MANILA, Philippines – Veteran journalist and Rappler’s head of regions, Inday Espina-Varona, has been selected as this year’s winner of the prestigious Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas for the Essay in English.
Other names join her in the list of Gawad Balagtas awardees under different categories: Melquiadito M. Allego Jr. for Tula sa Sebwano; Niles Jordan Breis, Sanaysay at Tula sa Bikol at Filipino; Rey E. de la Cruz, Dula sa Filipino; Caroline S. Hau, Literary Criticism and Fiction in English; and Russel Molina for Panitikang Pambata.
The 2022 Gawad Paz Marquez Benitez was awarded to Jazmin B. Llana, while the Gawad Pedro Bucaneg to Sining Banwa, a community-based multi-arts organization based in the province of Albay.
The Gawad Pambansang Alagad ni Balagtas is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes the writer’s contribution to the world of Philippine letters. It is given annually by the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (Union of Writers in the Philippines or UMPIL), the country’s largest community of writers headed by its chairman emeritus, National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario. The group is currently chaired by Michael Coroza.
Varona’s forays into short- and long-form essays cut across the length and breadth of a sprawling journalism landscape, primarily, but not limited to, investigative reports as well as in-depth analysis pieces.
From her early days as a young reporter in the province of Bacolod and stringer for Agence France Presse, and as editor of Manila-based national broadsheets and a newsweekly and literary magazine, she moved on to lead Bayan Mo i-Patrol Mo, the citizen journalism arm of ABS-CBN television news network from 2010 to 2013. She also sat as senior news manager for ABS-CBN Integrated News, leading the research and analysis team in hot-button issues, like the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Her approach to sensitive issues in her writings had won numerous accolades both here and abroad prior to the Gawad Balagtas, namely the Prize for Independence by Reporters Sans Frontières – the first Filipino journalist to have been given the recognition. The other is the esteemed Jaime V. Ongpin Awards for Investigative Journalism in the Non-Daily Category, among others.
She was also the recipient of the international fellowship at the John S. Knight Professional Journalism Fellowships in Stanford University in 2005-2006, and the Canadian government’s Marshall McLuhan Fellowship in 2006.
Varona is a staunch defender of human rights, particularly the rights of women, children, and indigenous people – the Lumad. So much so that across numerous administrations, she has been red-tagged for her struggle to protect free speech and the rights of the free press.
She currently sits as Rappler’s head of regions. – Rappler.com