Baguio Chronicle dominates 15th Bright Leaf Awards


BAGUIO Chronicle garnered the two biggest prizes in the 15th Bright Leaf Awards held virtually last September 18. 

The Tobacco Photo of the Year was awarded to the photojournalist who was able to preserve the image that encapsulates the Philippines’ tobacco industry in 2021. This was awarded to Baguio Chronicle’s Laila Austria for her  winning image entitled “Surviving Tobacco Turn Gold.” Her photograph featured Virgilio Rodriguez, a private tobacco farmer from Candon whose crops survived a typhoon. 

The Tobacco Story of the Year covered major changes in the Philippine tobacco industry in 2021. This was awarded to Baguio Chronicle’s Frank Cimatu for his story, “Perfect Storm Hits Ilocos and Abra Tobacco Farms,” which highlighted the climate destruction caused by the five-hour downpour at the end of January 2022  that destroyed tobacco fields in Ilocos Sur and Abra.

Karlston Lapniten, a former reporter and still a contributor of Baguio Chronicle, won the Best Online Story for his “Sustainable Livelihood Offers a Lifeline to Philippines’ Dying Rice Terraces,” which came out in Mongabay News.

Nora Sagayo of Benguet State University and DZWT 540 won Best Agriculture Radio Program/Segment for her segment on organic fertilizer. 

The Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards (Bright Leaf) recently celebrated its 15th year as a stalwart in the field of agricultural journalism. This year’s theme, “Cultivating Hope,” highlighted both the challenges and triumphs faced by the Philippine agricultural sector, and the journalists covering their trials and tribulations throughout 2021.

The Bright Leaf is an annual journalism competition that celebrates individuals and teams responsible for emphasizing the diverse agricultural stories in the Philippines. But more than that, Bright Leaf builds a sense of community and integrity among agricultural journalists and media practitioners, while emphasizing the value of telling stories about Philippine agriculture, and providing hope and inspiration to their readers. 

The awards began in 2007, with less than a hundred entries, initiated by PMFTC Inc. The name “Bright Leaf” is derived from the Virginia Tobacco leaf, which turns into a bright yellow color after the curing process. From its humble roots, the current crop of participants this year numbered in the thousands, with over 500 eligible submissions successfully showcasing a variety of topics in agricultural journalism. 

Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bright Leaf sustained the competition by shifting  to online spaces for the second year covering Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Furthermore, an innovation this year is for Oriental Leaf Awardees to become eligible to join the contest again, three years after their Oriental Leaf win. 

In his welcome speech during the awarding ceremony, PMFTC Global Communications Director Dave Gomez highlighted the importance of hope during a global crisis, and how the winners of the Bright Leaf Awards exemplify that hope: “We believe that agricultural journalism brightly shines on the most vital topics in the past year through an increasingly digital and connected world. Bright Leaf hopes to continue blazing the trail in recognizing the cutting edge of agricultural journalism in the Philippines.” 

This was echoed by the chairman of the Board of Judges, Krip Yuson, who said, “We are all sustained by hope: hope for a better Philippines, hope for a brighter future, hope that the words we write and the images we photograph will ultimately be seen by the next generation.” Alongside Yuson were other members of the panel judges from the fields of journalism, academia, print and digital media, namely: Rina Jimenez-David, Kristine Bersamina, Ralph Semino Galan, Francis Abraham, Albert Gamboa, Jake Maderazo, Isabelita Reyes, Ed Sallan, Yvette Tan, and Rem Zamora.

This year’s awardees are : For Best Agriculture Feature Story (Regional), Reuel John Lumawag of SunStar Davao won for his story, “Davao Coffee Beginning to Rise in the Coffee Scene,” where he profiles the burgeoning coffee industry in Davao amidst the pandemic. As for Best Agriculture Feature Story (National), the award was given to Manila Bulletin’s Vina V. Medenilla for her story, “Cavite Interior Designer is also a Weekend Farmer,” a feature on farmer Pinky Peralta and her journey as a designer, artist, and mother.

The agricultural news stories highlight the struggles of farmers in the Philippines, and bring public awareness to little-known issues. The Best Agriculture News Story (Regional) was awarded to Rachel P. Ganancial’s “Pala’wan Tribes Struggle Through Pineapple Farming During Covid-19 Pandemic,” published in Palawan News. She focused on the Pala’wan tribes growing Batarza pineapples and their struggles during the pandemic. The Best Agriculture News Story (National) went to Jordeene Sheex B. Lagare from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, for the article “PH Importing 200,000 Tons of Sugar to Stabilize Prices,” which traced the challenges experienced by sugar refineries after natural disasters destroyed raw sugar production.

The Bright Leaf Awards also highlight agricultural news on other mediums, such as online, TV, and radio. The winner for the Best Online Story came from Mongabay News’ Karlson Lapniten, “Sustainable Livelihood Offers a Lifeline to Philippines’ Dying Rice Terraces,” which highlighted how farmers are trying to maintain the Ifugao Rice Terraces through traditional terrace farming and other sustainable methods. Meanwhile, Best Agriculture TV Program/Segment went to Amielle Alexandra Garcia Ordoñez’s “In Review: Bakit Wala Pa Ring Pag-Usad sa Buhay ng Maraming Magsasaka sa Pilipinas?” which is part of GMA News and Public Affairs Digitals’ Stand for Truth’s election series. The segment focused on the Philippine agricultural sector and the current challenges the sector faces. Finally, Best Agriculture Radio Program/Segment was awarded to DZWT 540 KHZ Radyo Totoo’s Nora Sagayo for her segment, “Organic Fertilizer,” which informed listeners about the uses and procedure of using organic fertilizer and composting. 

Finally, the last two awards captured, in words and image, the relevant state of Philippine agriculture. The Agriculture Photo of the Year went to Edge Davao’s Rhoy Cobilla, for a photograph titled, “The Hardwork of Dawn,” which illuminated the hard work of the fishermen in Barangay Tagas in Camarines Sur. The Agriculture Story of the Year was awarded to Cai U. Ordinario and Tyrone Jasper C. Piad’s two-part article, “Global Shipment Woes: Additional Shocks to PHL’s Food Supply Chain” (Part 1) and “Supply Stiffness to Stay as Shipment Issues Seen Spilling Past Yule Season” (Part 2), both published in the Business Mirror. Their work focused on the global supply chain and how it affected the Philippines’ food supplies. 

The awarding ceremony was held virtually on September 13, 2022, hosted by Mr. Tony Velasquez and Ms. Shayla Sanchez.

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