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Agri journalists continue to thrive

Filipino fruit devotees have been aware of the recent rivalry between Zambales and Guimaras mangoes as to preferred quality (read sweetness and succulence). I was grateful to be educated on the matter upon reading a newspaper article titled “Good as Gold” by Henry E. Empeño of Business Mirror.

An excerpt:

“Mango (Mangifera indica) is the country’s national fruit, and there are three well-known varieties of it in the Philippines: carabao, pico, and Katchamita, otherwise known as Indian mango. But the one that has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1995 as the sweetest in the world was the carabao variety, or the ‘kinalabaw’ that Zambaleños grow as the ‘dinamulag.’

“The more common carabao mango strains in Zambales are the Sweet Elena and Lamao. In Guimaras, they have the Super Galila, Talaban, and Fresco, while Ilocos has the Mariano State University (MMSU) Gold.

“Fleshy but not fibrous, with smooth light-green skin that ripens into deep yellow, the dinamulag mango is considered the gold standard among Philippine mangoes because of its unique flavor that combines sweetness with a hint of tartness.

“Note that the Sta. Elena strain in Zambales at one time has been declared by Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture as the sweetest carabao mango in the country. That was in 2003.

“In 2016, however, Sta. Elena, which had a Brix reading (°Bx) of 18.98 was overtaken by the Guimaras Super Galila, which was marked at 22.3 °Bx, as the sweetest. The Brix reading measures the dissolved sugar content.

“Still, local growers attest that Zambales mangoes draw more buyers because of their taste.

“‘It’s not sweet as in sugary like mangoes from other places, but it has a different kind of linamnam (full flavor) that mango lovers come back for,’ described Enrico Batungbacal, who has grown mangoes in Pulauig, Zmbales since 1988 after graduating from college.

“’The best mango fruits are those grown in the northern part of Zambales — from Iba town (in the central part of the province) up to Sta. Cruz, the northernmost,’ Batungbacal said, echoing a ‘fact’ accepted by Zambales natives. ‘Any scientific explanation for it must be in the location,’ he hastened to add.”

The enlightening report earned the Business Mirror writer the Best Agriculture Story of the Year award in the 16th Bright Leaf Journalism Awards given out on Nov. 13 at the Fairmont Hotel ballroom. Eleven other writers won for various categories in the annual contest sponsored by PMFTC, Inc. Trophies, laptops, a trip to a SouthEast Asian country, and P30,000 comprised the bounty for each winner, with the top four prizewinners taking home P60,000.

As the chair of the judging committee for the fifth straight year, I noted in my brief remarks how the pandemic had complicated the awards timetable, causing the organizing committee to move the eligibility dates and deadlines to accommodate everyone who was adjusting to that “new normal” of the past few years.

This year, however, marked the return to in-person gatherings through the Bright Leaf caravans held throughout the country. Next year, the contest will be announced earlier to give everyone more time to submit their entries, so that in 2024, the Bright Leaf Awards cycle will finally be up to date.

As part of the Bright Leaf judging table since the early days of the competition, I have constantly been surrounded by other judges armed with their knowledge and expertise as we tracked the breadth and depth of agriculture journalism in the country.

This year’s judges were Jimmy A. Domingo, Photography and photojournalism lecturer at the University of the Philippines Diliman and De La Salle University; Edwin Sallan, Digital Content manager and section editor of BMPlus, SoundStrip and Tourism; Joseph Albert Gamboa, chairman of FINEX Media Affairs and columnist at the Manila Bulletin, Manila Times, Business World, and Business Mirror; Ralph Semino Galan, assistant director of the University of Sto. Tomas Center of Creative Writing and Literary Studies; Yvette Natalie U. Tan, Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin and editor-in-chief of Agriculture monthly magazine; Remar A. Zamora, photo editor for Philippine Daily Inquirer and photography professor at De La Salle University; Corrie Narisma, Business Channel editor at Inquirer.net; and Kristine Eve Daguno Bersamina, managing editor for Philstar.com, the digital counterpart of The Philippine STAR.

Bright Leaf’s central mission is to honor Filipino agriculture journalists by providing a platform to showcase their works in print, audio-visual, radio, and online media. With the awards, we can be sure that other Filipinos can access their stories. Addressing the 2024 theme, “Harvesting Progress,” not only do their works spark valuable conversations about the current state of agriculture; they also spotlight the need for support and community cooperation in order to progress towards a bountiful harvest.

Seven new awardees received a Bright Leaf Award for the first time, with five of them joining the competition for the first time. Here’s the full list of awardees:

Best Agriculture Feature Story – National — “Skyrocketing sugar prices stoke industry liberalization stakes,” by Cal Ordinario, Jovee Marie de la Cruz and Jovy Noelle Rodriguez, Business Mirror; Best Agriculture Feature Story – Regional — “Rey John Baso’s Journey to Empower Coffee Farmers” by Genory Vanz S. Alfasain, Sunstar Davao; Best Agricultural News Story – National — “Bulacan Moves to Protect Poultry Farms from Bird Flu” by Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Philippine Daily Inquirer; Best Agricultural News Story – Regional — “Garbage area-turned-vegetable garden feeds community in Bacolod City” by Erwin P. Nicavera, Sunstar Bacolod; Best Agriculture TV Story — “Gintong Ani” by Shyla Francisco, TV5 Network Inc.; Best Agriculture Radio — “Agri @ Home Special Report” by Zhandee Cayabyab, Radio Mindanao Network, Inc. (RMN) DZXL558; Agriculture Photo of the Year — “Gold Harvest” by Wilfredo Lomibao, Sunday Punch; Best Tobacco Story — “Unknown to many, tobacco farming thrives in Sarangani” by Bong Sarmiento, Mindanews; Best Online Story — “The Onion Story” by Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News; and Best Tobacco Product Alternatives — “Vape Bill: Unresolved debate on vaping’s risks, benefits now to reach Duterte’s table” by Cristina Eloisa Baclig, Inquirer.net.

Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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