There’s No Saying Goodbye

This time last year, I was preparing to leave my job of four years, and the only job I really ever wanted to have. I was part of a class suit against GMA Network that demanded regularization and statutory benefits for the media workers. As a result, we were meted with an unofficial death sentence — to be fired when 2014 ends.

That didn’t happen. We were allowed to stay in the company meanwhile, and up to this day, our future remains unclear.

A lot has happened in the last year.

Continue reading

A Stranger Made Familiar By The Places They Went To

This was first published on

On May 25, 2012, Che Gurrobat, the blogger behind Backpacking Pilipinas, wrote:

The world will not stop for a girl with a broken heart. Tomorrow the sun will continue to rise and shine, rock stars will continue staging sold-out concerts, football superstars will continue striking goals, verdict will be cast on to the Chief Justice on trial, somewhere a mother will give birth to another baby, my bills at home will continue to arrive monthly, and my goal to do 80 provinces before I turn 30 will have to be done. I realize that no matter how intense the quandary I am in now, life goes on.

She wrote that on her flight home from Davao. It was the end of nine years of her relationship. But it was only the 30th of the 80 Philippine provinces she had pledged to visit before she was 30 years old.

Life goes on, and so should her journey.

Continue reading

The Parable Of The Watershed

This is the original draft of the report that was published on GMA News Online

Dave Azurin’s resume is not a piece of paper. It is a 1,500 hectare-forest with 765,000 trees.

Sixteen years ago, experts described the La Mesa watershed at the heart of Quezon City “totally disturbed.” The watershed was turning brown due to slash-and-burn farming (kaingin), and informal settlers increased through years, turning it into an urban jungle and leaving the natural forest cover to a distant memory.

Azurin tells this story as if he was telling a tragic tale of a child he lost — and the story of its redemption like he saw that child revived in front of his very eyes.

It was 1999 and Azurin was hired to head the reforestation efforts of the 2,000-hectare forest.

Continue reading

The Right to Party

“A wolf is a wolf even in sheep’s clothing.”

This was the biblical quote that a guy I went to a Catholic University with used when he defended his stance that the club “Valkyrie” was reasonable in turning away transgender women at their door.

The wolves in the bible were false prophets. Celebrity Trixie Maristela and fashion designer VJ Floresca aren’t false prophets and Valkyrie certainly isn’t Jesus who come to warn us against them.

Maristela and Floresca are transgender women who wanted to party. They just wanted to party.

But there was another argument: how could Filipinos be so shallow as to fighting for the right to enter a club when other countries are fighting for the right to marry.

Continue reading

This Victory Matters

The news was broken to us around 7:30 pm last night, Thursday, June 25.

My head writer at State of the Nation with Jessica Soho, and one of the officers of Talents Association of GMA, Edma Remillano, whispered to me while we were writing our scripts: “Nanalo tayo sa NLRC (We won at NLRC).”

We were told that our Association President was just outside our Newsroom with the official papers.

So we ran outside, knowing we could not spare more than a minute because we still had jobs to do.

I counted it. 10 seconds to hug our fellow TAG members, 10 seconds to congratulate them and shake the hands of the 5 people who were there. 10 seconds to snap a photo of the first 3 pages of the decision.

And 30 seconds to compose a short status on our Facebook page:

“TAG wins its regularization case before the NLRC. In a resolution signed by Labor Arbiter Julio Gayaman, TAG members were declared by NLRC Labor Arbiter regular employees of GMA Network.”

It may just be one of the most important news I have ever broken.

Continue reading

I’m Quitting Tinder

This essay first appeared on

The New York Times makes a big deal out of Tinder,” reads my own Tinder profile. After much egging from my friends, it was the New York Times that convinced me to download the app. It published Op-Eds, Modern Love columns, and Feature articles on the increasingly popular dating app, offering perspectives that ranged from psychological to political to just plain fuzzy.

A month ago, Modern Love’s Daniel Jones started publishing the winners of his college essay-writing contest — all of which centered if not, teetered around, Tinder.

Tinder was beginning to define my generation. I had to find out the fuss.

Continue reading

The Roles We Play

I was rejected by GMA News three times after graduation. Any other person would have just moved on, but this was my dream. I didn’t see any other option for me but to tell stories with an organization I trusted.

I have always believed that Journalism plays a very crucial role in society. And I believed that GMA had the machinery, and the principles, so Journalists can play that role well.

I bled for the job I have. I should be the last person to risk it over something that’s known to history as a long and draining battle, if not a losing one.

Continue reading

Trash for Home: The Mangyans of Puerto Galera

This report was first published on GMA News Online

Ciriaco Bibo is a name nobody knew before. Now every official in Puerto Galera, from its mayor down to the barangay tanods, are keeping a close watch.

Bibo is the fiercest opponent of the landfill project of the local government of Puerto Galera. His is the voice that has landed this issue on national dailies and blogs that have gone viral, when the government would rather have kept it quiet.

On a hot Saturday afternoon, on the contested land of Sitio Lapantay in Barangay Villaflor, Bibo climbed a mountian to show the school that the Department of Education built for their children. They waited so long for this, he said, and they are not about to lose it to a landfill.

Continue reading

The Ninth Coffin

Her death was set.

Nine coffins were brought to Nusakambangan island in Central Java earlier that day; they were to be filled with bodies of whom Indonesia considers the worst criminals.

So bad that they deserved to face a firing squad of 10 and have a bullet pierce through their heart, and then through the head at close range should their bodies survive the first blow.

Continue reading

Why We Go Away

The first time I paid for my own travel, with my friends, outside of the country, was in 2013. It was Bangkok, Thailand and I thought then that the main reason we go away is to learn about others.

Thailand looked exactly like the Philippines, except when it came to religion. Where we have our stone churches, they have their temples and pagodas. In Ayutthaya, their elephants roamed free, whereas our elephant is growing thin inside a poorly-maintained zoo.

My friend Toni told me of political backstories while in Thailand. That being a monarchy has instilled a strong sense of obedience in the people; they were disciplined, they followed orders, and respected authority, for which we can only say so much of our democracy.

Continue reading