PMFTC Agriculture Journalism Awards

The 4th Bright Leaf Awards
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

Printed entries from the Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Mirror, Bar Chronicle and the regional magazine of the Philippine Rice Research Institute were proclaimed winners at the close of this year's PMFTC Agriculture Journalism Award ceremonies at the Sunset Pavilion inside the sprawling Sofitel Hotel grounds.
The Bright Leaf Awards is a competition that seeks to recognize the works of journalists who through their print stories, radio segments, television features, and photographs have promoted and/or created awareness on the most current agricultural issues and best farming practices on environmental care, safety, as well as crop sustainability.
“Bright Leaf was but a seedling in 2006, which through the years has blossomed into the media's consciousness to become one of the most prestigious and respected agriculture journalism awards in the country today. Since 2006, Bright leaf has honored the best print features, radio and TV pieces, and photographs that chronicle and capture the agricultural landscape and spirit of the times.
From 82 entries since its inception four years ago, it has received in 2010 a total of 927 entries from all over the country for the various categories. This widespread support indicates a need for such a platform, and we are happy to be instrumental in providing it,” declared Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) president Chris Nelson in his keynote speech.
This year's major citation went to Mach Alberto Fabe of Business Mirror for his article “NGO promotes ducks as solutions to global warming, rice sufficiency” as Agriculture Story of the Year. This top award is annually given to the journalist whose story creates the biggest impact, evokes public attention and raises awareness on a significant aspect of the industry.
Teddy Molina of the Philippine Star was named Tobacco Story orf the Year for his article “Tobacco not just for making cigarettes.” He was lauded as the journalist whose published article captured a most relevant facet of the tobacco industry while drawing public support.
The Best Television Program or Segment went to Analyn Veloso for the series “Bagong Maunlad na Agrikultura: The BASC (Bulacan Agriculture State College) Experience” that was aired over IBC-13. The award is given to the most significant TV episode featured within the official entry period and has drawn great interest as well as eliciting viewer response about agriculture issues. The Best Radio program or Segment, on the other hand, was given to Jun Villanueva of Bombo Radyo for his program “Life in Tobacco Farming.” His broadcast radio discussion is the most engaging, exhaustive and relevant discourse that brought to light a high impact agri issue.
The annual recognition affirms its commitment of providing the agricultural industry with a voice. Year after year, it honors the best print features, radio pieces, video stories or photographs that chronicle and capture the agricultural landscape of the previous year. It believes that by recognizing journalistic excellence in this important field, it contributes to raising awareness and support for the hands that feed and fuel our nation.
The Tobacco Photo of the Year went to Fernando Zapata of the Phil. Star and his entry “Best Among the Best,” for seizing an essential facet of the tobacco industry and a definitive image of tobacco that, in itself, tells the story. Lensman Edgardo Espiritu of the Phil. Daily Inquirer and his entry “Luntiang daan” was named Agriculture Photo of the Year for his photograph that captured a defining moment; a thought-provoking scene with compelling images that engaged attention as well as discussion.
More than ever, it is important to bring to light the issues and movements that define today's agricultural industry by encouraging reportage and discourse. After all, true progress is anchored on knowledge. It is through the telling that seeds of support can be planted and grown.
The Best National Story was given to Jonathan Mayuga of Business Mirror for his article “DA banks on ratooning technology for RP's rice self-sufficiency in 2013.” Ratooning is a farming method wherein the lower parts of the plant, along with the roots are uncut during harvest. This method results in bigger savings and increased productivity for farmers. The technique was also found to minimize the risk of pests and diseases. Meanwhile, the Best Agriculture News Story in the Regional Category went to Adora Rodriguez of the Phil. Star for her story “Greening of Mt. Banahaw.”
“We believe that there are more positive agricultural stories to tell, more discoveries to share, and more images to provoke our minds than what it is currently reported. It is our hope that we will see more often, in the front pages or prime time news, the issues affecting the agriculture industry and its contribution to the country. That way, the agriculture sector will find more support and protection from government, and even from the private sector,” enthused Mr. Nelson, during a round-table colloquy prior to the awarding ceremonies.
The Best Regional Feature Story was given to Charisma Love Gado of the Philippine Rice Research Institute magazine for her article “Bringing Back the Grains” while the Best National Features Story went to Edmon Agron of the Bar Chronicle for his piece “R&D: Efforts to manage and restore sea cucumber population underway.”
Bright Leaf is another name for Virginia Tobacco. It is a leaf variety that is extensively used in the manufacture pf tobacco products because it is full of flavor and distinctly strong but smooth to take that makes it a cut above the rest. The variety's exceptional quality and acceptance is an apt name to use for annual agricultural journalism honors.
“It becomes necessary to create and focus awareness on this very important sector. Today, more than ever, it is important to bring to light the issues and movements that define today's agricultural industry by encouraging reportage on this sector. The Philippines is an industry with a chance to adapt despite inadequate infrastructure. Agronomy training can produce better tobacco from more experienced farmers. We believe in work and in a future based on balance and environmental support,” he added.
The awarding body introduced a new category this year: the Oriental Leaf Awards – aimed at honoring the constant Bright Leaf contributors and winners through the years. It is due to these hall of famers' journalistic efforts that many agricultural issues have been brought to the fore and given immediate action and support.
The Oriental Leaf is a sun-cured, highly aromatic, small-leafed tobacco variety that is grown in Turkey, Greece, Bulgariaaand Macedonia. It is a more labor-intensive product to harvest, the leaves having to be sun-cured and carefully handled.
Oriental tobacco is most known for its exquisite aroma derived from the smallest and intricate of leaves. It is because of this that oriental tobacco is regarded as one of the most coveted and prized tobacco leaf in the world.
Thus, it is a befitting accolade to bestow on journalists whose devotion to the agricultural industry has won them repeated acclaim in past Bright Leaf Awards. The recipients this year are Zac B. Sarian and Melpha Abello. Both from the Manila Bulletin, Zac is acknowledged as dean of agriculture journalism in the country while Melpha has been a vigorous purveyor of agricultural development ever since. These two have been consistent winners in the bright Leaf Agriculture Awards since its inception in 2006.
“The Philippines is a country rich in agricultural potential. However, inadequate infrastructure, lack of financing, low budgetary allocation, and restrictive government policies and regulations have limited productivity gains and hampered the competitiveness of our agricultural products, of which tobacco is a part of. Agriculture is a major contributor to the economy. Bright Leaf was put up, primarily, because tobacco has not been given much recognition by its stakeholders and the public in general,” Mr. Nelson intoned at the close of our colloquy.
Despite the agriculture sector employing more than one-third (1/3) of the work force, it provides only about a fifth (1/5) of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Tobacco is grown in the Ilocos Region, in Pagsanjan, parts of Mindoro and the Cordilleras. A very variable commodity, it sells at fluctuating prices to a low of P50 per kilo.

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