Quote of the Day

“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but who are famous because they are great.”   –Daniel Boorstin


Dinner with the idols (Part 2)

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is celebrating its silver anniversary this month. I left the organization in August. This is my small way of celebrating with the news organization that taught me many things about what journalism ought to be.

In February 2006, the Wowowee Stampede in Pasig City killed 71 people, mostly elderly women. Some 30,000 people had lined up for several days for the show’s first anniversary that promised instant cash rewards.

It was to be held at the PhilSports Arena, known as Ultra. It was within my regular geographical beat. It was a Saturday. Since it was my regular day-off, I was to meet my family to celebrate my birthday.

A call woke me up early in the morning. It was Ma’am Cookie Micaller, our daydesk head then.

Some 10 reporters were deployed to cover the tragedy. Our assignments were clear and precise. Some were deployed to hospitals and morgues. Some were deployed to interview witnesses and relatives.

I was asked to go inside the venue. I also attended ABS-CBN’s late afternoon press conference. No birthday party for me.

The year before I left the Inquirer to study, former President Corazon Aquino passed way. I wasn’t part of the team assembled to cover the wake and the funeral in August 2009. My beat then was the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

But I knew the funeral would be a historic event. That day was also declared a holiday. This meant the Sandiganbayan would not open. So I called Ma’am Juliet Javellana, who was planning the coverage, and volunteered to be part of the team.

The coordination was seamless. Some reporters were assigned to cover the funeral mass at the Manila Cathedral. Some were assigned to join the nine-hour convoy to the Manila Memorial Park. Others were deployed in the streets.

I joined a fellow reporter and went to the cemetery with our photographer early in the morning. The most difficult part was waiting for the convoy. And it was raining.

Inquirer’s team wrapped up the coverage with a well-deserved dinner in a restaurant paid for by the company.

The following day, I got fever that would not go away until after seven days. But that dinner remains fresh on my mind.

There, inside the Max’s Restaurant, I got to share dinner with my idols.

I treasure these three major events not only because I witnessed history, but because I felt how it was to be part of the Inquirer team. I got to share main story bylines with journalists I look up to.

The Inquirer is far from perfect, it is true.

But during these times when teamwork overcomes pride, when reporters are valued by their editors, when the superstars share the limelight with the rookies, the organization finally becomes one.

It is during these times that the Inquirer stands out.

Dinner with the idols (Part 1)

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is celebrating its silver anniversary this month. I left the organization in August. This is my small way of celebrating with the news organization that taught me many things about what journalism ought to be.

Seven years ago, as a fresh journalism graduate, I realized it was difficult to stand out in the Inquirer.

It’s usually hard to find the organization’s weakest link. The senior reporters are well-known in the industry. The new recruits go through intense training and selection. The editors are sharp and brilliant.

The newsroom is not for the faint-hearted.

Reporters are encouraged—make that pressured—to turn in scoops, write with flair and submit stories earlier than the deadline. No, make that immediately after an event, as reporters are also required to break stories to the website.

But six years with the country’s respected news organization made me realize it was not really about standing out.

The Inquirer is what it is now because—contrary to stereotypes of journalists working alone under heaps of cigarette butts—it flourishes as a team.

Teamwork marked the most memorable assignments I had with the newspaper.

It was my second year with the Inquirer and I was pinching in for the Quezon City beat when movie icon Fernando Poe Jr. was rushed to the St. Luke’s hospital in December 2004.

He passed away the following day, seven months after he lost the presidential race to Gloria Arroyo.

His funeral was scheduled at 4 a.m. The Inquirer editorial group had its annual Christmas party the night before. That meant many of our reporters, including me, had to leave the party immediately to go to our respective assignments with no sleep.

The coverage was carefully planned. Sir Gerry Lirio, then the daydesk editor, deployed more than 15 reporters for the event, making sure everything was covered.

We had one reporter stationed at every 500 meters or so to monitor the funeral march from the Sto. Domingo Church to the North Cemetery.

We knew the funeral would draw thousands, if not millions, of people, so our reporters were deployed very early.

Three reporters and photographers even went straight to the cemetery as early as 1 a.m. to wait for the funeral march that would not reach the North Cemetery until after nine hours.

To be concluded…