There are good times and there are bad times. And if there are worst days, there are also best days. When I was still in high school, one of the most often-quoted statements was: “Today is the best day of your life.”
I had one – and that was on April 20, 1999. That was the day when I got the Journalist of the Year award from the Rotary Club of Manila (RCM). I didn’t expect to get the coveted recognition since I am a journalist based from Davao.
The RCM cited me for my “expertise in the field of science and technology, agriculture and environmental journalism which is characterized by an extensive research as well as a commitment to the popularization of complex issues.”
The citation added: “His articles… have brought science and technology, agriculture, and environmental issues closer to his readership not only in Davao where he is based but also in Manila and the regional publications as a result of the quality and range of his writing skills.”
Two weeks before the event, I received a fax from the RCM requesting me to attend the awarding ceremony which would be held at the Fiesta Pavilion of Manila Hotel. I told them I would.
Since it was an event that would happen only once in a lifetime, I asked my sister Marilou to accompany me. “All you have to do is to take some pictures during the awarding,” I told her. She was ecstatic; it would be her first time to come to Manila and ride in a plane (she now lives in Florida).
We left Davao in the morning of April 20. It was a smooth flight – except for a bumpy event that happened when we were about to land. From the airport, we went straight to the apartment where we would stay for the night.
Then, my friend Rodel Offemaria came and brought us to the office of Department of Science and Technology, where he worked. I had the opportunity of meeting and talking with some of the DOST staff. We also had our lunch there.
In the afternoon, we went to a mall, where my sister had a grand time. She also did some shopping for her pasalubong. When she was already exhausted, it was time for us to go back to the apartment.
As both of us were tired, we took a much-needed rest. Then, the night came. We were ready. And it came to pass that Jeff Palmer (my American boss at that time) was also in Manila for a meeting and staying in one of the rooms of the apartment. Since he had nothing to do that night, he volunteered himself to drive us all the way to Manila Hotel.
Wow, an American (and my boss at that!) was driving me to the big event. On our way, I tried to talk with Jeff and my sister to cover my nervousness at that time. I was sure Jeff noticed it since he told me, “Just relax, Henry!” My sister echoed the same opinion.
We went directly to the pavilion (although my sister wanted to take some photos at the lobby). We were already eating our dinner when Rodel came. He joined our table and ate along with us. We had some small talks.
Then, the program started. Veteran journalists Dong Puno and Cheche Lazaro – both winners of the award – hosted the ceremony. All awardees were requested to sit in front. Manila photographers and journalists were also there to cover the event.
Each year, the RCM honors outstanding journalists in the tri-media (print, television, and radio). In 1999, the club added two types of awards: community journalism and life achievement.
In the life achievement category, Jose L. Guevara, Jr. got the award “for being a bright shining star for many years in the field of journalism.” He was “referred to as the dean or doyen of newspaper columnists.”
The community journalism awardees came from the three big islands: Nora Linda Mondoñedo (Baguio), Noel Pangilinan (Cebu), and Ma. Editha R. Regalado (Davao).
But what made the day memorable was sitting beside the two bigwigs of Philippine journalism: Ces Orena Drilon (a television broadcast journalist from ABS-CBN) and Conrado de Quiros (my favorite columnist who write a regular column for Philippine Daily Inquirer). Ces was on my right side while Conrado was on my left side.
Drilon got the Graciano Lopez Jaena Journalism Award “for her investigative reports on the pyramid marketing scheme which was of relevance to small investors.” De Quiros, recipient of the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Journalism Award, was cited “for his regular commentary on a variety of current issues, both as a columnist and editorial writer.”
Winning the Emilio Jacinto Journalism Award was the Siyasat Team of DWIZ. The group was honored for their “collaborative efforts in airing the results of their investigative reports on the May elections: the ‘Dagdag Bawas’ controversy and the P122 million Comelec Voters’ ID contract, thus creating a great awareness in the government to adapt stringent measure in improving the electoral system in the country.”
When Cheche and Dong declared me as winner of the coveted prize – called Gawad Lawin Journalism Top Awardee – I was anxious. But I did manage to walk and accept the Press Freedom statue from Senator Edgardo J. Angara (the chairman of the journalism awards committee), Peter H. Wohlrab (RCM president), and Alejandro R. Roces (chairman of the RCM Journalism Awards).
As I did my acceptance speech, there were lights and flashes from several cameras. I had my five minute of fame. The following day, I saw myself in the pages of newspapers. Then, I remembered again the memorable day of my life.
Past winners of the RCM Journalism Awards include Amando Doronila, Juan Mercado, Louie Beltran, Art Borjal, Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, Loren Legarda, Howie Severino, Mel Tiangco, Malou Mangahas, Jessica Soho, Jay Sonza, Julie Yap Daza, and Teodoro Benigno.
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