MANILA, Philippines—For their bravery and dedication, 20 journalists and members of their team who were right on ground zero when Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) made its landfall were honored at the “Super” Awards night on Monday.
Among those recognized at the awards ceremony at the Mall of Asia SMX Convention Center were Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter DJ Yap and photojournalist Niño Jesus Orbeta.
Yap’s heart-wrenching story of a teacher who survived after her daughter told her to let go of her hand became Philippine Daily Inquirer’s most viral story to date — around 1.5 million views and shares.
The SM S.U.P. E. R. (Salute to Unparalleled People, Endeavors and Resources) Award is sponsored by the SM Foundation Inc, the corporate social responsibility arm of the SM Group of Companies.
Speaking about his five days of coverage during the supertyphoon in Leyte, Yap recounted how he himself became a survivor.
“Yolanda was not only a life-changing experience for me – it was also career-defining. From now on, I can proudly introduce myself as one of the journalists who survived Yolanda,” Yap said.
“It’s a story I will be talking about for many years, an extraordinarily difficult, painful, stressful, heartbreaking story that is also inspiring and uplifting in many ways,” he said.
Despite the awards conferred on him and other journalists, Yap said he had never considered himself a hero.
“I was only doing my job. Many journalists who were there probably feel the same. We set out to tell the story of Yolanda with no clue that we’d become bit characters playing a role,” he said.
But the feted journalists believe their work in the typhoon-stricken areas is far from over.
Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan who was likewise sent to Palo, Leyte, ahead of the storm spoke in behalf of the awardees.
“I have been back to Leyte several times since then. And it has not been easier. We journalists have gone back. Our work there as journalists are not yet over,” Alindogan said.
She said that while rehabilitation has been going on, with most of the debris have been cleared, road and bridges being repaired, schools reopened, the people in the typhoon stricken areas have continued to feel “a very strong sense of despair.”
“Thousands of survivors live with uncertainty. Over two million people are in need of jobs and decent shelters. We need to make sure that those responsible for the recovery efforts are made accountable,” Alindogan said.
Other Super awardees are Atom Araullo of ABS CBN 2; Ted Failon of DZMM/ABS CBN 2 and Ranulfo Docdocan of ABS CBN Tacloban; Love Anover, Jiggy Manicad and Micaela Papa of GMA 7; Joecel Huesca of GMA Iloilo; Greggy Magdadaro of GMA Cebu; Benjie Dorango and Erwin Tulfo of TV 5; David Santos of Solar News; Tara Yap of Manila Bulletin; Lelaine Jimenea of Philippine Star; Lorelei “Lottie” Salarda of DYBR Tacloban; Jazmin Bonifacio of DYDW; Jimmy Angay-angay of DZRH; Joey Gabieta of LSDE; Andrew Stevens of CNN.
Members of their team were also given the awards.
The awardees were chosen by four judges: Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Twedell represented by Geoffery King, Councilor for Development Corporation, as chairman of the board; Luiza Carvalho, director of the United Nations in the Philippines as vice chairman; Rolando Tolentino, dean of the UP College of Mass Communications; and Ana Maria Garcia, president of SM’s Shopping Center Management Corporation
In posthumous awards, the SM Foundation Inc., also paid tribute to the three members of the media who perished while on active duty when the super typhoon made landfall. They are Archie Globio of DYBR-Tacloban and Ronald Vinas and Allan Medino, both of DYVL Tacloban.
During the ceremonies, each of the awardees was handed a trophy designed by 24-year-old Carlo Paterno Delaza, a graduating student of UP Diliman.
“We now want to honor the select men and women of the media for stepping forward with such dedication and unparalleled courage,” SMFI Executive Director Debbie Sy said.