Tuesday, August 21, 2012


"There is nothing we can say to Papa that he doesn't already know," Aika Robredo said, daughter of DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo, who was found dead at the bottom of Masbate's Ticao Channel after nearly 3 days of search operations.

He was on his way to Naga (his home city) from Cebu when his plane crashed. He is survived by three daughters and wife, Atty. Leni Robredo.

Aika further said that the reason why they're at peace is because their family missed nothing in their time together. "Things like "I love you" we say it everyday," she said.

Aika and her family will be fine. Her father made sure of that.

I can't say the same for myself.

(Blogged on Father's day of 2009)

Fathers. I can't remember the day I realized I didn't have one. Sure, calendars are marked for special firsts, like the first time you knew you were in love, or the first time you were pissed at your mother; the way you had to lock yourself in the bedroom and cover your face with a pillow so they wouldn't hear you cry, and you remember what your sister told you to console you, or what your friend texted you to make you feel better. But you don't exactly create room in your head for memories such as when you knew you can't have a normal Father's day.

Things like that just vanish into thin air, and what you remember are the days that followed after that. The day when your grandmother told you you looked exactly like him. How they always laughed at the way you sat, you talked, or you walked, saying that there isn't something in you that wasn't like him. You then remember being conscious about how you act, making sure that you haven't outgrown the similarities yet, sometimes orchestrating your moves so they're still the same as his. 

You remember the day you cried because they were teasing you about your lips, and the day you embraced it because even that, you got from your father. There may be no date to it, but you remember in 3rd grade when you announced to the whole family that you wanted to be an Engineer. You so desperately wanted to be exactly like him, and even when you don't have the slightest bit idea what an Engineer is, you were so sure you wanted to be one. He was one, and you are him.  

You remember the day you first saw his funeral pictures, the knot in your stomach when you saw his body laying still in a box that wasn't even pretty, and how the knot tightened when you got to the picture of your mother crying. Sure you don't understand the pain of losing, and you can't possibly know how she felt when she lost her husband, but something tells you it was devastating.  

You remember the day you cried over a stupid Math Exam, and how it was twice the pain to fail in a subject he was apparently excellent at. If it was any other thing, you wouldn't have minded sucking at it, but it was Math; it was his thing. 

And slowly you are reminded of your loss; you remember the first time you truly felt the pain of not having him. You remember the day you first cried about it, even though the tears were probably 10 years overdue. You remember the day you realized that you are forever incomplete.  

And because you got familiarized with the pain and how it felt; you look for it when you feel like crying. Because that was the day you knew that everything is going to be twice as hard just because he's not there. That was the day you decided that life isn't fair, and for you, it's probably never going to be.
You remember the day you celebrated Father's day and it didn't feel like a holiday anymore. You remember wanting to get out of the restaurant to go home and mourn the loss, again.  

And you remember the day your heart stopped for a second along with your breath because you were stuck with nothing to call him; Papa, Daddy, Dad, Tatay? You don't know and you will never know. And everytime you find yourself stuck with it, your stomach takes a sickening turn, and it has probably been going circles since then. 

But above all you remember that he has shared with you his family, chosen the best mother, and has given you the perfect sister. And he has given you your lips, your eyes, your smile, your long legs, your temper, and the fact that you always like chili in your foods. You remember that he has given you life, and you remember the day you knew that there couldn't have been a better person to be your father than him. And you remember thanking God for that, the sincerest one to ever come straight from your heart. 

Happy Father's day, Papa. This is the day I decide I will call you that. We love you so, so much, Papa.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


When I was in the UK, flash floods hit a part of London and ITV's top story was this: flood waters 2-inch deep entered a house, and the owner wants speedy action from the insurance company. And that's all they went with, to save as much pennies in the shortest possible time. And here we deliver headlines of a family of 9 killed in a landslide, where insurance no longer matters just as long as we're saving lives. 

It isn't more fun in the Philippines, it's tragic and we cannot keep living this way.

But I'm glad the Filipino spirit is water proof. No one should ever dampen that. The Filipino social media community was helpful; information dissemination was effective on Twitter and through sharing, we moved a nation. But here's my takeaway from that: If we have to tweet calls for rescue, even from notable areas such as the PGH, you know something about the system is not working.

We do not have to desperately tweet; this should be automatic. Don't get me wrong, our rescuers are heroes. They are. We shouldn't have to ask for too much of them as to demand that they risk their lives, because in the first place, we should have more personnel, more and better equipment, so we can rescue and rescue well.

On Tuesday, the onset of the monsoon's wrath, NDRRMC reported that 202 personnel, 14 vehicles and 14 seacrafts have been deployed. That, to address to the almost 50% of Metro Manila flooded. That, to 80,000 families affected.

How can you be going from a disaster like Ondoy and be facing a similar incident with only that much of rescue assets? There is something bothering about the MMDA Spokersperson tweeting "those with or those who know someone with rubber boats" to help. We should be able to rely on our government to have rubber freaking boats.

Also on Tuesday, President Aquino announced that he has allowed the Sandiganbayan to release 75 rubber boats they confiscated as part of evidence in an Arroyo case. They were in question because they did not suit the needs of PNP, and were, therefore unusable.
They were supposedly purchased after Ondoy. And we went three years letting them sit in a room when we know too well we don't have a flood control system and something like that is highly likely to happen again. 

It is also seriously bothering if the Director for DPWH's major flood control project tells a news anchor on air that Metro Manila has no flood control system because it would cost too much and take too long. Who cares? However much it costs, however long it takes, we should be starting now. It shouldn't ever be an excuse to put more lives in danger.

In 2007, the DPWH boasted that the CAMANAVA Flood Control and Drainage Improvement project was 99% complete. It's been 5 years, what in the hell is in that 1%? 

Also, in July 2011, DPWH Sec. Singson announced that the project of increasing the height of dikes and revetments along Pasig river was near completion. He said: it will be finished by June 2012. Sec, anyare?

For years now, an urban planner has been knocking on the government to consider his 60 recommendations for disaster preparedness, one of which is to start building overground structures. And yet last year, the govt built an underpass in Araneta Avenue, one of the most flooded area in Metro Manila.

True. This isn't comparable to Ondoy. That was a bigger tragedy. But it feels wrong to say that ONLY 19 died this year, and that ONLY half a million families were affected. 1 life wasted is a tragedy. It is never a point of pride.

So when the President addresses its people, looks them in the eye and says, 'Testigo ka na nahirapan sa Ondoy noon. Hindi ko sinasabing nadalian pero 'di kasing desperado ang tao ngayon. Mas may kumpyansa sila,' it's not the teeniest bit reassuring.

Yes, Mr. President, it isn't as tragic as 2009, but when your people walk on electric wires as if gymnasts on a balance beam, or hang on to a rusty basketball ring for dear life, and patients on hospitals are trapped with no food and water, you can't say we weren't desperate.

Of course we were.

And while we scramble to repair the broken pieces of Luzon, more than 24,000 of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao are displaced because of a continuing conflict over a domain. Last night, Rappler reported that soldiers manning Mindanao State University in Marawi City have been ambushed by unidentified armed men.

But how could we possibly focus on that when at the same time last night, the water level in Marikina River rose to 28.14 meters, when the highest alert level is at 18m. 

Of course we are desperate.

We were desperate on Tuesday, desperate yesterday, and we remain desperate today. We have been desperate since 3 years ago when in one day we lost over 300 of our countrymen, and then again last year when Sendong claimed the lives of nearly a thousand.

We are desperate everyday of our lives.

And so Mr. President, if broadcasting bad news and criticizing the government can help make things happen, then media ought to do it, even if it pisses you.

Because we cannot be opening the news every night with a greeting of a "good evening" when we know it's every bit a lie.

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in this blog are of the author's own and do not reflect those of her employer.

Monday, July 23, 2012

London < Manila

Everyone has since been asking me about my 2-week holiday to London. And everytime, I mumble a 2 word response because I can't quite describe it in a quick chit chat.

The closest I came was when my friend Gayna asked me to describe it in 7 words. I told her it was "An old but definitely brand new experience." I've been there 5 times, it doesn't almost merit an anecdote. It's bound to be the same. Just some few edits: nicer weather, perfect football timing aka Euro 2012 and... that's it actually.

Except that compared to the past trips, this one offered a more relevant perspective. I set out to produce stories while there, and that required me to travel places we don't normally go. And because nobody was willing to be my assistant nor spend for train money that won't be reimbursed, I had to go alone.

The longest ride was the coast to coast train to Birmingham that took 5 hours, and a confused transfer route from stations in London that I was hearing for the first time.  But the most fun were both times I went around London, figuring out the Underground, and making the most out of my all day travel card, hopping in and out of stations. Partly because I wanted to take some shots. But mostly because I wanted to feel a slice of what it would be like living there.

And how fun it would be. No traffic, better transport system. I would get my dream New York scenario. The trench coats, scarves, boots, the bagels in the morning. There's something about it too. When you're out, your mind is clear. Like everything seems to suddenly inspire you. The air whispers poetry into your ear and lamp posts transfigure into metaphors. And even against the buzz of city walkers, you hear The Cure in the background, and you feel like the lead in an indie flick and you're under obligation to act cool and be profound, all the time. And all these, just inside your head.

I think it's something to do with the convenience of it all. When you're in Manila, you cannot be formulating thoughts when the heat and fear of being mugged is all you can think about. There, you have the liberty to let your mind fly free.

There's this Gwyneth Paltrow movie called Sliding Doors. It's a story about alternate endings that's based on whether she made the closing door of a train or missed it. And it's exactly like that: possibilities, like every second offers a brand new alternative.

 In Manila, it takes me an hour to get from my house to the office. And in that hour, I can't do anything, it feels as If I'm stuck against my will. It's not that I hate long rides because I do, it feels to me as if being given the free pass out of life, like being allowed to be totally disconnected to everything, and that it won't be at my expense.

But that goes only for special trips. You can't have that everyday, traffic everyday feels like being cheated of time. Time you'll never get back. In London, there's lots of time. You wake up at 6am, be at the train station by 6:30 and start your day at 7. Your lunch comes 5 mins after you order, and the counter for soda gets to you in seconds.  I felt almost disarmed. I didn't know what I was gonna do with my time, when here I'm almost always running out of it.

There, there are always answers. Which route to take? What time does the next bus arrive? Is it gonna rain today? Will I be able to get a table in 5 mins? And they answer accurately too. So you can plan, and stick with it, and still be able to go home at 4:45 pm before the pizza place closes so you can get your dinner.

So what if I just move there and have all that at my disposal? It would be so much easier. I could get a job and be able to pay rent, get a new phone off of credits, be hit by a car because my insurance will take care of me.

In Manila, it's hard times. Everything requires effort. You have to tune out the dreadful traffic to write into the air a script that's already past deadline. You can't have pizza every night because it doesn't cost you coins here, it takes away elusive paper bills.

It answers the more crucial questions, too. When will I be able to pay my debt? How long will it take me to pay for a car? Can I get job security? There are answers from friendly voices over the operator or faces behind the counter. All you need is to fill up some easy paper work.

Londoners love this thrill. They thrive on their iPhones and Blackberries; in their Nissans and Toyotas; in their flats in Central London, with their cubicles overlooking the London freaking bridge. And as I watched this, I think that maybe I can have this.

And that's when it hit me. I was looking at London in a good way for the first time because it doesn't threaten me anymore. I was excited to be there because I was also excited to leave for Manila. For the first time, I was going to London assured that when I go home, i'll be going home to something.

In the past 4 times I've gone there, I always leave with a heavy heart because there's something in me that says maybe coming home was a mistake. That maybe I should listen to 3/4 of everyone I know who tell me, London is the right choice. And so everytime I go there, I pick on it, find flaws and figure out a way to hate being there. But this time, I saw it for the beauty it was, because I was  finally sure that no matter how beautiful, Manila would always be the better choice.

There aren't easy answers here. Right now, as I write this, there are hard questions hovering over my head and I know there won't be easy answers. But is it home? Yes, definitely. And that is the easiest answer.

I could credit it to a job I love. I could credit it to friends. I could credit it to the fact that it's been witness to my tumultuous coming of age.

I went here alone, lived here alone, and the quirks of it that remain confusing - I'm figuring out alone. I went out here at 15, got a job at 19 and moved out at 21 -- I spent the decisive years of my life here and that weighs a million more than easy, convenient answers.

It's the city I can call mine. Our relationship got difficult at times, but we come through.

I still have fantasies of maybe living a while in London or maybe some other place else -- but Manila? It's home. The answers don't come easy but they always come out right.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Love, Luna

"Yes," said Luna dreamily, without taking her eyes off Harry. "Yes, it was quite enjoyable, you know. You're Harry Potter," she added. 
"I know I am," said Harry.
"You're Harry Potter" were Luna's first words to Harry. The second time she spoke to him, it went like this: "You went to the Yule Ball with Padma Patil.....She didn't enjoy it very much. She doesn't think you treated her very well, because you wouldn't dance with her. I don't think I'd have minded. I don't like dancing very much."

"The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness," said Harry to himself that first time he laid his eyes on her. This was the same dottiness that was perfect for a date to Horace Slughorn's Christmas Party. And unlike Padma, she enjoyed herself. Harry did too.

All that before they both learned they could see invisible creatures. Before they fought Lord Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. Before Harry helped save her from Bellatrix Lestrange. And before they went together to see Helena Ravenclaw for the lost diadem that would take him a step forward to ending it all.

Luna and Harry belonged together. She should have been Mrs. Potter and Mum to Albus Severus, James Sirius and her namesake, Lily Luna.

There should have been a cross breed of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw in the Potter home. This, I believe with my heart.

(Here's a fan fiction I wrote a year ago)


Her quill has been stationery against her scroll for a while now, forming a growing dot as she thinks about the final words she will write. Her husband Rolf is sleeping peacefully beside her as storm rages outside the  train window, illuminating briefly the towers of Hogwarts before it turned to pitch black again.

In her bag is a stack of what are probably a hundred scrolls rolled into a thick tube, containing the same words, more or less. Her writing was cut short when Rolf woke up and stroked her long, blonde, curly hair.

'Can't sleep again, darling?'

'As always.'

'Luna, you have to eventually show me those letters if you're ever gonna publish it.'

'It's not a book.'

'If you say so.'

She decided that the one in front of her was gonna be the last. It's been 30 years.

Her letters have since made up a string of 30 heartwrenching chapters, one for each year spent outside of Hogwarts.

She prepares to move the quill to write the phrase one last time.

'Dear Harry....,' she begins.

And tears fell for the boy who lived - the boy she loved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Airport ordeal

Well I just wanna start by saying it was entirely my fault.

This time, I can't blame it on the universe or rant that I'm jinxed or go on a pity party of how my life is always a series of unfortunate events. This time, I was just stupid.

Days leading up to my flight to London, my mom called me constantly for an important reminder: Don't forget your old passport with your visa on it. And that I didn't. The night of my flight, I packed that old passport and my new passport into my purse knowing I couldn't, in hell, afford to forget it.

Before I left the house, though, I told myself: there's no harm in bringing my other passport, the one that had just expired. But the cab was already waiting downstairs, and the passport was not in sight nor in any drawers that were easy to access. I didn't have time to rummage through a very unorganized room. And so I left.

While at the cab, I looked at my purse and found very little cash. I had spent almost all of it buying pasalubongs. I was already along Roxas Boulevard and my ATM was wiped out when I remembered the expensive travel tax and immigration fee to pay. I had money sent over to me via cash transfer but my friend Monica, whom I texted to ask whether my 1,000 cash was enough for all the airport fees (it's not) - told me there are no cash transfer kiosks inside the airport. I had just enough time to get there and check in - there was no time for me to make a roundabout to cash transfer stalls.

Monica offered to lend me instead as she's just in front of Mall of Asia and MOA was on the way. I thought that was the end of it. It hasn't even started.

My e-Ticket had the header: Philippine Airlines. So when the NAIA terminal 1 guard asked to see it upon entry, she quickly noted that PAL has its own terminal over at Terminal 2. I explained that I was going on board an international flight and that it's where I've always gone. She said that all PAL flights, int'l or domestic, are over at terminal 2. It was 4pm. My flight was 7pm.

I quickly took another cab to terminal 2. Upon getting there, I noticed that my flight number was nowhere to be found in the electronic boards. I approached the desk and asked about it but was told to wait for the information officer -- who, very conveniently, had just left her/his post. I was told to wait. I said I didn't have time to wait. I asked another person in uniform who noted that my PAL flight is indeed PAL but is endorsed and is actually on board an Etihad Airway flight. And that my flight was actually really over at Terminal 1.

Agitated, I took another cab to Terminal 1 and explained to the guard that I'm on an Etihad Airway flight and not PAL. I was told I made the check in cutoff by a hairline. Upon check-in, the counter officer noted my visa and asked when I last flew to the UK. I said, 2010.

Even the Immigration officers asked the same question, before letting me through. On the plane while I was packing up my passports into my purse, I thought: Wouldn't the London Immigrations ask me the same thing? I have a visa allowing me to stay in the UK for an indefinite period, provided that I'm only outside of UK not exceeding 2 years at a time. Meaning, I have to go to the UK every 2 years to preserve it.

How will I be able to prove that I went to the UK in 2010 when my 2nd passport - the one that just expired, with all the stamps from the last 6 years - was back at home, sitting God knows where. I dismissed the thought, went to sleep, got off the plane at Abu Dhabi, settled comfortably in front of the boarding gate and turned on my laptop. My Globe Wifi was working! Amazed, I connected to the internet where I spent 25% of the 50% battery power remaining skyping with Apple and uploading photos.

The calm before the storm at Abu Dhabi.

When the boarding gate opened, we were all ordered to line up for a proper checking. And here is when it started. They did ask the same thing. I said my last entry to the UK was in October/November of 2010 and that I've been outside the UK for just less than 2 years. They wanted to see the stamps. I said I didn't have it. They were irked, how could I not bring with me the passport that has stamps on it?? I said I didn't think it was needed. He said, "I cannot believe you got through Manila without it." I was just thankful I did because if I didn't, that would have been the end of it, I would have been writing this blog from Quezon City.

Scared, I asked Apple, who was still online, to text my Mom about my situation. She didn't have regular load and it was almost 1 am in Manila. Nobody else was online. A few minutes after, I saw the green circle beside my cousin's name, who's in Canada. I asked her if she could ring my mom and tell her about my situation. We communicated through my cousin - her telling my mom over the phone and relaying the message to me via Facebook chat. (My mom doesn't know how to use the internet, this was the only way we could communicate)

But she doesn't have any proof of documentation too. Nothing that she could scan and email me. I searched my email for anything. My "ticket" search in  my gmail gave me an electronic ticket that I reserved in July of 2010. My supposed flight was going to be in August. I thought to pass that off as my actual ticket but I already told him I was last in the UK in October 2010. I explained it was not my actual ticket, but that it just goes to show that I was really going to fly to the UK in 2010. That I just canceled that ticket and flew in October and went back to the PHL in November. He said he's gonna need to see the actual ticket. I didn't have it as it wasn't an e-ticket.

As a last ditch effort, I looked for my Facebook photo album from when I was last in London. Fumbled for a photo that is evident it was taken in London (it was a photo of me standing in front of an underground train sign of Oxford Circus station) and showed it to him. "Sir this is a photo of me in London, the date stamp is November 2, 2010 --  I can't possibly fake a Facebook date stamp." He looked at me and dialed a number in his phone. I don't know what they talked about but he did give my details, my name, my birthday, my passport number, they talked for a little over 10 minutes and during that time, all the passengers had gone inside the plane and there was nobody else left but me and 3 other people who had problems with their documents. After what seemed like forever, he said over the phone, "she seems quite honest," put it down, handed me my passport and told me, "get your clearance at London, go, run, you're gonna miss your flight!"

By then my laptop had died. I didn't have time to worry about calling my mom to tell her I was gonna make my flight for fear I might consume time and actually miss it. I was the last one on.

We landed in Heathrow after 7 hours. I was very worried I might not get through the Immigration there. I greeted the officer with a lengthy explanation of what happened, the ordeal in Abu Dhabi, and that I'm very sorry I didn't have the passport. After I was done talking, he said, "Don't worry, I believe you, you don't have to explain. Go!"

I ran. For my life. I found my mom after 30 minutes. It turns out my sister checked the flight tracker online and saw that I was able to board the plane. We laughed it off, made it home, ate, slept for 14 hours, woke up, laughed some more, bought an adapter for my charger, and just when I was about to settle to write this blog..............

BOOM. my charger is not in my bag.

It's sitting in my bed in Manila right at this very moment.
I would have to wait until we get to Scotland where I can borrow my sister's friends' charger and live off that while we're there. And I would just have to preserve my battery life for when we get back here in Stevenage, where I'll be spending 5 more days until I have to go home.

So yes, kids, learn from this. Do not be stupid. Don't be like that smiling idiot above, who remembered to pack 5 books and an Esquire magazine but not her frakkin laptop charger. LE SIGH.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What would be enough?

My first shot at script writing. 1st semester of Senior Year and we
fashioned a makeshift newsroom and my laptop served as
the email basket, writing dock and editing bay.

As part of ABS-CBN's Holy Week evening block, its News and Current Affairs show "Krusada" ran a replay of Abner Mercado's story about elder women inside prison and whether President Noynoy Aquino will give them executive clemency. The episode was called "Laya" and it was trying to ask a very simple question: Will we let these women die alone behind bars?

The story got to the producer in me first. It had a very haunting opening and very arresting visuals. At one point, they got a silhouette of a woman limping across the corridor with the bars as its foreground. I thought it said everything it should in that one shot.

Abner Mercado had done a similar story for The Correspondents a few years back, he had worked hand in hand with NGOs and he had used his journalistic vehicles to peddle the plea to the Palace. What they wanted was simple: Set the old women free. In the episode, we were told the stories of a woman who was jailed for possession of a P10 worth marijuana, a middle-aged woman just diagnosed of cancer and a mother paralyzed from Parkinson's disease. Mr. Mercado could not even get a lucid response from her.

At the last part, Mr. Mercado visited the President's older sister Ballsy, and gave her the handwritten letter of an inmate with a simple message: I've paid my time, now give me my life back.

It was sensational story-telling. It was good television, but it had heart. I could see it, I could feel it. So much so that it has led me to this blog right now.

I've wanted to be in the business of Journalism for as long as I can remember. I've wanted it before I even knew what it meant; stuck with it after learning of the struggles and the dirty tricks. I have been employed in the journalism line for almost two years now, but everyday I find myself asking the same question: Do I want to tell a story? Or do I just want to sell air time?

As an intern for Manila Standard Today;
the daily that gave me my first every byline.

When I started, I was so excited, I was eager to learn, I was young and news was evolving, and commerce was beginning to hold a heavier weight. And for a long time, I did that. I was in the business of selling news and during that period, I'd forgotten to ask myself that question.

And I think that's what killed me a little. To not be able to ask the question because I was not in the place to answer. My memory is quite sharp and I'm always remembering things people tell me at random - most of them don't even remember talking to me about the topic. But anyway, I remember eating with a friend from GMA, and her telling me that they tell the stories they do in the hope to affect one person's life the very least. That if she tells the story of seminarians in rural areas who are not given ample allowance, someone might listen, and maybe as a result, a brother is given a decent soutane to wear and a good copy of the Bible to carry and teach the words of God with. And that would be enough. And I sat there, envying her for having that purpose. For having the answer to my question.

Covering the Manila area during Ondoy for a College project,
and getting to tape a standupper with a GMA reporter who,
after he was done, was nice enough to lend me his mic
for a photo opportunity.

So tonight I'll answer my own question. Do I wanna tell a story? Or do I just want to sell air time? I want to do both. I want to be able to tell a story and then sell that story so someone could listen. To get it out there, to do my part, and to do a difference in at least one person's life. And that would be more than enough.

It boils down to this simple line: To express, not to impress.

I'm in the business of making good Television. In the business of ratings, of advertising, of profit. In an industry where the story of killing sharks is mercilessly toppled in ratings by the story of two neighbors fighting over a lover. And I've accepted that. That we invest emotional and mental energy into telling the story of cutting trees and fight for air time, when paparazzi shots of korean bands just swiftly land on the fist gap.

But it's not the fault of the story tellers. After all, we're just messengers. And there is demand for certain kinds of content. But I still believe that Journalism is not just telling people what they want to know; it's telling people what they need and should know. And we carry that responsibility to be in their face and say "Hey, I know you would rather be getting entertained with dancing koala bears, but this matters and so you should listen."

It could make for good television, it could be oozing with ratings potential, it could be controversial, it could be loud. But it could also be quiet, underrated - it could be boring, it could be dull. It just needs to be a story that has to be told. And when we do tell it, then we've done our part and it would be enough.

On the field for only my 6th story as a producer.
It wasn't particularly my favorite but hopefully a training ground for
future stories that would mean more.

When I was in High School, I took Journalism as my extra subject. At the onset of the class, my teacher enumerated the reasons why people want to be a Journalist. I remember 1.) To be in the forefront of History 2.) The privilege of being the first to know 3.) The glory of the byline and some more about how covering the news is thrilling.

She forgot one thing and the most important: They just want to tell stories.

And that's what I want to do. I want to tell stories, but that still wouldn't be enough. I want to tell stories but more crucial than that, I want to tell them right. And I'm trying to learn just how to do that so one day I could tell myself I've done my part.

And that would be enough.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Good night, One Tree Hill

So One Tree Hill ended tonight. After 187 episodes, running a little over 9 years, the curtain had to come down, and quite literally, played the ending music.

And I was so affected that I tweeted some of the best lines from the show including Peyton's "First of all you don't know me, second of all, you don't know me" from the first episodes of Season 1. One Tree Hill ended and so did a fragment of my life, and I'm not kidding. Have you ever been attached to any work of art so much that it's just really too hard to let go when it's all over?

I started watching the series when it started airing. I was in High School, a sophomore, in a new school and finding it too difficult to fit in. And all that could make me get out of bed every morning was the thought of Tuesday night on ETC at 8pm when a brand new episode airs. And that was my life. And they became my best friends.

Lucas, my dear Lucas, who kept spitting out all these great lines from all these great books I didn't even know about. And I was learning things about Oscar Wilde and Albert Camus and before you know it, I was writing...stuff, on a notebook, on a diary, on my phone, on anything, about anything. I told myself, if I could just write my thoughts down the way Lucas expresses his on those epic parting voiceovers, then maybe that was enough.

And Peyton. I bought my very first pair of Chuck Taylors because I wanted to look like her. I wanted to be the kind of person that didn't care so much about what people think about you in High School. There was one thing she said in the first season that stuck to me like glue. Lucas stole her art works and passed it on to the local paper to have it published. Peyton wasn't thrilled.

"I want to draw something that means something to someone. You know, I want to draw blind, faith or a fading summer of just a moment of clarity. It's like when you go and see a really great band live for the first time and nobody is saying it but everybody is thinking it. We have something to believe in again. I want to draw that feeling but I can't and if i can't be great at it, then i don't want to ruin it, it's too important for me."
That's exactly what I felt about writing that time. I was 15, in High School, thought I was in love with a boy, but felt so much stronger about keeping my writing faithful, wanting to be great at it more than I ever wanted anything else in my life. It was a moment of clarity that at the time I could not write, and did not attempt to. I was just glad that among all the other kids who couldn't make up their minds what they wanted to do after High School and was lingering, I knew what I wanted to do, and I was excited to do it.

Mark Schwann (show creator and writer) got me hooked on the very first season. The show flailed a couple of times after. Season 2 went by like a blur and after season 6, it felt like it was ready to end, but continued to air for 3 more. And I tell this to everybody, but I just couldn't stop watching because they were family, and you don't quit on family.

Mark always said the show was nothing without its music, and rightly so. And that's a big part I will miss about One Tree Hill, its choice of music was impeccable. Every episode has its drama but when you hear that surreal, quiet sound with words like those of "For Blue Skies" (Strays don't Sleep), "Lie in the Sound" (Trespassers William), "Re-Offender" (Travis) "Always Love" (Nada Surf) and Gavin Degraw's whole catalog - you just transcend out of their story and into yours. And for a few minutes, there's comfort.

I remember my world stopping still when Grubbs (Wakey! Wakey!) sang "Dance So Good" inside the booth of Red Bedroom Records and thinking of how far the show has come in terms of depth. And me getting it, getting the lyrics, must mean I've come far too in terms of depth. I've grown just as much as they did, and I'd like to say they kept me in track while doing it.

It was fun growing up with them, so much so that I had difficulty watching the series finale. It just transports you back to where they were, but more importantly, where I was that time too. And how far I've come since being 15 and picturing Nathan as my husband to this, 21, and thanking all of them that for the last time, they said just the right words: "What you do matters."

I guess it was also the attachment to fictional best friends. I saw Haley fight for music, for Nathan; I saw her on the very first time she performed in front of a crowd, and the night she told Nathan, "the celebrity and the applause mean nothing if I'm not without you. So yeah, you're right, this is not the life I could have had because ever since I met you it has been so much more."

I remember Lucas telling Peyton, "it's you. when all my dreams come true, the person i want standing next to me, it's you" and her telling him on their wedding day, "Despite how confused I've been or lost I might've gotten, there is always you, finding me and saving me." And I remember Nathan falling on the hard cold floor of the High School basketball court after overdosing on steroids to the day he told Haley he was finally going to play in the NBA.

I remember Keith saying "And the people you love just forgot to love you back" and for the first time, understanding what it meant. Peyton's podcasts, which I had repeatedly gone back to for advice. "Find your battle, and fight like hell until your battle is won," she said. And it was a pretty damn good advice.

And the Tree Hill High corridors when they graduated, with Paolo Nutini's "Rewind" playing, and me thinking at the time, if I will also ever get to see my dreams come true. Just like they did. And then one night, in my old room, when I was second guessing myself, I made the decision to watch a few episodes back, they told me this: If you believe that your wish is right around the corner. And if you open your heart and mind to the possibility of it. To the certainty of it. You just might get the thing you're wishing for."

In season 5, Peyton asked Mia, the artist she just signed on to her label, "what would be enough?" Mia (Kate Voegele in real life) said:

Maybe, it's like I don't need to be famous and I don't need all of the money in the world, it's not about that. It's about that girl who is having a horrible day and she hears your song and for five minutes there's hope. You know? It's like for five minutes the world's not such a scary place for her anymore. You asked what's gonna be enough, that will be enough, that will be more than enough.
And if that was the show's intention too, then it had been more than just enough. For 9 years, there was a girl with a thousand horrible days and she listened to the music, and she watched the show, and back, and back agin, and for more than a few thousand minutes, there was hope.

Goodbye One Tree Hill, your art mattered, it's what gotten me here.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

When you're 21 and a minimum wage earner

There's a place in the world where being 21 and being ass broke is cool. And it's not Manila. Here it's just lame, and pitiable.

There is nothing cool about opting out of Saturday night outs because you're broke, and observing Earth Hour not because you're environment friendly but because you have 2 months worth of Meralco bills sitting on your table threatening to plunge you to the dark ages.

It's also the thing about being 21 and earning minimum wage. You have to pick priorities: when the bills come pouring in, you have to ask yourself: what can you not have? So you pay the internet bill because your job (or life) sometimes depends on it. You pay the water bill because how else are you going to take a bath? You pay the building monthly dues because you cannot be homeless. And you're left with electricity - you figure you're just at your place to sleep, you don't need light when you sleep and you can charge your gadgets in the office.

A little extreme thinking but if there's any notices of disconnection I would rather see in the mail, it's electricity.

But that's not to say you can't have fun. Of course you can, but only twice a month. And that only lasts a few days. This month, mine lasted just one.

I had to have a root canal last week and the choice was either to be be poor or to die. I chose to be poor. I visited the dentist on payday so after I had it done, I went to a restaurant and ate my self to death. I figured, I should be able to eat everything I want on that day because God knows when I'll be able to eat again.

Another thing about being 21 and being a minimum wage earner is that, there's never enough money to spend on health and well-being. Visit the doctor? Nah, just take paracetamol. Buy paracetamol? Nah, just drink water.

And of course you cannot ask your parents for dole outs unless it was a matter of life and death. You're 21. That age just screams pressure. Prove yourself. Be responsible. Live alone. Be independent. You cannot just call your mom and say, "Hi Mom, you were right, I can't do this." Of course you can't! You tell them you can and you don't need their money……….anymore.

And that's one of the perils of being 21 in Manila. You lived in a country where parents are expected to fund you for as long as forever. The system doesn't allow for student loans and housing plans. The society surely doesn't allow for waiting tables, mowing lawns or doing paper rounds to sustain you.

We have no choice but to live and loot off our parents. That's why when you're finally done with school, it's just too embarassing to continue being their responsibility.

And for that, you accept that you're never going to be able to buy a house or a car in the next 10 years. There's just no way to. So you start lowering your standards. Maybe a phone, a TV, a laptop. In my case, my phone, my TV, my laptop were all courtesy of my mom. Allow me to feel pathetic.

But there are still things you can pay for yourself. Like Holidays. Because if you don't travel, and get days off from your job and have that moment of total disconnection, you're gonna lose your mind.

It's cheaper to travel than pay for a shrink.

The saddest thing about being 21 and earning minimum? You are kind of stripped of the right to be outrageous, be irresponsible and take risks. You literally cannot afford to.

"Times are hard for the dreamers," I read somewhere.

It is. It's hard. Not knowing when you're gonna be able to finally pay that electricity bill, or if you're ever gonna have enough to replace a shitty phone. Or if you'll ever reach the period of not living from paycheck to paycheck.

But being 21 and earning minimum and sticking with it? When you can fly to the UK and earn crazy there or sell your soul to corporate robots and get paid shitload, is maybe another way of being outrageous and being irresponsible.

I know for sure it's taking a risk. Wondering, hoping and waiting for that risk to pay off - that's where the fun comes in.

It's just a scary, unstable kind of fun and you would have to have a dark sense of humor to find it funny. Thankfully, I'm a little twisted, because being 21 and earning minimum wage and being broke is kind of my thing right now. And I've never felt more alive.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


(If I may make a suggestion: listen to this while you read: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSRwS1T5l4I)

It's out there. #TeamAwesome original is splitting up.

Well actually, I wasn't really part of the original; just came in early enough to make the claim a little valid. There were four of us then, me, Stacy, Neil and the brainpower that is Sir Josh.

We used to occupy a dainty little table at a corner in the newsroom's technical hub, and we would have our own world and live our own little lives despite the noise and the constant tension that is news production.

Sir Josh would occupy the end part of the table, facing us three. He would have his face buried on his macbook most of the time except when we need questions and other situations that really require the Josh intervention.

And it worked, freaking brilliantly. We had our own system. Of taking little breaks to relieve frustrations, of playing good music, or taking pauses to surf the web for pleasure, just to get the engine going. Of eating good food, or bad food, constantly throughout the day.

Of taking trips after office, on the weekend; of having midnight snacks around Timog. I cannot remember a milestone in the time we worked togther that it wasn't marked, or accompanied by food. We just hit 100,000 followers: get burger at Johnny Rockets. We need to prepare for a coverage: order in Pizza. Post-mortem: buy chips from 7/11. We collectively had a bad day in the office: get ice cream.

The first day News TV was launched, Sir Josh bought us all coffee. I'm not a big fan of coffee, but it did stir us to the right direction. Not because of caffeine, or that we are energized solely by food, but that we have a common goal and we have a common drug, and that drug was simple: food. And it has resulted to so many amazing things.

When Sir Josh migrated to the 2nd floor where he had his own cubicle and left us three in the table, I suffered from terrible separation anxiety. It felt like losing a driver, at an express way, at 80 kilometers per hour. So imagine the feeling when he left the company. I was scared shitless.

And there was a period of needing to talk to him constantly over GChat just to kind of regain balance. But sad to say, I never did.

Then we started shifting schedules. I would be in the morning, Neil and Stacy would take the night shift and at one point, I would just feel..alone. I think that's what happens when you work so closely together with someone, when you build habits and plan routines and sync your movements with the other person. The machinery collapses when you take away one.

I'm not saying this is the reason, but I think it makes sense to disassemble the triumvirate. Especially when Neil left. It was just too unfamiliar without the boys, like there is perpetually something missing.

And I feel bad because the team's eventual additions need not suffer the consequences of our domino effect. For the past months, it has brought me guilt to know we may be contributing to a rupture. And it needs to stop.

I just woke up one day and I knew something had to be done. A decision had to be made. To continue, or to stop. And I guess people have always known; I probably have known on some level that I was also going to leave the team not much later.

I found out Stacy had pulled the plug days before I did, and it just hit me; some kind of clarity that maybe our fate was meted out together that way. It was the plan; and we carried out a destiny for one and a half year before we had to separate ways and make our own.

This - us four taking different roads - this makes sense. If not together, then maybe not at all. And we are branching out happily, breaking apart but not really. We're all happy, each of us finding the decision quite liberating actually, like this has always been the endpoint of this chapter of our lives.

Like a goal that has been accomplished; and like any other mission, it is time to move on. But not without looking back and saying, fuck, we were truly awesome together.

Awesome enough to manage and weave magic seperately. And every time I think of it, of us going our separate ways, I can hear Sir Josh's voice, asking: "What is your takeaway?" (Sidenote: He loved asking "what is your takeaway"? I think "takeaway" is his favorite word)

And you know what? My takeaway is this: that I was given some of the best months of my life with the best people. And that alone is a victory. We won, guys, we really, really did.

It's just the reality of life. It goes on. To Gayna, Justin, Marj and Audrey: Kick some major asses, guys! You are #TeamAwesome, remember that :)

So it's out there. #TeamAwesome original is splitting up. So from your bunso, I love you three. When you have time, there are four champ burgers reserved for a reunion.

From the words of Steve Jobs: Stay hungry, literally and figuratively. Stay foolish.

Stay awesome :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

They paved paradise, put up a parking lot

Author's note (April 10,2012): SM Baguio began uprooting the trees on the eve of April 9; Luneta Hill was covered and the workers were masked. Advocates started to arrive in Luneta Hill 12am of April 10, begging the men to stop cutting the trees. But alas an alnus fell; dawn broke and Baguio has lost some of its few remaining pines. Baguio RTC Branch 6 has issued a Temporary Environmental Protection Order, stopping the uprooting, at least for now. SM still stands by their initial statement and the LGU still insists they can't do anything about it.

Armi of Up Dharma down plays the first few notes of the band hit ‘Tadhana’ and there was a collective sound of glee that resonated not in a music bar, but in an open space in Baguio City, where students, musicians, artists and residents were in one with the cool breeze, and their beloved trees.

The evening concert came after the tree-planting activity and prayer rally of ‘Project Save 182,’ a collaborative group headed by environmental activist Dr. Michael Bengwayan to call for the trashing of SM Baguio’s redevelopment plan that involves the earth-balling of 182 trees.

On the morning of February 5, more than 182 new trees were planted at the Pines of the World park, in a symbolic act participated by some 200 advocates from Baguio, others from Manila.

Approved by city, DENR

The redevelopment plan was given the green light by the DENR and the local government of Baguio.

According to DENR-CAR Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat, when SM applied to ball the trees to pave way for the mall’s expansion, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje approved it on certain conditions. That SM ‘transplant’ the trees and plant 50 saplings for every one tree uprooted.

“It’s like being allowed to kill a person, provided that I make 50 new babies,” said Conviron Altatis, one of the activists who helped mobilize the movement, using Facebook primarily.

Altatis did a spoof monologue of Henry Sy, SM CEO, and Henry Sy’s grandson. His amusing performance earned him applause, but most when he delivered his very last line.

In a fake chinese accent, he said, “I asked my Lolo Henry, ‘Lolo, if we become grandparents, what is the story you would like us to tell them? That there used to be pine trees in Baguio, or that there used to be an SM in Baguio?’”


They call it the ‘SM Occupy,’ a movement that originated in the US to protest corporate greed. The definition fits to the group’s cause, as weeks before, the same people marched to the upper Session road near the mall to stage a rally filled with music, and performances, crying, as seen in one of the signs, “cut your greed, not our trees.”

SM Management said they are going to build the multi-leveled parking lot using green architecture and technology. It’ll help decongest traffic, they said, and that they were vying to be given a LEED recognition for an ecologically-friendly structure which will use no airconditioning and only natural light, the first of its kind in the country.

“That’s absurd,” said Bedejim Abdullah, member of the Cordillera Conservation Trust, an environmentalist also rallying to save the trees around SM. You want to be friendly to the environment, don’t cut the trees, he said, as well as everyone in the protest did.

“I hope I can stop the cutting of trees,” Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan told me when I went to the City hall the next day. The land SM Baguio now stands in is a private property owned by the Corporation, bought from the national government in a bidding in 1992 for almost P70M. “We cannot do anything because we are bound by law to let them do what they want with their property,” Domogan said.

DENR-CAR’s Baguilat said, “if the government doesn’t want trees to be cut, then don’t sell these lands.” Asked whether anyone of them in the local unit could put a stop to it, he said, “the city government. Political will lang ‘yan.'


"No trees will be cut," says SM in an online statement posted in their website as well as in reports. VP for Operations in the Northern Region Engr. Bien Mateo gave an interview to GMA News TV's Bawal ang Pasaway with Mareng Winnie where he emphasized that they were not gonna cut trees, they were just gonna earth ball them - and that every single one affected will be replaced with more.

“Their favorite word is ‘ball’” said Altatis. What SM plans to do with the trees is earth-ball them, meaning to uproot and replant them somewhere else.

Bengwayan said earth-balling will be tantamount to killing. He recalls the 1994 Camp John Hay incident where 475 trees were earth-balled. Out of the 475 trees in John Hay, only 43 live today. In all, only
17% of them survived due to a “transplant shock” the roots experienced.

“But 17% is better than none,” said Baguilat.

Bengwayan also pointed out some numbers: 182 trees can absorb 27,300 liters of water everyday, which will help lessen the risk of flooding. 1 pine tree can also take in 40-45 ibs of carbon; 182 pine trees can contribute to the reduction of 9,790 ibs of carbon yearly from the air we breathe.

A tree a day

Baguilat said the Luneta Hill, where the trees stand at risk of SM’s expansion, is a very little patch of greenery as compared tothe remaining ‘significant’ patches of forest that remain in Baguio that must be protected, like the Camp John Hay and the Forbes Park.

Bengwayan told me the groups fear it may be a precedent to the cutting of more trees. “If they can cut 182 now, what’s stopping them to cut more?”

Among the crowd present that day was veteran artist Ben-Hur Villanueva. He said the point of the movement is to assure the children today that they will grow up in the same Baguio their elders lived in - a city rich with pine trees. “The adults, may politiko na ‘yan, but the children - they need to be aware of the importance to have trees.”

“We need to have a provision where the trees these children plant will be legally theirs,” Villanueva shared his thoughts with me. He said it was to give the child the right and claim to a tree, should its life be challenged later on. It was to assure, he said, that as the child grows up, the tree grows up with him.


In a chit-chat by the sideline, the event secretariat revealed they feel the cutting of trees is gonna happen “anytime soon.”

The Luneta Hill, once open to spectators, is now surrounded with armed guards in every corner. Mayor Domogan and the DENR show no sign of budging. In my conversation with Baguilat, he told me that it was a direct order from Secretary Ramon Paje and that their mandate is to follow.

Mayor Domogan insistently explained that unless the National Government says or does something, the government of Baguio has no choice but to honor land owners’ rights.

DENR-CAR also looks to Secretary Paje for any possible change of heart.

Kabataan Representative Mong Palatino has called on the Congress to probe the mall oligarch’s expansion. Palatino filed House Resolution 2069 seeking a joint inquiry into legality and propriety of the permit granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) allowing the earth-balling of trees.

Plea to SM

Baguilat added that the fate of the trees lie mostly in SM’s hands, saying the environmental groups should direct their attentionto SM and convince them to spare the trees.

But the environmental groups look to take their case to the President himself. They gathered signatures from the numerous rallies they will send to President Noynoy Aquino at the Palace.

Bengwayan and other groups cry to the government: honor Executive Order #23. EO 23, in its gist, prohibits any body including the DENR to issue tree-cutting permits in natural and residual forests.

In a text message, DENR-CAR Information Officer Abner Villanueva insisted the order does not cover Luneta Hill as it is a private property for commercial use, and that the trees were not naturally growing but actually just planted - by SM themselves.

Green Building

SM's Mateo also told Pasaway that "Trees are very important. We also find importance in them. But we want to also explain that caring for the environment is not only limited to trees. We care for the trees, but caring for the environment also includes water reservation, energy efficiency, reduction of carbon footprint, and this is what we're promoting in this expansion; making it a green building."

SM also explained that in 2005, they experienced problems of soil erosion and that after examinations, a careful enhancement of the area showed to be the best solution. They also said that the expansion will include the construction of a water reservoir which can contain 6.9 million liters of water at any given time - an amount that can be absorbed by 4,000 pine trees - to prevent run-off.

But the main thing, they say: It will help decongest the city, lowering carbon dioxide emission. Economically, the expansion will also create jobs and pay taxes that can provide significant funding for the community.

For his part, Domogan defended the development for its eventual benefits for the city, and added a sidenote to the interview: "Minsan lang, pinapasok ang politika, kung nag-express ka ng opinyon na hindi tugma sa kanila, sasabihin, nabili 'yan. he was bribed! And that's not fair."


“Shoe....shoe...mart...mart...mart,” hummed Up Dharma Down to the tune of ‘Big Yellow Taxi’s’ intro; the people laughed, clapped, hysteric. As dawn breaks, around the pine trees, she sang, “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot,” and everybody grew quiet, reflective.

The people camped overnight at the park, praying a brand new day under the lush of pines could offer some hope. Just meters away up in the hill, it was another morning of mighty business for SM Baguio.

(Inlet photos courtesy of author; main photo credits to Beatriz Flores)