To dream is not enough

Originally published from HF Volume 36 Issue 3



I entered college with high hopes of being a broadcast journalist someday – the one chasing stories after the other, the one heading to war zones and disaster areas where everyone is literally packing their things to escape, the one holding the station’s microphone as I look straight at the camera and say my name at the end of the report. The freshman and 17-year-old me had nothing but dreams, spirits, and priceless persistence to make my lifelong dream of being on the screen come true – until the world hit me with chilling horrors of reality. As I witnessed how the unthinkable dangers in history unfolded right before me left and right — a deadly pandemic, a media giant shutting down, and a family of the dictator returning to power, the once dreamy future gradually turned pitch black, the once hopeful fantasy became a one terrifying dream.

Now that I think about it, the only thing that scared me back then was whether an average guy like me could make it to an industry that never runs out of competent people day by day. Since I entered college, there’s always this daunting question that hits me from time to time, of whether I will be able to land my ultimate goal of being a reporter or not. For someone who spent his childhood evenings watching talk shows and variety programs rather than cartoons, memorizing spiels of television hosts, and mimicking an anchor’s stance, it is quite a big deal for me to be seen on television someday. That question still haunts me until this day – especially since two years ago when the country’s biggest media network, my dream station for years, was forced to go off air. 

On the night of the ABS-CBN shutdown in May 2020, everything turned dark for me as I watched our screen turning into black when the media giant signed off. I cried hard enough like millions of Filipinos who never thought of ABS-CBN going off air. I grieved like the thousand of employees who became jobless at the height of the deadliest health crisis in years. I fought with fellow journalists who decried the blatant suppression of the press and democracy. The shutdown was a personal battle to me as it opened up a stack of horrors in an already terrifying future. Seeing hundreds of media layoffs during the pandemic was already a scary thought to bear, and seeing more than a quadruple of those numbers was a nightmare that I keep with me until now.

Little did I know that seeing ABS-CBN shutting down was only just the beginning of this daunting realization of becoming a journalist. When I joined Rappler for a three-month volunteer work in the same year, I spoke to many student journalists being attacked and suppressed by their school, talked to activists fearing to lose their basic human and civil rights amid the blatant red-tagging from various political forces, and even witnessed the press being the subject of the news with countless threats not only to ABS-CBN but to any other outfits critical of the government. While living in fear, an inch of hope still stayed in me as I thought that these attacks will eventually recede come 2022 when everyone is given the chance to restore the freedom that has been tainted for so long. Until the May 9 elections happened, and a dictator’s son was sworn into power – it felt like it was May 2020 all over again when everything turned dark, only that it is worse, more dangerous, and a thousand fold horrifying. 

As I kickstart my career as a journalist in less than three months, my fear has changed, and so has my dream. This time, my fear lies not only from whether I will be able to land my dream of being a television reporter or not.

The horror now comes from the fear of being able to dream free in a country that tells us otherwise, and whether being a journalist is still safe to aspire to at this age.

Perhaps, I could only answer these thoughts when I get there – when I become at the frontline of stories, cover history as it unfolds, and witness the dangers of the world.

I entered college with the sole dream of being seen on tv – breaking the news, reporting on the ground, telling stories after the other. That goal still stands as I write this piece – but there are now bigger hopes to aspire for, and a more pressing battle to win and conquer. I know to dream for this to happen is not enough, so we grab the mic and pen, hold a strong grip of courage, and tell stories to the world.

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