Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The next 45

Yesterday I was told I had been chosen to be part of a team that would document the Yolanda story, the good and the bad. Lessons learned. What was done right, and what went wrong. We would combine technical reports and personal accounts in the final output that we hope would be useful in the future.

The opportunity came swiftly and it was good I went after it at once. Less than a week later, I find that I am on board.

Now comes the hard part.

Why did I ask to be considered? Sure, it was because somebody I had recently known informed me that writers were needed to tell the Yolanda story, compellingly and authoritatively. I was headed for a financial lull in the summer months and I needed something to plug the gap especially since enrollment comes right after the summer. 

An epiphany: I have bigger, more profound gaps to fill. 

They are selfish, but by doing a good job I hope to turn that "selfishness" around. See for many months now I have been feeling some sort of distance between myself and what really happened in the Visayas. 

I trace my roots from Panay, both in the mother and father side, but feel no kinship whatsoever with the people from there.(Panay, like Samar and Leyte albeit to a less degree, was battered by the storm). Born and raised in Manila, I knew nobody who was directly or indirectly affected by Yolanda. 

Everything I knew, I knew from traditional media and the Internet. There is a great great distance between my desk at the newsroom, or even my home office, and the situation on the ground out there.

I knew next to nothing about what it is really like to lose everything, and everyone, and live day after day without the comforts you used to take for granted. And yet I write about it and the issues that stem from it. I have to, because it's in  the news, and I have to make do with material already available for my perusal. It's difficult to take pride in commenting from the armchair. One will always feel insecure that one says one knows is just a facet of the whole picture. 

A shame, I used to think. I believe I am most effective at what I do telling individuals' stories, and making the complex simple. I used to wish I had the opportunities given to the likes of others who have been writing so well and so compellingly about their firsthand experiences with the survivors of the storm.

And maybe I can be part of the effort to inspire real action, ruffle some feathers. 

The next 45 days (that's how long the engagement is just supposed to last) are going to be challenging. We are told that our team would trace the steps of the storm from when it first made landfall, up until the time it exited the Philippine area of responsibility. I am humbled by the chance to use my writing to help, just the tiniest bit, prevent a recurrence of the tragedy. Not the fury of nature -- we cannot do much about that -- but how we anticipate and respond to it and refuse to allow it to take as much of us as it did the last time. 

I hope to be a better writer, a better journalist, a better Filipino and a better person because of this experience. 

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