Adventures with Chit, lessons to keep
By DESIREE CARLOS
MAY 16, 2011
We were so young then: Chit Estella, Joel and Vina Paredes, Yvonne Chua, Raffy Japa, Tatin Marfil, Mike Alunan, Cris Cerdeña, and Jenny Santillan, among others. We knew the newspapers were all controlled by Marcos and his cronies. As idealistic UP graduates, how could we stomach working in any of these papers?
But we all wanted to write, we all wanted to help change the lives of the Filipino people, and we all hoped our passion for writing the news would make a difference.
And so we chose to work in the crony papers after graduation. Naisip namin na sa panahon na iyon, sa loob ng peryodiko ang tanghalan ng pakikibaka para sa mga peryodistang tulad namin. For the years or months we worked in the crony papers, we tried our best to look for ways to do what we believed was a journalist’s role in society as taught by Louie Beltran and our other professors: we tried to inform the people, not fool them.
It was not easy.
In the beats that we covered separately or together, we experienced what we merely used to hear about in college about a corrupt media and corrupt government officials. Some colleagues tried to bribe us or collected money “in our behalf,” government officials directly handed money to us (which we returned without trying to offend the official at baka di na kami makakuha ng istorya), we got disappointed often when our story ideas or requests for coverage were disapproved by the news desk because it’s not news enough (read: they’re not pro-Marcos, or they’re about protest actions and sides of groups or persons on important social realities like human rights abuses).
Because of the frustrations in the beat and our inability to do much despite our desire, we became allies although we worked for rival papers. We would meet up after work, eat, and release all our frustrations and talk about stories we wanted to pursue and write about. We would discuss political and social issues, and encourage each other when we wanted to quit.
Our favorite place was the Paredes’ house in Mandaluyong where, as Chit would then say, “Ang sarap talaga magluto ng nanay nila Vina, no?”
For before Roland Simbulan, the only thing I know that could compete with Chit’s love for journalism was her love for food.
Chit, Vina and I would comb the Quiapo, Divisoria and Escolta areas to look for places where we could eat good food for very low prices. Salaries of reporters and correspondents were so meager na kung di na kaya ng sikmura mo, tatanggapin mo na yung perang naglipana sa beat ninyo.
Despite having very little money, we found ways to enjoy our adventures in these “poor men’s shopping havens.” We’d go window-shopping! We would look at capri pants in different colors and say to ourselves, “I will buy that…next time.”
Once we went to SM Makati. How we loved shopping with our eyes and trying out clothes! Until now, I can’t forget this white dress that Chit said looked good on me. Ganon naman si Chit, parating nakangiti at parating may encouraging words. Though we bought nothing then, we left the mall feeling sated. I learned from Chit and Vina that contentment is a state of mind that goes down to one’s heart.
And from Chit, Vina and Cris, I learned two more important lessons. One, that there are other ways to do one’s job as a journalist if you can’t do it in your own newspaper. Second, a real journalist shares her story because a true journalist wants to provide the people with all possible information that will help them make an intelligent choice. Yes, to a true journalist, the people come first, not the byline or recognition.
This was our secret and now I will share it with you.
When we were covering Imelda Marcos, Mel Mathay and the Metro Manila Commission, the Quezon City Hall and the Quezon City Courts (Chit for Tempo, Cris and Vina alternately for the Daily Express and I for Ang Pahayagang Malaya), Chit, Vina and Cris would also look for corruption stories and opposition stories and pass them to me. Aside from the MMC, QC Hall and courts, I was also assigned to human rights stories, the opposition (with Joel Paredes), and street rallies (with Joel, Ellen Tordesillas and Malaya police reporters).
They knew Malaya was undermanned. They knew I couldn’t handle so many beats at one time. They understood I had to prioritize covering the human rights beat.
And so they helped me in the beats we covered together. They would give me leads for stories and even shared their notes. This was how selfless these journalists were at that time: Chit, Vina and Cris. Nananalaytay sa dugo nila ang pagiging peryodista kaya sa bansag nilang “maliit na paraan namin,” tinulungan nila akong i-cover at i-uncover ang mga katiwalian sa QC hall at MMC.
There was no rivalry among us. There was only friendship and a shared passion to unearth the truth and to ensure the Filipino people will get hold of it. Chit, Vina and Cris were not after recognition. For this, I salute them. And I thank them again.
The last time I saw Chit was at the journalism department of the UP College of Mass Communications. I was inquiring about the exam and thesis for my master’s degree. I “needed” the label as a coordinator of the Kalayaan College’s journalism program. After talking to Racquel, Chit invited me to her room. We talked as if the last time we met was just last month and not two years or so ago.
She asked about Tani, my eldest, who was a “fixture” at the Malaya newsroom when she was a baby and I had no yaya. Then she told me she too was finishing her master’s studies because it’s a requirement to be a full professor. I remember asking her, “Bakit nga ba natin ginagawa ito (referring to studying again)?” She paused, thought a moment, then smiled, “Masarap magturo. At hindi ba, panahon na para ipasa natin ang natutunan natin?” I thought, “So, Chit has found another way to ‘practice’ journalism and her venue is now the classroom.” Then she added,”Tuloy mo lang magturo.” I nodded. Then I stood up from my chair and prepared to leave. Chit then said,”Kita tayo uli ha? Kain tayo..” I smiled. Si Chit talaga.
(The author was a longtime reporter for Malaya. She wrote this piece to pay tribute to Chit Estella-Simbulan, who died in a car accident last May 13, 2011).
From Newsbreak, (http://www.newsbreak.ph/2011/05/16/adventures-with-chit-lessons-to-keep/)