Filipino photojournalist makes Pulitzer Prize finals

Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 13 2021 09:57 PM | Updated as of Jun 13 2021 11:03 PM

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Photojournalist Ezra Acayan during a coverage of a protest at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City last year. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News

While the Philippines was making its mark in the sporting world with the triumphs of Yuka Saso, Alex Eala, and the Olympics-bound athletes, another Filipino was also quietly doing the country proud in the field of journalism.

Photojournalist Ezra Acayan made it to the roster of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize, becoming a finalist in the Feature Photography category of the prestigious award. 

Acayan did this via his work with other Getty photographers in the coverage of the global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Getty Images is one of the largest suppliers of stock images and editorial photography in the world.

The Pulitzer caps Acayan's stellar year having won the other "majors" in photography, including World Press Photo award (2021 Photo Contest 2nd Prize for Nature, Stories), the US National Press Photographers Association (3rd place in the Breaking News Story category), the Pictures of the Year International (Singles and Picture Story of the Science and Natural History category) and Pictures of the Year Asia (Photographer of the Year).

Acayan said it was "incredible news and one of the biggest honors of my life and my career (and feels) privileged to tell stories from our little corner of the world in this global tragedy that changed all our lives."

Only a few Filipinos have achieved the Pulitzer, mainly because it is an award for stories published in American publications. The last Filipino journalist to win this was Manuel Mogato in 2018 for his work on the Philippine drug war for Reuters. 

Romeo Gacad, a Filipino photographer working for Agence France-Presse, also made it as a finalist twice, in 1989 and 2002.

Prior to this year, Acayan worked on documentary reportage on the suffering and abuse experienced by communities under the Philippine government's war on drugs. These images, along with other "nightshift" photographers, have been exhibited in Geneva for two straight years as part of the Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Acayan is also the current chairperson of the Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines, an organization of Filipino photographers working for the rights of visual journalists.

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Acayan's picture of Filipinos hoping to get on flights out of Manila hours before it is placed on lockdown at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. This earned him a place in the Pulitzer Prize finals. Photo by Ezra Acayan for Getty Images

A series of pictures in Talisay, Batangas during the eruption of Taal Volcano got the second prize for the Nature category of the World Press Photo award. Photo by Ezra Acayan for Getty Images

A picture of residents returning home to retrieve belongings at the height of the eruption of Taal Volcano, on Luzon Island, Batangas is part of the set cited for the National Press Photographers Association awards. Photo by Ezra Acayan for Getty Images

Photos from Taal Volcano eruption earned both the Singles and Picture Story prizes from the Pictures of the Year International. Photo by Ezra Acayan for Getty Images

The coverage of the Taal Volcano eruption earned Acayan the Photographer of the Year award in the Pictures of the Year Asia. Photo by Ezra Acayan for Getty Images