Archive for April, 2013

Last Friday, April 19, I just got back to civilization. Even though I just stayed home for the past two days, I didn’t have the strength to watch TV nor look at my laptop screen. The day before, Thursday, I actually was feeling better, but my mom wanted me to rest for another day—just to make sure I’m fully recovered before I go back to work. I did a lot of catching up with my co-interns that Friday. I sure did miss a lot of stuff, including the scrumptious meal in Shangri-la Makati and the giveaways from the Saudi Arabia Embassy. And yeah, I did lose a couple of hours.

That Friday was also a slow news day, so later on that afternoon we were asked to rewrite a press release. It’s about Makati City’s line of activities in celebration of Earth Day, particularly about the Miss Earth 2013 candidates leading the “Tigil Buga” activity (it involves persuading motorists in Ayala Avenue to turn their engines off for a whole minute) on Sunday. When we finished, Sir Mike printed out our articles and used a red pen to edit our articles. Seems that that approach was more effective for him, I guess. Then, we had a “mentoring session”. He handed us back our articles one by one—giving out comments and corrections as he went along. It was all I can do to stop myself from smiling when he said my article was the “least edited”. It’s nice to know that I’m improving, in speed and in quality. Yey. After the corrections in the articles were discussed (like add something informative to the article, put additional value—do not just rewrite the press release, limit the use of the word “that,” look for potential stories, always look for the human face of the story, spell out and specify, use fewer words byt do not sacrifice the volume of information, avoid multi-syllabic words, etc.), Sir’s tone got more serious. He talked to us regarding our performances so far in the internship. He said we lacked initiative and we lacked the drive. He said that a journalist should not be shy. It turns out Sir Mike somewhat got mad at my co-interns the day before, ‘twas a long story, but he said it all leads back to the “lack of initiative” thing. I did get to breathe when he said I was okay, I just need to push a little more. He said he appreciated the texts and all when I monitor the news and make a few calls every morning. It’s nice to know my hard work pays off. We were then asked if we really like the beat we’re in. If you ask me, I’m having fun and I’m enjoying every minute of my internship. So yeah. Nice to know I’m improving, and it’s nice to know that I still have the chance to improve more.

I won’t forget what Sir Mike said that day, that the mindset of interns when they see reporters should be: “someday, I’ll be your colleague.” We mustn’t be intimidated, but rather, be inspired. We must keep on trying. Sir Mike said there are two kinds of journalists: one who is very skilled in getting details, and one who is very skilled in writing. We must aim to be both. There must be a balance between these two, he said. And, finally, we must learn to love our work—learn to love what we do. If you don’t love what you’re doing, it just won’t work. You will have a hard time succeeding.

Okay. So as I’ve mentioned in my previous post, I was going to miss the coverage of events lined up for us this week. I got sick. I only recovered yesterday. I was in bed, burning with fever for the past two days. How it started has something to do with my 6th day as an intern.

I woke up last Tuesday to good news: a text from Sir Mike, saying that we (his 3 interns) were published in the online article about the SPD TMRU launching. Cool. That means our names are already included in the tagline. Life lesson number one: hard work does pay off eventually. When we first started our internship, Sir Mike immediately told us to not expect that we will see our names on the paper. He explained that there was a former intern that was charged with libel, so in order to prevent that from happening again, it has been a policy of the Star to not include interns in taglines, let alone bylines. Sir Mike, however, reassured us that if the story is very, very, very, very, very safe, our names can be considered to be included in the online version of the news. Cool. Our very first published article. It might not be on printed newspaper, but it still counts, I think.

That day, we were to cover a senatorial debate in Rockwell. The only problem was the event starts at 6:30 p.m. I was really excited though. Imagine all the hours we’ll get out of the event. Haha. Anyway, that morning, Trish and I went to the Philippine Star office to get our press IDs. We came a little too early—I arrived at 7:45, Trish arrived at 8—for our contact person will not arrive at the office until 9 or 9:30, the guard told us so. We texted Sir Mike if we could go to the MMDA press office around 11, considering the travel time if we are to get our IDs at 9. He told us that he will be in the area, and we would all just meet up at the Star office. We texted Chynna to come by the office, instead of going straight to the MMDA press office. We waited for an hour at the nearest convenience store we could find and chatted a little. A few minutes after 9, we had our press IDs already. It felt so awesome to have a press ID, even if there’s a huge “TRAINEE” printed at the bottom. We texted Sir Mike that we already claimed the IDs and waited for him as we monitor the news.

At around 11, Sir Mike arrived. We all went inside his car, a beige-ish Hyundai, and he told us we are going to the Makati Police Station. It was so hot. Really hot. Honestly, it felt a little cooler outside than in his car. (No offense, sir.) We were sweating like crazy. My head was already spinning. I don’t know if it’s because of the extremely hot weather in Metro Manila, which by the way reached 36 °C that day, or because I lacked sleep. Again. Unintentionally, I fell asleep while in the passenger seat. I can’t help it. I was having a massive headache and I can barely breathe whilst inside the car. We got off in Amorsolo Street, if I’m not mistaken, which is just about a block away from the Makati Central Police Station. We interns had lunch in McDonalds while Sir Mike went on to find a parking spot (and it does take a while before he gets to park his car). ‘Twas cold inside McDo. I can already feel the first sign of sickness: I can feel my feet getting somewhat ticklish—as if there’s a patch of ice or some sort of cold sensation under my feet. And of course there was the headache. I already decided that I’m gonna take in a paracetamol (pain reliever) tablet after lunch.

After lunch and after taking in medicine, we walked towards the police station. Sir Mike ended up in Starbucks in Glorietta 5, he told us to meet him there after we’re done “visiting” the Makati Police. Damn, it was so hot. I wonder if the Philippines suddenly got a wee bit closer to the sun. We were sweating when we got there. In all fairness, this police station is the best I’ve seen so far. It’s fully air conditioned, everything looks new and it’s huge for crying out loud. The architectural design was awesome. The only catch is, all lights in the halls are turned off. It looks like a good spot to shoot a suspense film, but still a modern-looking headquarters just the same.

We first went to the complaint desk and check the recent blotters. Nothing too big going on, just a couple of small robberies and theft, so we didn’t take note of the cases and just looked at it. The three of us then went on to the CID which is upstairs. The elevator makes this sound, the kind you hear in suspense or horror movies. Creepy. Anyways, like we were told on the phone, there was nothing really big going on. The closest one we got to a big case was an alarm and scandals type of case, involving a bouncer and a house owner. We took note of the case details, as instructed by Sir Mike, but unfortunately all of the details. We were in a hurry, for the police cannot accommodate us at that time. They were about to file a case or attend a case hearing in the city hall, or something.

Afterwards, we were on our way to Glorietta 5. Because of the fact that we can’t take the heat, we decided to take a cab. It’s nice that the cab’s air-conditioning unit was working perfectly. In Starbucks, we sort of got scolded by Sir Mike. It turns out that we were supposed to take note of the blotter details, even though the cases are remarkably small, and that the details we got from the CID were lacking. In the end, we had to go back to the police station. Life lesson number two: when you get details, make sure to get it. All of it. It can save you the energy, the time and the money. So yeah, at around 2:30 p.m., a time which is said to be one of the hottest times of the day, the three of us were walking towards Makati Avenue, trying to get to the jeepney stop. We got lost a couple of times (hey, Makati roads are sort of confusing) and felt the exhaustion taking over us, especially me. I can barely walk. Other than the fact that my feet hurt from walking in my super cute pair of shoes, the heat was unbearable. Plus, I’ve been feeling kinda sick since lunch. I did have an umbrella, but still, I can feel the sun’s rays embracing my skin.

We left the police station with the details of the three blotters from earlier, but we were unable to get the other details of the alarms and scandals case. The CID can no longer accommodate us, and the main investigator of the case wasn’t there. So, yeah. The effort of going back there was kind of futile. But anyways, we decided to take a cab back to Glorietta 5. There is just no way we’re walking under the sun again. I for one am dehydrated, I’m no longer sweating (which is really bothersome), I’m tired and I think I’m really gonna be sick. My head was spinning like crazy—crazier than it did earlier that day.

When we got to Glorietta 5, something unexpected happened. The moment I set foot in Starbucks—which is a fully air-conditioned establishment by the way—I felt intensely cold all over. And it happened immediately; it took over my body so quickly. I was shivering. Sir Mike was initiating a conversation, something about police cooperation—I could barely remember. The cold feeling was too much. All I can think of at that moment was to get out of there. I excused myself to take in another tablet paracetamol, hoping that after I take it, I’d be back to normal. It’s only almost four in the afternoon, my body shouldn’t break down. No, not when we have a coverage until nine. Not if it means getting almost 12 hours in my time card. I went out of Starbucks, but stayed inside Glorietta 5. It’s warmer, I thought. It took me about 10 minutes to muster all my strength to go back in. Damn. My body still can’t take it. A few minutes of discussion, Sir Mike told me to go home. Well, he’s right. Even if I wanted to, I can’t possibly force myself to stay until nine, when my body is nearly going to collapse. I walked a few steps to get to the taxi lane. I saw a convoy surrounded by lots of cops. The main car was a foreign brand, and it looked like a mini-limo. I was convinced it was Brunei Sultan Bolkiah’s convoy. He was in town that day, and was about to go home. Man, if I was not sick, I would’ve taken a picture. But, I seriously felt that I was going to black out any second. While I was in the cab, I felt my temperature rise. My head aches a little bit more. My tears start to rush out, even though I didn’t feel like crying. Hot tears. I felt my eyes burn and sting. It was weird. My thoughts were racing. Did I get sick because of the changes in the weather? I did go from a hot environment to a cold one in a jiffy. Ugh. I can feel the heaviness of my body. I have to stay conscious, at least until I reached my house. The ride home was a blur, but still, I thank God I had the strength to make it back home. I thank God I got home safe. Later on that night I’d find out that the main cause of my fever was my infected tonsils. Maybe eating a lot of chocolate and not drinking water afterwards was a bad idea. And I did consume lots of chocolates last week. Sigh. Turns out the changing weather contributed in weakening my usually oh so strong immune system. The lack of sleep also contributed too. I was told by my elders that I shouldn’t have stressed myself so much that day. That I should’ve rested when I felt that I was about to get sick. (Geez, as if I’d have the chance to do that while in the field). So, yeah. In the end, I missed almost three days of OJT time. You can only imagine my regret while I was lying in bed, burning in fever and such. Which brings me to life lesson number three: better take care of yourself, ‘cause you’ll lose a lot in a day’s absence.

This week is a week full of covering events, or so I thought. Last Monday, we are assigned to cover the launching of the Tactical Motorcycle-Riding Units (TMRUs) of the Southern Police District (SPD) held in the SPD headquarters in Taguig. On Tuesday, we are to cover a debate between senatorial candidates in Rockwell. On Wednesday, we are to cover an event hosted by the S&P at Shangri-la Hotel in Makati. On Thursday, we are supposed to go to the Saudi Arabia Embassy. We don’t have any coverage to do on Friday. I was excited to go to all these places, to witness all these events, but it turns out I’m going to miss most of them. Well. The reason for that, and the reason for my late blog entries is that I got sick. I’m going to elaborate on that on the next post.

Anyway, the call time Sir Mike gave us was 7 a.m. ‘Twas so early, I know. It’s a good thing I’m near the area. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, barely getting any rest because I slept at around 1:30 a.m. or so, and was off to the SPDHQ at 6 a.m. While I was in the cab, my head was spinning; I was so damn dizzy because of my lack of sleep. Man, I really have to sleep early next time. (Yeah, like that will happen.) The one thing I hate doing when inside a taxi is to fall asleep. Who knows if the cab driver has some criminal intentions? I fought the urge to sleep then. I arrived at the venue at 6:30 a.m. See? I told you it was near. I walked towards a small eatery and ordered some hot Milo to wake myself up. The cops are still having a dry run. I texted my mentor—who I assume is not there yet—that I’m already at the venue and that the cops are still practicing. He then texted me that he was in the grandstand area and told me to go there. Okay. Quite embarrassing to tell him about the “dry run” thing. As I walked to the grandstand, my Milo spilled at my hand. I was half-asleep so I have no idea that I was saying “Okay, I’m awake. I’m awake. I’m awake,” out loud. People were staring at me as I walked, but I was too sleepy to give a damn.

Sir Mike and Sir Francis, from Tempo, were the only two reporters there. They’re so bright and energetic in the morning. Usually, people like that will annoy me, but I felt otherwise. I admired their aura. I guess they’re used to not having enough sleep or being called in so early. They cracked a few jokes and gave me some useful information while the event is still not starting. Sir Mike explained to me that the TMRUs are formed in an effort to counter motorcycle-riding criminals, commonly known as “riding-in-tandem.” He also told me that the police will also have a skills demonstration later on. After a while, I was wide awake. It’s basically because of their high energy and the cup of hot Milo that I just finished. A few minutes before seven, we were asked to transfer to the left side of the grandstand. Cool. We got front row seats this time.

The event soon began. It was so awesome. Having each police district from the south of Metro Manila—Paranaque, Pasay, Taguig, Makati, Las Pinas, Muntinlupa—to display their skills, a couple of formations and even play out some scenarios that shows how TMRUs will operate. It was so cool. I took down some notes—like how many units per city, how many in total (It made me feel so proud to know that Paranaque had the most number of units, which is 20. Cool.)—and recorded some speeches.

 

When the event was over, we joined other reporters in an ambush interview with Chief Supt. Jose Erwin Villacorte, the district director.

Sir Mike was the one who asked most of the questions. Cool. It was the first time I saw Sir Mike in action. Now I have witnessed his awesomeness. Haha.

After a while, we were called to what I think is the public information office (PIO) office or conference room (not sure) of the SPD for some press releases and snacks. Me, Trish, Sir Mike and Sir Francis went to the small eatery to get started on the articles. Sir Mike made me and Trish transcribe Chief Supt. Villacorte’s speech, but being as incompetent in Apple products as I was, I had a hard time. After Chynna, Sir Mike’s 3rd intern and also my blockmate, arrived, we were off to the Taguig City Hall. Sir Mike said we can work on the article there. My inner self was doing cartwheels in delight. Taguig City Hall is just a jeepney and two tricycle rides from my house—it’s so near! Haha.

After lunch, we all got to work inside the PIO office of the city hall. I finally got to transcribe the  SPD district director’s speech. We were given press releases to rewrite, something about the Makati City government giving cash gifts to at least 195 public elementary and high school honor graduates. Makati sure likes giving awards to its citizens. Good for them, I thought. Oh, yeah, we tried to do a follow up story regarding the 14-year-old boy who died in the hands of another minor. It’s so heartbreaking. The police won’t give us any details, but Sir Mike ended up talking to a Taguig DepEd official regarding the matter. The joys of being assigned in the police beat became the topic of the room. Sir Mike, Sir Francis, as well as other journalists that were there in the PIO office talked about their past reports, how they managed to witness a suicide, a shootout, a corpse before the police line is put up, how they saw guts, intestines and other internal organs come out a murdered person’s body, etc. My co-interns look like they’re about to throw up. I guess most girls really are scared or disgusted in seeing things like that. But, growing up as a policeman’s daughter, these kinds of things are no longer new to me. I grew up knowing what fresh blood smells like, what are the different sizes of bullets and things of the sort. I even expect to experience that kind of coverage one of these days. I’m weird, I know. Haha. But still, I agree with that Sir Mike said, the police beat is exciting. It’s full of adventures. I’m not going to experience that kind of excitement and adrenalin if ever I’m assigned to the Senate or Congress beat (not that I’m undermining them or anything.) I’m so thankful I’m in the police beat.

Hours passed, and it’s only a few minutes before five. Other than the SPD coverage, there was nothing to write about. Another slow news day. Sir Mike kept asking us if we have any questions, but neither of us can think of any. Bottom line is I got 10 hours and 45 minutes that day. Oh, so close to making it to 11 hours! But it’s good. That’s already almost half the time I got last week, which is 23 hours. Yey!

In my previous posts I’ve mentioned one of the perks of being a journalist: getting the contact numbers of prominent people, and having the chance to talk to them. Well, last Friday, I’ve experienced some other perks that made me forget about the downside of the job which is low pay, no holidays, inconsistent work schedules and extended number of working hours. Last Friday, I was able to go to the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig for free and given the chance meet a senator up close and personal. Cool. Haha.

We were to cover the first Google Hangout event with a senator, who happens to be Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. When Sir Mike mentioned “Mind Museum” that Thursday, I was squealing with joy on the inside. My family always wanted to go to the Mind Museum, but the entrance was just so damn expensive that we didn’t get the chance to do so. That Friday, I was able to go there for free. Yiiieee. Haha. I only got the chance to glance at my surroundings, having the event to start immediately. It was beautiful. I can’t wait to go back there (maybe sometime when I have money to actually buy an entrance ticket).

 

The event was okay. I have to admit that Senator Cayetano had an amazing strategy. He really gave time to listen to the concerns of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

After the Google Hangout thingy, reporters ambushed the senator for an interview. I, along with some of my batchmates who are interns of other reporters, joined the circle. I can’t describe how I felt at that time. The senator was literally just a few feet away—I was right next to him! That’s so cool. I’ve seen the senator before, I mean, he’s almost always present in JIL anniversaries and youth summits. But I’ve never had the chance to see him up close. Until now.

 He turns out to be really tall, and a real gentleman. He gave time and answered every question. In the middle of all those questions and answers, I was thinking of something to ask him. I finally settled on asking him regarding his call on the people to support the local industry, if there was going to be a revival of the “Filipino First” policy. But when I was just about to ask him, a woman—who I think is his campaign manager or secretary—signaled to him that the time is up. Oh, so close! But that’s cool. I get to experience and observe how journalists are in an ambush interview. Man, they think fast. They must’ve been thinking of questions long before the Hangout was over. When a similar opportunity comes, I’ll make it a goal to ask a question.

When the event was over, we—me, co-interns, and other reporters—walked to the restaurant called “Kabisera”. Turns out there was a free meal waiting for the press. Cool. Another perk. The food was delicious. At the restaurant, all us interns witnessed the stress of a journalist trying to beat the deadline. Our mentors almost didn’t eat. They were busy writing, calling their sources and their newsdesk—doing what it takes to submit the article before time runs out. I remember Sir Mike telling me to never skip lunch. He said “No article is worth missing lunch. Lunch is lunch.” But, this time, he told us that even though eating is very important, sometimes you have to sacrifice it just to beat the deadline. While eating, our mentors also shared their experiences and gave us tips—specifically on what to do after graduation. It makes me look forward and be a lot more excited on actually working in the field… as a real journalist.

Excitement was rushing over me, for we were set to cover a rally led by concerned groups in front of the World Center building in Makati. (Regarding the Chinese fishing vessel that recently ran aground the Tubbataha Reef, nearly nine days after theUSS Guardian was removed) Excited, for it was going to be my first time to witness a rally up close and personal. I’ve always wanted to see the “rally action” that they show on TV—the catchy chants, the picket signs, the way the involved security prevents the rallying groups from getting any closer to the building and the sight of angry rallying groups that came by nearly a hundred people. I was so excited to see all of these. Live and up close. I’ve witnessed rallies before, usually those held in front of the Supreme Court. But it’s always either I’m in a hurry, or they’re on the other side of the road.

I arrived near the area a few minutes after 9 a.m., waiting for my colleague, Trish Lameyra. I took the time to call the MMDA Metrobase to ask for information regarding the truck accident near Balintawak in the EDSA Southbound Lane that occurred early morning that day. I just got this information when I was monitoring the radio news earlier. I texted Sir Mike about it, and he told me to ask the Metrobase. Cool. So I went on with interviewing. Learning from my mistake the day before, I made sure to get all the necessary information in one call. But, uh, I did call the Quezon City Traffic Sector 1—which was referred by the Metrobase—again to ask for the license plates of the involved trucks. That’s okay. Two calls. I guess that’s better than the five calls yesterday. After I got the information, I started thinking of possible angles. Later on that day, I found out another reporter already made an article regarding the incident. Okay, that’s cool. The article was still a good writing exercise.

A few minutes later, Trish arrived. I gave her the necessary contact numbers Sir Mike gave me on my first day, and somewhat briefed her about the work. It’s nice to finally have a co-intern around. Anyway, a few minutes before 10, we went to the World Center to get working. I was a little nervous for Sir Mike still wasn’t there. Trish and I don’t know what to do. We just stood next to the media men that were there, joined the ambush interview circle, recorded speeches, grabbed ourselves a copy of the groups’ press statements and took notes. The rally started at 10:35 a.m. Oh, this is it.

But alas! I guess I had high expectations for my first rally cover. By my standard, the rally yesterday was nothing more than a peaceful protest. Public figures like Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares gave powerful speeches. They talked about some strong points that could really influence the masses. Their posters and picket signs were very creative, with all the colors and the written words.

Their chants were also very powerful, saying, “Gobyerno ng Tsina: singilin, singilin, pagbayarin!” But there was no aggressive move on the protestors and on the tower’s security. Okay, not what I was expecting. I guess the aggressive action-packed kind of rallies only happen in Manila. Oh well. Haha.

After a day of rest because of the holiday Last Tuesday, I’m ready and a lot more excited for day two—which was yesterday.

Sadly, there wasn’t much going on yesterday. It was quiet in Makati, Taguig, SPD and MMDA. It’s almost as if there was no story. Sir Mike asked me to monitor the radio news and look for stories. I called the Makati and Taguig SIDG and complaint desk. Nothing bizarre going on there. I then called the MMDA Metrobase. Nothing bizarre going on there either. I just sank back to my chair. I guess it’s a slow news day, or something. I always thought that journalists are intensely busy. Guess I was wrong about that.

But yesterday, I learned that when I do something—especially conducting interviews—I must try hard to get it right the first time. Sir Mike made me do a follow up article on the fire in Pio del Pilar, Makati that occurred day before. I called the Makati Arson for details of the fire. But I still lacked some details. In the end, it took me five separate calls to get all the necessary details. It was so embarrassing to have to call again and again, just because you failed to ask everything on the first try. The fire inspector I was talking to sounded irritated on the phone. Ugh. Embarrassing. But, hey. Live and learn. Now, I have the idea to list down all the things that I would need to ask. Like, for a fire story, I have to ask for the number of deaths/injured, address where the fire took place, up to what alarm was raised, how many fire trucks were deployed, time the fire started and where it started, time it was put out, amount of damages, what were damaged, etc. It took me two rewrites to get the fire story presentable enough. That’s an improvement considering the last fire story I wrote was back in the second year of college on our Advanced Grammar subject.

Aside from the arson story, Sir Mike also told me to do a follow up interview on the death of a Quezon City policeman in Taguig City. I get to interview Taguig City Police Chief Art Asis. So cool. Not that I haven’t talked to high-ranking police officials before, but having to do it as a journalist-in-training rocks. Haha. That interview made me realize the difficulties of phone interviews. The line was so choppy that I have to ask the police chief to repeat some of the things he said. Again, I felt embarrassed. I’m talking to a police chief for crying out loud. I’m so thankful that Chief Asis was very accommodating to interns like me. I’ve somewhat always thought that officials ignored interns, that they would only entertain established reporters. Guess I was wrong about that too. Anyway, it took me two rewrites for the police story. And, little by little, I’m getting familiar with the template or the pattern for police stories. I know it only takes some practice and a matter of time before I can write a crime story in ease.

Because it was a slow news day, we were good to go home as early as 3 p.m., but thankfully, Sir Mike used the remaining hour for a mentoring session. He taught me techniques in writing an arson and crime story. He was open to questions as always, except when I asked him how much he makes in a month. He responded with, “don’t you know it’s unethical to ask someone about their income?” My bad. Haha. But he did tell me that journalists do not make that much money.

I really felt bad about the fact that I repeatedly called the Makati Arson office, but Sir Mike explained that it was alright—somewhat—for it is a journalist’s job to ask. And regarding the part that I had to ask the Taguig police chief to repeat some things, it was normal, said Sir Mike. He told me to not be shy to ask and ask again. He said that a journalist should understand what his/her source said, so that he/she will successfully write the story in a way that the readers will understand.

So yeah, it doesn’t hurt to ask, but I’m gonna make sure to try to get the interview—and hopefully the articles too—right the first time I do it.

Cheers to my day two!

Worried. Nervous. Excited.

These were the three dominant emotions, all mixed up and jumbled, that overtook me last Sunday. It’s a feeling so familiar, as if it’s the day before my first day in college all over again. But this time, it was sort of different. The degree of my nervousness and excitement was off the hook. April 8, 2013 will be my first day of the on-the-job-training, commonly called as OJT.

I was nervous for I don’t know what to do. My mentor, Mike Frialde of the Philippine Star was dropping hints for me to go to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) press office last Friday afternoon for a briefing. Being as tired as I was from the commute from the Philippine Star, and with my mind set that I would start on Monday, I sort of asked him—repeatedly—if I could start on Monday. My decision became my regret that Monday morning, when I was lost in thoughts and was literally lost around the MMDA building. Being so excited and scared on my first day of anything, I came a little too early. Sir Mike told me to be there at 10 a.m., but I was chilling in the 7-eleven store nearby as early as 8 a.m. Define super excited, and so terrified of being late on the first day, that’s me. Well, I did need the time to condition myself. So, the two-hour wait was fine.

Just as I expected, I did get lost inside the MMDA building. All the staff, that I asked directions from, told me to go to the 8th floor, where they claim the press office is located. I ended up on the rooftop. It made me wonder. I think it was a bit odd for the press office to be located here. I waited up outside. It was quarter to 10. I mustered the courage to knock at exactly 10, only to find out that it wasn’t the press office. It was, I think, the radio station or communications room of the MMDA. Fail. Haha. I didn’t want to look so unknowledgeable to my mentor, so I spent a few more minutes trying to find the press office on my own. I ended up on the second floor and the main lobby, but still to no avail. Finally, I did text Sir Mike, asking him where the darn office is. Turns out, it was in another building. Epic fail.

So, there I was in the MMDA press office. Finally. It was a few minutes after 10. I was kind of grateful that Sir Mike wasn’t there yet, but on the other hand, I was getting a lot more nervous by the second. I really should’ve gone down here last Friday. What if he doesn’t give me a briefing? Journalists are pretty busy, or so I’m told. The people in the office were warm and friendly. They made me watch TV while waiting. I gotta admit that it did help to keep my mind pre-occupied, watching Fox’s Top 20—one of my favorite shows to watch. An hour and a half passed, and Sir Mike finally arrived. This is it, I thought. Moment of truth. I took deep breaths to sink down the nervousness that is taking its toll on me. I keep on thinking that I just need to get past this first day, and I will be fine.

I am so thankful that he still gave me a briefing—about the job, the beat and all the other things we’re bound to do this summer. Turns out, the Southern Police District (SPD) was also his beat. Yey. I’ve always wanted to be in the police beat. He also gave me a list of contact numbers, ranging from police stations to city hall spokespersons to high-ranking police officials. Cool. Sir Mike was very accommodating. He always asked me if I had questions, and he answered each one patiently. He made me feel comfortable, at the very least.

I did ask him one of the things that’s been bothering me since Friday, if I was going to write news articles. To my surprise, he said “yes, of course.” I really had my mind wrapped up in the idea that trainees will not write news, that we’re just there for research and covering stories. My blockmates who are interns of another publication didn’t get to write, thus explaining my surprise on this.

And you can only imagine the surprise—and excitement—that I felt when I found out that I was going to write. Today. There wasn’t much news that day; it was kinda quiet in Makati, Taguig and in the MMDA. The only news so far was the “heat stroke break” policy that the MMDA launched, that allows its on-duty afternoon traffic officers and street sweepers with a daily one hour break, with special allowances and free bottled water on the side. Sir Mike made me rewrite the press release that was made available at nearly 12 noon. It took me four rewrites before my article was… presentable enough. With every rewrite, Sir Mike would correct and comment—telling me what I did wrong and what I need to improve. And I appreciated each one. Turns out that I need to work on my angling, and lead writing in general. He made me rewrite an article about the awarding of the three best barangays in Makati’s “Most Pet Friendly Barangay” search. Took me four rewrites as well. On the bright side, with each rewrite, I am somewhat increasing my writing speed. I guess the exercises make me a step closer in achieving my goal: which is to be able to learn to write news in less than an hour.

I admire Sir Mike’s patience. With every rewrite, he’s willing to look at it and check it every time. He patiently critiques my work and explains to me the proper technique. I didn’t expect that. I guess I always thought that journalists are always busy, maybe too busy for their interns. But Sir Mike, in a way, shows that it’s not always the case. He’s also very friendly and accommodating. He, and a few others form the press office, asked me about my background. They ended up finding out that I’m not catholic, that I’m a JIL Member, that my dad is the head of the Anti-Narcotics Division of Paranaque, and that the MMDA Chairman was my mom’s former client.

Anyway, after Sir Mike checked my last rewrites for the two articles, news broke out in the radio, a few minutes before 4 p.m. There was a passenger bus that slammed into an MRT post near Cubao. Sir Mike told me to work on the story right away. I called the MMDA Metrobase, as instructed, and asked for details of the accident. This so exciting! I felt the adrenalin rushing over me. When I got the details, Sir Mike asked me to write it. It took me 20 minutes to write a four-paragraph article about the incident. It was my first time to write a traffic story, after all. He then checked my work. I was a bit embarrassed for my article was more scattered than usual. Again, first time to write a traffic story. Sir Mike then edited my work—discussing corrections and proper writing techniques in the process. I made a follow-up call at the Metrobase for additional details. After a few minutes, Sir Mike emailed the article. When he earlier` wrote at the end “## Mike Frialde and intern Pauline Tome,” it was simply priceless. I can’t find the right words to express what I felt at that moment. It was something like a weird combination of a proud achiever and a little school girl feeling all giddy because of a cute toy. It meant so much. My name didn’t appear on the online and printed version, but having to know and having to take part in the makings of that story was reward enough.

And finally, the clock said 5 p.m. Sir Mike congratulated me for my work today. Two article rewrites, an interview and a write up of a bus incident was pretty good work for five and a half hours—not counting the time before he arrived in the office. I was writing on the first day, and the thought itself was oh so awesome. In the end, my first day was good. I was excited to go again. And I’m happy that there’s only 194 hours and 30 minutes to go. (Hey, every hour counts!) My first day went better than expected. And the next days to come, I will surely chersish.