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.


  1. thanks for this post. oh man, i'm so proud of you. :D

  2. go, go, go Lian! GO for that dream of yours! :)