Thomasian journos’ story on sugar crisis bags best feature story plum

Photo courtesy of Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas

A STORY on the Philippines’ sugar crisis written by two Thomasian journalists emerged as the best feature story of the year at the 16th Bright Leaf Agricultural Journalism Awards.

UST journalism instructor Marie Carisa Ordinario, along with her colleagues in the news outlet BusinessMirror, won the Best Feature Story of the Year award on Monday, Nov. 13, for their story titled “Skyrocketing sugar prices stoke industry liberalization stakes.”

Co-written by UST Artlets alumnus Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas, Jovee Marie Dela Cruz and Lyceum of the Philippines University student Jovynelle Rodriguez, the story tackled the impact of super typhoon “Odette” on the country’s sugarcane industry in 2021.

Ordinario and her team said agricultural stories remain unreported and underreported in the Philippine journalism industry, noting the significance of making such stories more accessible to the masses.

“Any story that sheds light on the challenges and opportunities that the local farming sector experience is a step closer toward mainstreaming these overlooked newsworthy stories,” Ordinario told The Flame.

Citing the lives of ice cream and banana cue vendors, Ordinario noted that agricultural stories are often overlooked in the mainstream media despite their critical role in people’s lives.

“They are not just sellers whose goal is to help us curb our hunger for the day. They are also humans with concerns, dreams and stories,” she said in Filipino.

“The content of the news should not only feature stories popular with the masses or those that gain traction. The story of the people would be incomplete without stories about the people in the society’s lower demographic or controversial issues, especially food.”

Ordinario has clinched multiple awards in the Bright Leaf Awards for her agricultural stories. From 2018 to 2021, her works have been consistently recognized as the agriculture story of the year and the best agriculture news story-national.

Meanwhile, her story on the country’s tobacco farming industry was recognized by the same award-giving body in 2020 as the tobacco story of the year.

Arcalas, despite co-writing the article, was not formally acknowledged as a winner due to his competition ban for being a Hall of Fame awardee. He is the eighth and youngest recipient of Oriental Leaf Awardee (Hall of Famer) in the Bright Leaf Awards, given only to those with five wins in the competition. 

Launched in 2007, the Bright Leaf Awards honor outstanding Filipino journalists who bring relevant stories in the limelight about current agricultural issues, crop sustainability practices and safety issues in the farming industry. 

Entries for online news and feature stories were evaluated based on their relevance (25%), impact (25%), objectivity (25%), research (15%) and style (10%).

This year’s competition theme, “Harvesting Progress,” centered on the significance of new technologies that can improve agricultural workers’ livelihood productivity in the Philippines. F – with reports from Ma. Alyanna Selda


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