How to Migrate Frost” for Best Agriculture News Story – Regional; Jonathan Mayuga of Business Mirror with “Women of Bacoor’s Embattled Mussel Industry” for Best Agriculture Feature Story – National; Henrylito Tacio of Edge Davao with “Coconut: Major Export of Filipino Farmers” for Best Agriculture Feature Story – Regional; Jessica Bartolome and Donna Magsino of GMA News Online with “A Very Long Summer” for Best Online Story; and for the latest added category, Louise Maureen Simeon of The Philippine STAR with “Smoke-Free Puffing in the Philippines Soon? Philip Morris to Sell Heat-Not-Burn” for Best Story in Tobacco Alternatives.

For having won five awards as of last year, entering the BLAJA Hall of Fame as Oriental Leaf awardees were Karen Verrona of ABS-CBN Davao and Ian Ocampo Flora of SunStar Pampanga.

The judges were: Rina Jimenez David and Sev Sarmenta of PDI, Rem Zamora of ABS-CBN, Jake Maderazo of ABS-CBN and DZIQ Radyo Inquirer, Ed Sallan of Business Mirror, J. Albert Gamboa of Manila Bulletin and Manila Times, Isabelita Reyes of UP, Ralph Galan of UST, Gabriel Fernandez of DLS-CSB, photographer Francis Abraham, and this writer as chairman.

The third awards program I recently joined a board of judges for was the Ginebra Ako Awards — Pagkilala sa Tunay na Tapang at Husay ng Pilipino, now on its second year of recognizing and saluting the extraordinary accomplishments of exemplary Filipino individuals who embody the same values that Ginebra San Miguel embraces.

Invoking its popular campaign phrase “Ginebra Ako,” the nationwide search involved nominations for five categories: Ginebra Ako Para sa Kalikasan; … Para sa Kabataan; … sa Entablado; … sa Palakasan; and … sa Paglilingkod. 

A screening committee and a preliminary judging committee went through the nominations and came up with shortlists of three finalists per category, from which the board of judges selected the awardees.

The judges were: Mac Orendain, professor at the University of Makati; Winston Santiago, CCP director for Marketing and Mulanay Experiential, Inc. president; Nadia Abcede and Paulo Tupaz of Ginebra San Mguel, Inc., and this writer.

Awardees for each category will receive a trophy, a certificate of recognition and P100,000 at the Ginebra Ako Awards on Dec. 11. The live awarding event highlights the program as one of inspirational public service and social relevance.? Documentary-style features on the awardees will be amplified on TV and in social media.


3 Bright Leaf Honors For ‘BM’ Journos

THE BusinessMirror won three prizes—two of them in major categories—in the 13th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards.

The BusinessMirror bagged major awards for Tobacco Story of the Year and Tobacco Photo of the Year in this year’s run of the Bright Leaf awarding which was held on Friday (November 15) in Makati City.

It also took home the Best Agriculture Feature Story-National, providing the news outlet its eighth award in a span of one month.

The newspaper’s special report “Tax thrust threatens tobacco tillers’ take,” authored by Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas and Elijah Felice E. Rosales, was awarded Tobacco Story of the Year.

The story, published in the BusinessMirror’s Broader Look page in August, tackled the plight of tobacco farmers, as well as their future, in the face of higher cigarette taxes to be applied next year. Arcalas and Rosales traveled to Candon City, Ilocos Sur—the country’s tobacco capital—to gather insights on the ground on the prospect of the tobacco planting sector.

BusinessMirror correspondent Laila Austria sealed her second Tobacco Photo of the Year with her capture titled “Golden Leaves.”

Another Broader Look story, titled “Women of Bacoor’s embattled mussel industry struggle for survival” penned by Jonathan Mayuga, was named Best Agriculture Feature Story-National. It narrated the lives of five women working in different areas of the mussels trade, as their source of income is faced with different man-made and natural challenges.

In a stretch of three years, the BusinessMirror obtained eight accolades from the Bright Leaf, of which five were secured by Arcalas, the newspaper’s Agriculture and Commodities reporter.

The awards were also the BusinessMirror’s sixth, seventh and eighth in a span of one month. The Makati-based newspaper in October was awarded Business News Source of the Year for the second consecutive year by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (Ejap) after its coverage on agriculture and mining, banking, telecommunications and transportation, and trade and industry were recognized.

The BusinessMirror’s Agriculture and Commodities page, edited by Jennifer Ng, comes out on weekdays, while the Broader Look page, edited by Dennis Estopace, is printed every Thursday.

Launched in 2007, the Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards is a yearly award-giving body that celebrates the country’s most outstanding and relevant stories in print, radio and TV. It also honors photos that capture the essence of tobacco planting and the agriculture sector.

Inquirer Stories, Photo Top Agri Journalism Awards

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.”