“Struggle is a component of every war. The inconveniences that go with the fight are necessary to move forward. In between struggling and moving forward are stories of interrupted opportunities, amplified commotion, unbidden tears, deadly defeats, unfounded fears, little victories. Unflinching faith.”
That was part of the introduction I wrote last year for the 34th anniversary special of The Philippine STAR titled “In Between: The Art of Moving Forward” where I served as head editor. The special issue was recognized last Friday at the 56th Anvil Awards, dubbed as “the Oscars of the public relations world.”
“In Between” got a gold award in the multimedia/digital tool-social media tool category and a silver award in the specialized public relations program-advocacy campaign category.
The STAR’s sister company, BusinessWorld, also received a silver award in the exhibit and special event-conference/convention category for its “Insights: An Online Forum Series.”
“When the pandemic struck, it was challenging to even produce our issues on a day-to-day basis, but this recognition from the Anvil Awards affirms the team effort that went into putting these projects together despite the many limitations. It’s truly something to be proud of,” said Philippine STAR president Miguel Belmonte.
The Anvil Awards, according to Jay Sarmiento, senior manager for program sales of The STAR, is awarded to outstanding PR programs and judged by distinguished multi-sectoral jury. "This year’s theme of Anvil is ‘PR for Good,’ which recognizes purpose-driven and impactful initiatives that promote corporate integrity and the social good during crises across platforms,” she added.
“Though we have won Anvil awards in previous years, I am thrilled and proud of our haul this year because this is the first time for The STAR to receive a gold. Personally, ‘In Between’ meant a lot because it captured our team’s passion and involvement to help our country weather the pandemic by presenting stories of hope and triumph,” said Lucien Dy Tioco, STAR executive vice president.
When people were afraid to die of the virus and businesses were dying to survive, The STAR embarked on a journey of more than 128 stories to present tales of endurance and perseverance, viability and inequity in a multi-channel presentation.
‘In Between’ was an ambitious labor of love. At the height of the pandemic, when people were afraid to die of the virus and businesses were dying to survive, The STAR embarked on a journey of more than 128 stories to present tales of endurance and perseverance, viability and inequity in a multi-channel presentation — in print, online and on video (through mini-documentaries featuring the subjects).
In that special, The STAR took a look at how the invisible war caused by the pandemic was reshaping the world, the psyche of people, and their survival instinct.
The stories were mostly written by people directly affected by the virus, by businessmen, technocrats and restaurateurs who experienced recalibration of their businesses to keep afloat, by media men and women who kept the fight in this unseen health war, by teachers and students who would undergo changes in instruction and learning, by public servants who didn’t blink in delivering services even to far-flung places.
“I am honored to be a part of this documentation of history. Sometimes we yearn to just forget, to pretend this bleak, unprecedented moment in our lives did not happen. But we have to remember — how we felt, how we acted, and how it worked — because it is the only way to survive. We are still learning from this whole experience and writing our story together,” said Sheila Paras, editorial director of the project. She is also the Philstar Media Group head of digital.
The project was a product of sleepless nights and sleepy days among those behind it. The Anvil awards received by the mission-possible project are testaments to the grit involved from the conceptualization of it in May 2020 until everything saw print on July 27, 2020 — and even beyond it for there were 40 more online stories that were included in “In Between.”
Shooting via Zoom was uncommon at the time but the special’s creative director for shoots Luis Espiritu Jr., working from his living room, made sure everything was possible. Many pictures of the subjects were actually screenshots from the high-tech computer of assistant editor Pinky Icamen, who was working in the lanai of her home.
Researcher Allane Orendez also did a Superwoman job by coordinating with all the more than 128 subjects — from across the globe. She now perhaps holds a directory of the most powerful to the most hapless individuals.
And almost every night — or even after midnight — Sheila and I would be on the phone talking about the progress of the project. It was a big project in the time of the pandemic that we worked on in full consultation via Zoom with STAR president Miguel Belmonte, VP for operations Tammy Mendoza and Lucien.
Working with Sheila was a walk in the park. Despite the deadlines and the pressure of the job, we vowed and agreed never to fight. And we did it — with aplomb. We have yet to meet in person. My relationship with her and Allane proved that we can make friends in the time of the pandemic. Virtual hugs give warmth and assurance, too. That’s what it takes for friendship to grow.
Crunch time is nothing new to well-versed journalists of The STAR like Tanya Lara, Rica Delfinado, Nathalie Tomada, Janvic Mateo and Charmie Pagulong who served as track editors.
All our spadework paid off handsomely — our two Anvils attest to this.