Saturday, June 30, 2007

why media is not for me

“…and remember, dress properly, be courteous…” And so goes the litany of last-minute reminders. I was packing my things for my trip back to Cebu after a two-week vacation in my hometown in Leyte. (where all I did was to eat, maximize our cable television, surf the internet at wee hours, and sleep) My mother was going in and out of my bedroom, bringing my ironed clothes and checking if I forgot to pack any of my belongings. We managed to slip in the perfunctory mother-daughter conversation. Had I known better, my mother is as anxious as I am in entering the yet unfamiliar terrains of the real world – the world after university education, where one has to deal with real problems concerning survival, money, and career.

Fresh graduates have an edge over more seasoned workers when it comes to applying for jobs, a colleague of mine once remarked, because their minds are still teeming with much gusto and idealism. College students, when they graduate, set their gears in motion to put into practice all the years of theory that school has taught them. They are eager and excited to take on the new challenges of life.

Imagine them as little kids who have just discovered the power of their arms and hands. To their delight, they start to crawl around and crawl some more until they, too, find out about their legs and the marvels they could do with those two tiny feet. Fresh graduates are like those kids, trying to take a big plunge into that great career pool and testing the current if it is calm enough for one to be allowed to struggle in and across it, and if the circumstances are favorable, he or she may be swimming towards the other side in no time. But while others have gone diving – discovering their strengths and weaknesses in their fields, I have remained at the edges with much conviction, skittering…skittering…and skittering still.

When people leave the halls of the university, they have more or less conceived notions on how they will be spending most of their lives. I had my ideas, too. In fact, way before college, I was determined to pursue a career in journalism. My greatest ambition then was to work as a journalist in one of the nation’s daily broadsheets. The vision was simple: me, sitting on a desk, typing away words that come bumping into my head, and finding that article on print the very next day. I was so enamored by the thought that without hesitations, I told my parents I was going to take up Mass Communication in college. Even if I knew they wanted me to follow their footsteps and take an education course, they gave me their blessing. Back then, people prophesied that I’d be the next Korina Sanchez or Bobby Nalzaro. Though I was quick to dismiss their forecasts as premature, I still dreamed my childhood dream and I thought nothing could ever dissuade me from pursuing such. But then, reality took on an entirely different meaning in college. Reality was…REAL…so real that I could smell it, touch it, and grasp it with my own hands. So real that the little things I used to ignore were now larger than what my eyes could take in. So real that one by one, the pieces started falling into place – but not without first landing smack on my face.

One of the most frustrating moments in your life is when you realize how different and how great the difference is between reality and idealism. In the four walls of the classroom, you are taught clearly what is black and white but outside the confines of that room, you’ll see that the world is marked with a lot of grey areas. I’m one of those ordinary people whose ideas are not lived up to by reality. When one gets to see the starkness of reality, one would feel giddy about it on impulse – having seen something so close which others are not privy to. At first, one would feel an overwhelming sense of power that comes from the mere knowledge of it. But those first moments have long passed and now I am only left with one thing: reality, in its naked form.

In school, we have always been taught that media is the fourth estate of a democracy and an important catalyst of change. Media practitioners should be objective, fair, and at all times, ethical. But in this world where there is no equality, where money is powerful, and where greedy people run the political system, all those high-sounding words, remain to be words…and ideas in our heads. The great burning dream of mine was reduced to ashes that dissipated, piece by piece, to the wind and nevermore. Thus, I stumbled across one of the many roadblocks in life.

I have decided to avoid employment in mainstream media because I do not want to be caught in a situation where I have to compromise my ethical values. The media is one of those places where you can most likely trade your ideals for money. I’d rather be employed in a corporation, whose nature is admittedly profit-oriented than be employed in a media institution, whose nature is also profit-oriented, hiding under the guise of public service. I was once fooled into thinking that if I become a part of mainstream media, I could affect people’s lives and fight for what is true. Well, that is partly correct. But it happens if and only if it will not collide with the personal interests of the media owners. Otherwise, it is best to shut up if you don’t want to be fired. At least in a private company, I know clearly what I am working for. No icing on the cake. No false guises. Just… reality. And just what I want at this point in my life…

Sunday, June 03, 2007

best place next to home

For the past twenty years of my existence, I have spent most of my Holy Weeks in Barili, the hometown of my father located at the southern part of Cebu. Save for that particular week during the year, my grandmother’s house is relatively quiet. But as Holy Tuesday steps in, people start pouring into the house, lugging baggages, appliances, little kids, and beautiful memories behind. My grandmother’s house would seem to glow from all the noise and bustle inside it – the sound of hammers fixing the wooden figures of the family caro, the music and the voices coming from the rented karaoke machine, the crying and screaming of little kids, the laughter of binatas and the dalagas talking about the latest happenings in their lives, the conversations of the mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles on how the kids have grown, and so on and so forth. It is no longer the lonely house it was during most of the days of the year. For the next few days, it becomes our home.

Tradition has it that every Holy Week, all the eleven sons and daughters of my lola Guadalupe Alquizola-Yap gather in her house not only to observe the Holy Week but also to participate in a family-held custom – to decorate, arrange, and parade the family caro every Holy Wednesday. In a way, we are obliged to be there since it’s a family thing. But then, as the saying “the more, the merrier” goes, all the preparations we undertake can hardly be called tasks since we enjoy working together and catching up on each other in between. Amid all the fuss of arranging the flowers and dressing up the life-sized figures of Jesus the Nazarene, Simon, the Centurion, and the rest, we manage to pop in a little chitchat. Our efforts, after all, are not in vain. We are rewarded by delicious meals prepared by the mothers at home. And it’s no ordinary meal. In honor of the occasion, it’s almost like a feast.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays seem to roll by quickly with the busy schedule. But as Thursday morning peeps in, everyone can sit back, relax, and savor the rest of the week. I know Holy Week should be a time for reflection and prayer but it seems to be the only perfect excuse for everyone to leave their jobs and classes behind. We only meet once a year as a big family so we don’t let it pass without having some fun. This is where the karaoke showdown, the movie marathon, and the small trips to scenic spots come in. The week is usually concluded with a day or a day and a night at the beach, complete with the inuman sessions, night swimming, and eating.

On a personal note, here are the things that I really love most about staying in Barili for the Holy Week: (1) I like the feel of being united as a big family, despite the generation differences. Today, there are about three generations of our family gathering in my lola’s house and our family just keeps on growing! (2) I especially like meal times, even if we have to go by batches since the dining table can definitely not accommodate all of us in one sitting. I like meal times because aside from my obvious affection for food, meal times are usually accompanied by small jokes thrown at each other at the dining table. (3) Bedtimes are sometimes a headache. The house has only five rooms. Imagine trying to fit in eleven sons and daughters plus the children and the grandchildren in one house. Some end up sleeping on mats spread out on the floor. Just last Holy Week, the five of the older girl-cousins – that’s me, Japril, Pauline, Ella, and Julie Ann – had to make do with one bed. Three of us had to sleep sideways so we won’t all fall out of the bed. Hahaha! That’s actually a fun part of it. Since we girls are inseparable during those days, we push the limits harder. Even the smallest nook of the house can become a haven as long as we’re together and we can talk about our love lives and sing together. (4) Do you know that since time immemorial, (okay, that was just an overstatement) we girl-cousins take a bath together? I’m not really sure if it saves time and water. But we love it anyway. (5) Lastly, I love being with my cousins. I’m lucky that I have cousins who have (more or less) the same age as mine. I see how we have grown from awkward kids to mature adolescents. I can now recollect fond memories of my childhood in that house and I can see the difference between then and now. For instance, back then we really love riding the trisikad at night to get some fresh air and to tour around the town proper. Now, we do it because we want to be on the lookout for cute guys. Before, we play with our toys and we even cringe at the mere thought of us having boyfriends. But today, guess the main topic of our conversations? Mostly about the things we eewed and ughed before – boys plus relationship and dating. We really have grown up.

As I write this article, a wave of nostalgia hits me as I realize that as we grow up, our priorities change. For those who have finished college like me, our work becomes our priority. Some of my cousins cannot make it to the Holy Week gatherings because they work as seamen abroad. And with the looming crisis facing our country, some members of our family plan to leave the country for good. I hope that one day, I wouldn’t have to miss the gathering for other things in this life. But just in case I do, I still would like to go back to that house once in a while – Holy Week or not. It is, after all, the best place next to home.