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.