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…

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