By Xianne S. Arcangel

A columbarium worker installs a headstone over the final resting place of Simbulan's ashes during the interment at the San Agustin columbarium on June 21, 2011.PATRICIA CHIU

A group of veteran journalists marked the 40th day since the death of professor Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan with the launch of awards seeking to honor the “best stories in print and online media.”

The Chit Estella Awards for Journalism will recognize outstanding feature, investigative and local stories, as well as photo essays published on the web or in newspapers and magazines, Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas said Tuesday.

Vera Files is an online news organization set up by veteran journalists reporting on current Philippine issues. “Vera” is Latin for “truth.”

Although the details and the mechanics have yet to be finalized, Tordesillas said the seed money for the award—which will be granted starting next year— will come from the Simbulan family.

Vera Files, meanwhile, will act as the award’s administrator and part of the panel of judges that will include practicing journalists and members of the academe.

Prof. Roland Simbulan prepares to release the first of 53 balloons symbolizing the 53 years Ma'am Chit lived. He holds the sole orange balloon, which is larger than the others because it is Chit Simbulan's favorite color. The releasing of balloons is part of a program following the internment of Simbulan's ashes at the San Agustin columbarium on June 21, 2011. JORICA PAMINTUAN

The awarding, which will be scheduled in Simbulan’s birth month August, is expected to be followed with journalism lectures given by the winners.

The launch was part of the day-long commemoration of Simbulan’s death, whose urn was brought to its final resting place inside the San Agustin Church Columbarium earlier in the day.

Estella’s husband, University of the Philippines–Manila professor Roland Simbulan placed her urn along with a letter addressed to her and a necklace they bought during a trip to Puerto Galera in 2004 inside a niche near that of renowned painter and political activist Juan Luna.

The niche was sealed with a granite marker bearing her photo and an inscription describing Estella as “a journalist, editor, teacher, committed to the truth and to the empowerment of the oppressed.”

In an interview with Tinig ng Plaridel after the interment, Mr. Simbulan said he hopes the government’s interest in crafting and implementing road safety measures will continue long after his wife’s death.

“It’s good that the government has started something, but I hope they would not be ningas-kugon in implementing the law… Not just when a prominent person dies,” he said in Tagalog.

“Ningas kugon” is a Filipino idiom referring to initiatives that are not sustained.

Simbulan died in a vehicular accident on May 13 when a Universal Guiding Star bus rammed the back of the taxi she was riding in along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City.



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