Archive | May, 2011

The Sunny Professor

18 May

Our first assignment for Journalism 102 (News Reporting) class under Professor Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan was to write a lead on the walkouts staged against the budget cut for SUCs. She returned our works the following week and did so with a disclaimer: “I have here your papers. Please don’t be discouraged.”

Naturally, we were.

As terror slowly crept into our faces, she added with a smile: “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That was something we held on to throughout the semester.

Ma’am put a premium on working with what was given — no more, no less — while gleaning the relevance and repercussions of each news event. “There are no small beats — only small reporters,” she once said.

She liked to challenge students to become better versions of themselves, both inside and outside the classroom. Mid-January this year, I contemplated on running as an independent candidate in the college student council. The idea of running without a party seemed daunting, and I decided to wait it out instead and try my luck next voting season instead.

On January 18, the point of discussion turned to the upcoming council elections and Ma’am asked if any of us were participating. No one raised their hand. She told our class then, “Oh, you should run. It’s a memorable experience.”

I would later find out that the deadline for filing certificates of candidacy was moved to the following day, January 19. After much deliberation and somewhat scurried preparation, I trooped to the admin office that afternoon and submitted my COC.

It was in J102 that I delivered my first room-to-room speech. I hadn’t gotten the hang of my spiel yet, and I struggled with some parts of it. Ma’am and I were seated at opposite ends of the conference table, so whenever I looked ahead, I would see her looking right back, listening, eyes darting only when she glanced at the pamphlet I had distributed.

She was as much a storyteller as she was a journalist. Our sessions were filled with her lively anecdotes, observations and indispensable instructions. Despite her propensity for sharing, Ma’am valued tuning in to the stories of others’ as much as her own. One of her pieces of advice for us was to talk to people who are usually ignored, because beneath their unassuming silence lay a trove of valuable first-hand information.

Ma’am Simbulan was among the most patient professors I have ever had. On days when we had an article due, it was almost inevitable for some of us students to be tardy or absent. She never chided anyone in front of the class, even those who crept in a good 30 or more minutes after the start of the session.

Once, my classmate Eunille Santos and I rushed to finish an article for 102 in the journalism department. Ma’am arrived past 10 a.m. and upon seeing us huddled over laptop and computer, asked in her usual calm voice: “Anong ginagawa niyo rito? Let’s go.” In the brief seconds before she closed the department door behind her, we replied with a smile and uneasy laughter: “Sige lang po, Ma’am.”

Did Eunille and I try to enter the room only to find the door locked? No. Did we learn and submit the rest of our articles on time after that? Yes.

She was also quick to laugh at herself. Many times, she blamed her lack of spatial awareness for her inability to maneuver the live-view projector we used in class.

Much has been said and written about Ma’am Simbulan’s strong sense of conviction. She was as steadfast in her principles as she was with the littlest things. During the campaign trail, she invited me and candidates from the opposing political parties for a press conference. My classmates and I were to cover the event and submit a news article about it the following week.

At the end of the conference, she said expressed her gratitude to each candidate. “Thank you, Alisa,” she told the ISA secretary hopeful. To the STAND-UP chairperson bet, she said, “Thank you, Norman.” Then she turned to me. Ma’am addressed everyone by their last name inside the classroom, with no exceptions. “Thank you (pause), Miss Britanico. You’re still my student, so you’re still Miss Britanico to me,” she said with a grin.

Ma’am once said that journalism was a Promethean endeavor. Facts are not flowers reporters can pick at their own leisure — they are more like game animals, always on the move, always demanding a chase. But of the 5Ws and H of journalism, I find that the “why” is especially difficult to come by. Some questions just don’t have immediate answers, and even when they do, the answers are not always gratifying.

I have been monitoring the news all week, and there has been great attention to the conduct of traffic in Commonwealth Avenue since the accident. Last Monday, radio announcers broadcasted that the MMDA will install motorcycle patrol units along the “killer highway” to immediately respond to, if not thwart, any more road accidents in the area.

Sometimes when the answer to “why” seems too out of reach, “what now” is the next best question to pin down. Then the “what,” no matter how undesirable or tragic, will be given context, at the very least. At the risk of having Ma’am Simbulan tsk-tsk at me for lack of attribution, I shall quote something she said as relayed to the worldwide web by one of her students: “I hope you will use your skills to turn this country upside down.”

When we recall Ma’am Simbulan’s teachings and how they have touched us in professional and personal ways, we will do so the way our mind’s eyes see her — with a smile. Just as the brightest sun is made to set, her life has come to an end, but not without streaming rays of hope and warmth to the ones she has left behind.

She once told our class of young journalists, “You still have a long way to go, but you’ll improve.” That is something we will continue to hold on to, for ourselves and for the country she so loved and served. Because in death as in life, Ma’am Lourdes “Chit” Estella-Simbulan not only taught by example, but even bettered the instruction.

5 Reasons to Enjoy Joey Gosiengfiao’s “Temptation Island”

15 May

Smile, ladies! You won't be doing that for very long.

When news of a Temptation Island remake helmed by Chris Martinez came out last April, I made a mental note to watch the Regal-produced Joey Gosiengfiao original before its latest reincarnation hit the theaters.

Gosiengfiao’s film featured newcomers Bambi Arambulo (Miss Maja Pilipinas 1977), Dina Bonnevie (1st Runner-up, Miss Magnolia 1979), Azenith Briones (Miss Photogenic, Mutya ng Pilipinas 1975) and Jennifer Cortez (Binibining Pilipinas-Universe 1978) as reel beauty queens vying for the Miss Manila Sunshine crown.

A great deal has changed since the original was released — hairstyles! outfits! gadgets! — but its self-deprecating humor, takes on beauty and society and unabashed candor remains just as saucy as it was in 1980. Here are some of the reasons why:

Now substitute the first "e'' in "betch" and "betches" with "i"

1. BFs. Boyfriends? Not quite. If you’ve watched White Chicks, you’d know what I mean by BF — and boy, are there plenty of them in this movie. We’re talking four girls from different backgrounds, all fueled by their own desires and motives, pitted against the elements and each other under highly combustible circumstances. And when I say combustible, I don’t just mean the summer heat.

2. CATFIGHTS (no caps, no passion)

Nuff said.

3.  Alfredo “falls” in love (this be cheesy — you have been warned)

4. Communism 

5. Economics and God’s supposed punishment

What I like most about the film is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither does it compel you to. But more than being just a beach flick,  viewers are able to draw insights on the nature of civilization and society. Despite maintaining a front of comedy and shallowness, Gosiengfiao’s material dips into the best and worst aspects of human nature, probing what makes people savage and what makes them human.

Lastly, in the context of an accident that would prove life-changing for all those involved, Temptation Island immortalizes the tempests and travails the characters rise above, as individuals and as a unit. But while some revel in the triumph of the human spirit, others are left to contend with  things that leave a mark but eventually fade away – like discrimination, sunstroke, and summer love snuffed out by a change of heart nary a season after.

Neighbors and wireless networks

13 May

You know you’re getting older when you remember things or technological advancements that are now considered obsolete. The prepaid internet card is one such. While the 2k+ generation was only being weaned or learning to crawl, walk and talk, we ’90s (and older) babies were taking baby steps in cyberspace. What made this leap possible for me were the ISP Bonanza/Blast internet cards.

When I started out, the cards were at P100 for 8-hour internet access. By the time I moved on to DSL, they were sold for the same price with 20 hours of internet goodness. I was in grade school at the time and I remember being envious of grown-ups who could avail of the free unlimited access at off-peak hours (we’re talking 2 to 6 a.m., if memory serves me right).

Fast forward to 2011. Wi-fi has been elevated from a term that sounds like it came from Star Wars to a basic necessity of urban life.  Wi-fi is like the air we breathe — you don’t see it but it’s everywhere, from your school cafeteria to malls to public utility buses in the metro.

The best kind, of course, is the kind that comes at no cost. But like other commodities in this world, not everyone who has bountiful amounts of it are willing to share. The more people connected to a network, after all, the slower and more BV-inducing it becomes. Hence the invention of password protection. Passwords are to your wi-fi connection like rubbers are to STDs: it allows you to enjoy while at the same time ensuring that it doesn’t get around.

Suffice it to say, I set up a password for my wireless network when we got ourselves a router. But before I actually setting up a password, I put some thought into what I would name my wireless network. Neighboring networks were dubbed “David,” “Brgy. 2 –  Register for FREE WiFi,” “Brgy. 3 –  Register for FREE WiFi,” and “pamelaian.” I finally settled for something pa-mysterious: Somewhere you wouldn’t wanna be.

It’s been almost a month and since my connection’s been mostly stable, I didn’t encounter anything out of the ordinary. Until yesterday, when I had to shut off the wi-fi adapter and manually reconnect to my network,  key in the password, etc. I refreshed the the list of available wireless networks, and beheld a new entry — “Somewhere you want to go.”

I live in a condominium, so I don’t personally know my neighbors. Most of them are but strangers I sometimes see in the elevator. Sometimes I hear their departures and arrivals thanks to the jangling of keys, the  ruckus of their chain locks and door bolts — but what happens in between their comings and goings, I have no way (and until further notice, no intention) of knowing. But I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that new network. Besides being amusing, I found its presence oddly reassuring: that in a world both shrunk and expanded by technology, simpler things like a shared sense of humor can — and still do — connect strangers beyond borders and closed doors.

“What’s the nicest thing a stranger’s ever done for you?”

11 May

Saw this question on my formspring dashboard and remembered my encounter with a Good Samaritan when I was a freshman.

One day, to my great consternation, I left my wallet at home and found out when I was already in school. Undoubtedly distracted, I left my cellphone in my desk at the Math building and shuffled out of the classroom. I only realized my phone was missing when I got to CAL, so I dragged myself back from whence I came.

Another class was already going on, but I entered with a sheepish smile and a brief explanation of my purpose. Luckily, the students who discovered it surrendered the phone to the teacher at the start of the period. I thanked them all and left them be. I heard the door open again, and my then-co-applicant-in-an-org ambled out of the room to say hi and jokingly chastise me for interrupting their Math time.

I was on my way to hail a jeep outside Math when my sandal broke. Fresh out of high school as I was, I whipped out my school supplies pouch and attempted to staple the wayward strap in place. My desperate effort was to no avail. Penniless and shoeless, I started to walk towards SC, praying that the shoe repairman there would have pity and let me pay him back tomorrow.

There were some cars in the parking lot, a few guarded by drivers who drove rich students to and fro their different classes throughout the day. One such driver noticed my “handicap” and told me to wait as he got something from the car. He returned with a pair of black slippers in his hands.

I thanked him profusely, of course, but I never even got his name. More than that one isolated incident though, I’m grateful for people like him who do all they can to help a stranger — because it’s one thing to have good intentions, but acting on them is something else entirely.

Of children and the darndest things they say

9 May

Today, I taught my younger cousins AJ (15), Erika (12) and Bea (8) the concepts of biological sex, sexual orientation and gender expression and the misconceptions surrounding them. (Because I try to be a responsible ate like that.) This involved telling them about LGBTs and what the acronym stood for.

Me: Ang problema kasi sa Tagalog, eni-eni lang ang paggamit natin sa mga salitang bakla at bading. Samantalang sa English, may iba-ibang termino para diyan. Ang taong pinanganak na lalaki na hitsurang lalaki at may gusto sa ibang lalaki, ang tawag dun —

Cousins: Gay.

Me:  Tama! Tapos, ang taong pinanganak na lalaki na hitsurang babae at may gusto sa lalaki, ang tawag dun, transgender o transsexual.

Bea: Ah. Eh ‘di ang tawag  po diyan, ate, transport gender?

Me: *tumbling*


Me: O, pag nag-birthday ako ngayong taon, lahat tayo kailangan naka-dress!

Bea: Yay! Ate, turuan mo naman kami kung paano magpapayat.

Me: Alam mo , kailangan kumain ka nang mga nutritious na, nakakabusog pa.

AJ: Oo nga. Paano ka naman papayat kung puro taba tsaka balat yung kinakain mo?

Me: Matuto ka kasi kumain ng gulay.

Bea: Kumakain naman ako ng gulay eh! Kumakain nga ako ng kangkong.

AJ: Ilang kangkong?

Bea: Minsan, kumakain akong dalawang piraso.

AJ: Tapos sasabayan mo ng balat ng fried chicken tsaka dalawang kanin? Iba ka din eh.


Bea to our cousin Ian (14): Ang dami mo nang atraso sakin, pangit ka!


Auntie B: Alam mo, Bea, lahi tayo ng mga magaganda.

Bea: Eh bakit si Auntie S?

Mama: Bey, bakit mo naman inaaway si Auntie S, siya na nga lang kakampi mo eh!

Auntie S: Minsan nga tinanong ko sa bunso ko kung maganda ako. Sabi niya sakin, “Oo, Mama, maganda. Maganda ang iyong kalooban!”

Don’t Write Me Off Just Yet

4 May

The most underrated song from Music and Lyrics.