The 21st Henry Ford Awards just concluded the other night and again, Ford Philippines took time and effort to choose stories, photos, videos, publications and online titles that stood out among a sea of local motoring content from the past year.

Every year, Ford commissions noteworthy judges from various fields of writing and journalism to scour through all the submissions in the course of a few months. And each year, it recognizes individuals and media entities for demonstrating excellence in their craft. As a public relations exercise, the HFA surely brings together the motoring beat in a night of appreciation for the hard work its members have done.

Categories and criteria may change, but the essence of each HFA has remained the same over the years. And that is to honor quality and celebrate the role of motoring journalism in the upliftment and education of the consumer.

Short of saying, “Let us educate you,” we motoring journalists are actually more skewed towards sharing information that we think would matter to our audience. Whether they are car buyers or already owners, commuters or pedestrians, the world of motoring, and in this publication’s case, mobility, is an all-encompassing space that affects each and every one of us.

I have been a fan of this beat ever since I learned how to drive some 30 odd years ago. I have seen writers and columnists become icons and institutions among their peers. I have witnessed how the passion for cars can push people to do what they thought they could never achieve.

Automobile magazines built from scratch, car photography evolving from “pwede na yan” to commercial perfection. Even television shows, online videos and websites have transformed from being niche to becoming mainstream. This has been the growth of the motoring beat over the last three decades. And through it all, the local automotive industry grew with the beat that kept tabs on it.

Some would say that motoring journalists are merely paid hacks who benefit from press junkets and trips. That they are more concerned about the contents of the buffet table rather than the meat of their stories. And that many of them benefit from the close relationships they have with car companies through discounts or worse, the odd envelope and gift basket they receive during Christmas and birthdays.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to stand at both sides of the fence – as a motoring journalist and as a marketing and press relations executive of a car company, I can say that the public has reason to worry about what we journalists churn out. That there are some who have favored one brand over another in the course of doing their business.

But, as the HFA has shown for over two decades, there are motoring journalists who still value integrity, honesty and quality especially when it comes to their work. That many, if not most, will put your wants and needs ahead when they review cars and give their recommendations.

And despite the onslaught of the Internet, vloggers, influencers and wannabe car reviewers, true motoring journalists will still go after the truth but not at the expense of accuracy. They will form their opinions independently and not at the whim of a car company’s PR manager or the wordings of the car brochure. They will be fair and impartial in their assessment of cars and issues affecting the public. They will be humane in their approach and not play gods of opinion and discourse. And at the end of it all, they will still be accountable to what they write and produce. For such is the noble profession of journalism.

Truth be told, we will not become rich because of our craft. At best, this will only be a hobby, a sideline if you will, to our real jobs or businesses. And if some of us are lucky enough, we will put up our own media companies to create the stories we want to write about and we think will make an impact. But at the end of the day, we are all here because of our passion for anything on wheels.

SUVs, trucks, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, planes, trains and automobiles, these are just snippets of our world. Our efforts really matter, and only should matter to you, the everyday person who starts and ends your daily commute walking. You continue to give us a reason to exist.

IN PHOTO: Ford PH managing director Mike Breen with the victorious PDI Motoring Section team, from left, Arcano, Aida Sevilla-Mendoza, Salazar, Ardie Lopez, Botchi Santos, Jeanette Tuason and Alvin Uy. Not in photo are Charles Buban, Mikko David, Richie Sabado, Jason Ang, Bernard Supetran, Carl Cunanan, William Herrera and Mylene Francisco.