A large number of Filipino reporters are experiencing burnout

Have you ever felt tired on a daily basis despite not actually doing any physical work? How about wanting to withdraw from other people and not go to work?

I have, years ago. At the start, I thought I was depressed but I wasn’t really sad or lonely. I was just very very tired. My muscles ached. I got migraines. And by the time I got home from work, I was so exhausted. Continue reading

30, 5, 3, 1

Happy New Year, everyone!

I am writing this while seated outside the emergency department of East Avenue Medical Center (and posting this several hours later while waiting for my live report here at the NLEX command center). Thankfully, there are no cases of firecracker related injuries so I have the time to write a short blog post about this eventful year.

Looks like I’ll be greeting 2019 here, alongside devoted colleagues who have accepted the fact that media practitioners spend the holidays on the job.

***

30, 5, 3, 1 – these are milestones in my life.

This year, I turned 30.

I used to dread growing old…to the point of declaring that I only want to live until the age of 40. But here I am at 30 and I feel like I am on top of the world, despite various setbacks.

bday

At 30, I finally accepted the fact that I cannot please everyone, that I do not have to feel bad about people who don’t care about me (or worse, hate me). I feel like I am going through another cycle of adulthood as I try to set my priorities straight again. Hopefully, I finish my MA next year and then I can decide what to do with the rest of my life.

This year, I celebrated my 5th year in media.

I am a late bloomer. It took me 4 years after college before having the courage to try journalism. And it has been the best decision I ever made. Being a journalist has given me purpose in life. It has kept me on my toes and has made me want to improve myself so I may better serve the people.

Five years is actually not that long and at times I regret not going into media earlier but my past work with cause-oriented groups has also helped me become the journalist I am right now. Since I consider myself a young journalist, I am able to remain humble and be open to learning from others.

report

This year, Ivan and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary.

It was without fanfare. We did not even go on a date because we were too busy working on our little project (which I hope to write about next time). But I did not feel bad about it. I have learned to let go of rituals and expectations that do not really serve me any purpose.

To both of us, three years feels like not enough time. What I do know is that I have spent the best years with him. No other person has made me this happy. Everything feels just right. And I am excited to spend the rest of my years with him.

And finally, this year, I celebrated my first year with ABS-CBN.

In college, I told myself that I will never do TV work. I was (still am) an awkward kid who did not know how to behave in front of the camera or with a large group of people. But I’ve taught myself to be more outgoing and confident. I am a work-in-progress. There are days when I would feel awfully insecure but focusing on the story helps me forget about trivial things.

I decided to try TV because I believe that video is king and that through broadcast (plus online) I am able to reach the widest audience. It has not been easy. And until now I am still adjusting but I am happy with the stories that I do and the people that I’ve met along the way.

To all of you who have helped me in my stories, went out of their way to agree to an interview or introduce me to a friend who served as my source, THANK YOU SO MUCH! Everlasting gratitude also to my media friends and my family, who have comforted me during trying times. I would not have survived 2018 without you guys. Indeed, it takes a village (the Universe, rather) to raise a young journo like me.

Despite my frustrations with society in general, 2018 has been good to me. I am very hopeful for next year. Now, if only humans can reverse climate change…

Stale checks and tears

Today, I was assigned to do a story on the students who will be affected by the proposed budget cut of the Commission on Higher Education. We stayed at CHED the whole afternoon and talked to the students applying for Tulong Dunong or waiting for their checks.

Five of them agreed to be interviewed. The last one was a 2nd year student from PUP.

Jovelyn, who is taking up secondary education, told us that her father was a carpenter and her mother did laundry. She said that while she does not have to pay for tuition at PUP, she spent P200 a day on food and transportation since they live in Bicutan. Continue reading

Letters for auction: The cruel fate of Gregoria de Jesus, Aguinaldo’s election fraud and other interesting stories

IMG_7785Earlier this month, I found myself dining with other journalists on a 200-year-old table which was used to entertain the likes of Jose Rizal, local elites and members of the royal families from Russia, Cambodia and Japan. As I finished my slice of Canonigo cake, I thought about how good the food – with recipes dating back to the 19th century – tasted.

Around us were paintings of Malang, Amorsolo and other famous painters. But what made me return to that place were several pieces of yellow and fragile paper tucked away in one of the display cases.

Bonifacio letters

The first time I visited Leon Gallery was earlier this year when I reported about their first quarter auction, which included letters from Andres Bonifacio to his close friend Emilio Jacinto.

The letters were deemed rare, according to curator Lisa Nakpil, because Bonifacio was “a man on the run.” Continue reading

7 churches for Visita Iglesia in Quezon City

If you’re like me and you only have one rest day for Holy Week, you’ll probably end up staying in the city. Why not make it worthwhile by following the Catholic tradition of Visita Iglesia? You not only get to pray and reflect but also visit beautiful historical and cultural landmarks.

Yesterday, I visited seven churches in Quezon City for my report for Bandila. Watch our television report below (in Filipino) or continue reading (in English) about the churches I chose.

Santo Domingo Church – Known also as the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of La Naval de Manila, the Santo Domingo Church is the largest Catholic church in Metro Manila. If you read my previous Visita Iglesia post, you’ll know that it was constructed, based on the design of architect Jose Zaragoza, after the original church in Intramuros was destroyed during World War II. Continue reading

Manila Cathedral

7 churches to visit for a historical tour of Intramuros

Ornate carvings and intricately-painted ceilings are just some of the things you’ll see as you tour the churches of Intramuros. Each church has a story to tell, whether it be about how it survived the bombings of World War II or how old ruins paved the way for new buildings.

More than a week ago, my camera crew and I were the first media group to visit the seven places after the Department of Tourism (DOT) started promoting Intramuros for faith-based tourism. You can watch my report (featuring DOT and Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks) in Filipino here or read about the seven churches in English below.

Continue reading

Reshaping climate reporting: four challenges and one sign of hope

GlobalChallengesFoundationA month or so ago, I wrote a piece for the quarterly report of Sweden-based Global Challenges Foundation. It was a delight working with the team and contributing to the discourse on the role of media in the fight against climate change.

Below is a copy of my essay and here’s a link to the full report: https://globalchallenges.org/wp-content/uploads/Global-Challenges-Quarterly-Risk-Report-February-2018.pdf

***

The force unleashed by super typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has been described as comparable to that of an atomic bomb. The statement should not be discarded as pure rhetorical excess. Although typhoons leave no lasting radiation behind, they do release energy that is sometimes equivalent to multiple nuclear explosions. 

The devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan confirmed this. It exploded on the city of Tacloban, where storm surges claimed the lives of thousands of people. Journalists like myself sent to survey the aftermath of the typhoon considered it a war zone. Villages were reduced to rubble. Bodies littered the streets. The living had nowhere to go. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: Revisiting the deaf community

(Behind the Scenes is my attempt to shed light on how journalists — specifically me — research and do leg work for their stories. I hope that through such posts, the public will understand how a news or feature article is conceptualized, framed and packaged. Media literacy and transparency are a must in today’s cyber world of fake news and trolls.)

Earlier this year, I decided to again pursue a master’s degree. It was an eye-opening experience as I (and my eight classmates from all over Asia) attended daily classes and spent sleepless nights working on our papers. MA Journalism at Ateneo de Manila University is more difficult but also more impressive than I expected.

My favorite class is Advanced Reporting, undoubtedly the toughest subject this semester. During one of our sessions, we agreed to pursue children’s issues for our final paper. I chose the topic children with disabilities since I had always wanted to work on an article about persons with disabilities (PWD).

A few years ago, I researched about Filipino Sign Language and sign language insets for news programs. I met a lot of amazing people and learned more about the deaf community. I feel that many of the issues they face do not get enough attention from the media and the public even if there is a lot of terrific material available.

So for my final paper, I decided to write about the challenges that poor families face in sending their deaf children to school.

Revisiting old sources

I chose that topic even if I didn’t know anyone from the public sector that dealt with deaf issues so I ended up starting with institutions I was familiar with. I reintroduced myself to the people at St. Benilde’s School for the Deaf, which was one of the leaders in advocating for Filipino Sign Language. My interview with the dean gave me an idea of what the best practices are in deaf education. It is unbelievable that 98 percent of the school’s population are scholars and that the La Salle brothers spend P1.2 million for each student.

It was in their faculty center that I met Raymond, who is flying to Malaysia next year to study e-learning for deaf students. Raymond, who was born deaf, persevered in public school and received a coveted scholarship from Benilde, later becoming the school’s advocacy coordinator.

IMG_3013.jpgI ran out of people to talk to after that and I ended up e-mailing the Department of Education’s media office to set up an interview with a resource person on deaf education. The people at the media office were very accommodating and I ended up conducting a phone interview with Salve Olinares of the Student Inclusion Office (although it took me several days to finally get in touch with her). I made a surprise visit to Ms. Salve’s office the other day and she gave me a list of all public schools offering classes for deaf students, as well as the breakdown of deaf student enrollment this year. She said there are 77 public schools offering classes for the deaf plus 50 more from the private sector.

Facebook search for journalists

She couldn’t refer me to anyone from the local schools specifically so I decided to use my incredible Facebook search skills. I wanted to learn more about the Philippine School for the Deaf so I searched the name on Facebook and started reading posts about it from teachers, parents and students. I think I stalked messaged almost 10 people before I bagged an interview with a parent of a deaf elementary student.

Arlene, who works in Dubai, was very nice to me. She was kind enough to share with me her family’s story. From there, she gave me the contact details of her friend Rowena.

Through Rowena, I was (finally) able to enter the Philippine School for the Deaf, which has a nice big lawn and a garden where the children play. Hearing them laugh and shriek as they play tag made me realize that deaf children are just like other children. The only difference is that they use a visual language — sign.

I met Arlene’s son Bien and husband Benjie at the school. Both Rowena and Benjie were very candid and sincere in their interviews, recounting the difficulties they face in raising their children.

Rowena also introduced me to the guidance counselor, who in turn brought me to the school’s officer in charge.

During my interview with Ms. Irish and Ms. Cristina Amon, I learned that 22 percent of their students are from Cavite and that each class only has 10 to 15 students. They also told me that the biggest challenge they face is not lack of facilities or teachers but the inability of some parents to devote enough time to guide and communicate with their deaf children.

collage

Sidestory

While browsing on Facebook, I came across a sign language video from a page called “Mata News.” I later met George, its founder, and his sister Kat at a coffee shop in Makati. The concept of Mata News is quite simple — for the deaf to deliver news to their fellow deaf Filipinos.

George, who is deaf because of a genetic disease, said deaf people often do not understand television news reports because of the lack of subtitles and inaccurate sign language interpretation.

I am using my interview with them for a sidebar story.

Serializing reports

Now that my first draft is in, I am thinking of ways to make my report more palatable and easy to digest. I will have to break the longer story into shorter pieces. My professor said serializing the report would be a great idea, especially since readers seldom have the attention span and the patience to read through a thousand-word article. A lot of people liked my last story — a 4,000-word article about a gay communist fighter who died two days before the ceasefire — but said it was too long.

I will have to rethink my goal of writing long-form reports and maybe find creative ways to present them to our audience.

***

For our readers, what else do you want to know about the deaf? For my fellow reporters, do you also use Facebook to find interviewees? How?