A COLUMNIST from SunStar Cagayan de Oro was recognized by the University of the Philippines (UP) as one of the five winners of the first UP Science Journalism Awards last Saturday, February 17, in UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Nef Luczon won Best Science Commentary for Print and Online for a column on the Dengvaxia controversy entitled " Dengvaxia dilemma: making conspiracy theories real."

In the column, Luczon delved on the Dengvaxia controversy and how this may affect people's trust in other vaccination programs promoted by the Department of Health (DOH).

According to Luczon, his winning opinion piece was actually not the story he self-nominated but instead it was nominated by someone else.

"Actually akong gi self-nominate katong isa (the story I self-nominated was) about Marawi, about the Marawi story commentary but this one, kaning (this) Dengvaxia, was nominated by somebody else," Luczon said.

"Dengvaxia dilemma: making conspiracy theories real," Luczon said, came to be during the height of controversy and scandal of Dengvaxia in December 2017.

"So the general narrative on it was that Dengvaxia caused death to children and I'm just trying to balance it that yes, it is good that Dengvaxia came out and people should be accountable but let's not also forget the possibility that people, the public, might fear the next time any DOH program with regards to vaccination, that's what I'm going to point out," Luczon said.

Upon finding out he's one of the five persons who won the award, Luczon said he was surprised because he did not expect it, adding that he's already satisfied and happy for just being one of the finalists.

"I was really surprised kay (because) I thought na wala siguro to nakuha na entry (that perhaps my entry was not picked) and I'm okay with that. Actually happy na ko na ma finalist ko (I'm happy that I was one of the finalists), I'm already happy in every contribution or any awards, I'm happy na ma finalist ko (that I'm one of the finalist) because that already means a lot to me. So kanang pagdaog is bonus na gud na (So winning the award is like a bonus)," Luczon said.

The columnist added that he truly appreciate the special trophy that goes with the award. It was a trophy designed by late National Artist Napoleon Abueva, who died the day before the awarding ceremonies.

Luczon also shared some advised on how to become a good story writer, saying that future journalists or news writer should be "driven on purpose, not the fact na gusto mo maka award (that you want to receive an award)."

"Just be driven on the human side of your story. You'd rather tell the story based on journalistic and ethical standards than you write your story because you want to please people. Be sincere on your stories. If you have sincerity in pursuing your stories, it follows how to be a good [writer]. And always acknowledge that you're not perfect, that you commit to some mistakes and these mistakes should really teach a lesson for growth," Luczon said.

The UP Science Journalism Award was organized by the UP community composed of Communicating Science and Technology Research and Development of UP, with the professors and dean of UP college of Mass Communication.

This is a part of the Emerging Interdisciplinary Research program under the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs of the UP system.

The winners and finalists for this year's awards reflect the result from nominations of a diverse group of mainstream and community media organizations nationwide.

Among the winners, aside from Luczon, were Angelica Yang of GMA News Online for Best Science News Story; Edmund Usman of Rappler for Best Science Story for Print and Online; Michael Joe Delizo of ABS-CBN/DZMM for Best Science Story for Radio; and Mikael Angelo Francisco of GMA News Online for Best UP Science Story.