Ambulancia de Paa, an I-Witness documentary that showed how a mountain community worked as a team to transport the seriously ill through rugged mountain trails, has just won the prestigious George Peabody Award, the awards’ board announced on its web site Wednesday night.

Among 36 annual winners of the award, Ambulancia de Paa “memorably chronicled how residents of a poor, remote town can only get their sick and injured to medical care using the ‘ambulance on foot,’ woven hammocks that they carry over dangerous terrain,” according to the Peabody Awards site.

The Peabody Awards, now in its 69th year, are the oldest honor in electronic media.

Aired in March 2009, Ambulancia de Paa – hosted by Kara David and directed by Nowell Cuanang – is the second time GMA Network was recognized by the Peabody Awards. In 1999, Kidneys for Sale by Jessica Soho and her I-Witness documentary team and Jay Taruc’s Child Labor story on Brigada Siyete were given awards.

“It hasn’t sunk in,” said Kara David, who was informed by the GMA News desk Thursday morning. While happy, she also admitted to feelings of guilt about winning an award when “there has been little change” in the subject of her documentary.

Ambulancia de Paa was about the Mangyan community of Apnagan in upland Oriental Mindoro. David said there is still no health center in the barangay.

Shooting in such a remote, rugged place posed dangers to the Manila-based documentary team. “I almost fell off a cliff, almost got bitten by a snake,” said Nowell Cuanang, the director of the documentary. “But we were touched by the Mangyans. Despite their conditions, they weren’t complaining, and were always smiling… Their foot ambulance required unity and team work. It was the triumph of the human spirit.”

“Winning the Peabody for the second time is a great honor and blessing for GMA News and Public Affairs and the Philippines,” said Marissa L. Flores, Senior Vice President for GMA News and Public Affairs. “We are inspired to do even better.”

Among the other winners for 2009 are Glee, the musical “dramedy” on Fox, and reports and documentaries on 60 Minutes (CBS), BBC and the Public Broadcast System (PBS).

The 69th Annual Peabody Awards ceremony will be held on May 17 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City and will be hosted by Diane Sawyer, the award-winning anchor of ABC’s “World News.”

According to the Peabody web site, “The Peabody Awards, the oldest honor in electronic media, do not recognize categories nor are there a set number of awards given each year. Today the Peabody recognizes distinguished achievement and meritorious public service by TV and radio stations, networks, cablecasters, Webcasters, producing organizations and individuals.”

The awards are administered by the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Other members of the award-winning I-Witness team: Angel Directo, executive producer; Kristoffer Brugada, program manager; Disney Carreon, cameraman; Wilma Sesaldo, researcher.

  Source: GMANews