Saturday , June 23, 2018

Dacawi: The need for media sensitivity

WHILE turning 67 last September 14, I learned that fellow journalist Rimaliza Opiña had posted on Facebook what somebody reacted to as a blind item:

“Is this retired government employee officially now the pr officer of BENECO?” Ms. Opiña asked.

The item generated reactions, with one saying it was a blind item and to which Ms. Opiña commented, “okay lang naman, hindi yung nanghuhula pa kami kung in what capacity siya sumusulat? Sumusulat ba siya as a friend? Freelance? As a contractual employee , job order? Para lang malinaw sana.”

Ms. Opiña was referring to me. A newshen worth her salt could have easily reached out and personally asked me. If only I knew I was obligated to tell her, I would have done so, that our electric cooperative, which I served earlier as director, recently took me in to write stories on its work. Long before such appointment, for years now, I have been writing and submitting to local media outlets stories about the cooperative, together with sports, about sick people trying to reach out to Samaritans for their deliverance and other news on the community. All over those years, nobody asked whether I was doing work for the cooperative, for sports people, or for the sick or even for Cordillera autonomy, for which I was once a resource speaker on. In the same token, we in media know some of us do “pr”(public relations) work, for politicians, the police, companies and many others, yet we, including Ms. Opiña, do not ask those involved. In the same token, Ms. Opiña needed not tell me when and why she joined Sun.Star and later transferred to the Baguio Midland Courier.

My journalistic work for the electric cooperative was approved by the Beneco board of directors and the general manager. They all wanted me to be useful and to help me financially cope with my life-time ailment while tapping whatever I can contribute to writing and delivering news. It came after I retired as information officer at the city mayor’s office. I accepted the newswriting work because I had to, having been denied by illness to enjoy my retirement by visiting and spending time with my grandchildren, as grandparents should do.

Truly, life is beautiful. More so for us who, for years now, are on twice, thrice and even four times a week hooked to the dialysis machine four hours at a time. It’s time-consuming , an expensive way to survive, this struggle to maintain the blood-cleansing and life-saving procedure that, together with occasional hospitalization and maintenance medicines, has practically drained the retirement pay one has earned for over 40 years. You want to cry over this illness that is sucking you dry, leaving you with nothing to give your children who, thank the Lord, understand.

Life is beautiful. That’s why I continue to work, to write as the journalist’s ink still runs in the blood. Practically, I still work as journalist in order to sustain dialysis that, in the West, is being given free because it is always an emergency, a life-saving procedure. Even without remuneration, I will continue to write for the cooperative and on community events as mental inactivity brings one closer to the grave.

Life is beautiful, whatever your financial circumstances and health condition may be. I saw that when the families of the late Baguio journalists Sid Chammag and Jose “Peppot” Ilagan were coping with the financial requirements of dialysis for them to live, so they could see their children grow. It becomes more precious when you are drained and therefore cannot sustain dialysis. That’s why the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, which we used to head, initiated earlier this year a signature campaign to make dialysis free of charge.

As patient, I had encountered people who, for lack of financial support, gave up on life, leaving behind children too young to understand and, at least in one case, are themselves still coping with illness while wondering why their mother has to leave them for good.

That’s why I salute fellow media workers the likes of Dhobie de Guzman and the Baguio outfit of ABS-CBN who, now and then, would help by setting up fun runs-for-a-cause. Dhobie knew I needed help and convinced photographers among us who launched an exhibit to help keep my dialysis going. Dhobie had been reaching out to other patients, among them Romeo Garcia, a miner from Lepanto, Benguet who was told his kidneys had failed and that he would have to undergo lifetime dialysis. The medical bulletin struck him hard as he had just buried his wife Jane, who also died of kidney failure, leaving him with daughters, six-year old Princess Arcia who is fighting leukemia, and Cathy Sy, three and suffering from epilepsy.

In the same token, I am indebted to the Baguio Midland Courier, the top weekly paper here that I had served for years, for printing my stories that somehow try to link sick people with Samaritans. Gratitude goes as well to the other Baguio media outfits for using these stories that needed to be told in keeping with Baguio’s centennial theme focusing on a community’s "culture of caring."

Life is beautiful. That’s why I continue to work even for just an honorarium so I won’t have to run on empty, as did many patients who had given up. Life is beautiful. That’s why I hope Ms. Opiña, a colleague in the profession, would understand why I continue writing. In the same token that lawyers, doctors, nurses and the like continue to work or exercise their profession after retirement.

More so for us provincial journalists who, with their limited salaries, can hardly come up with an honest-to-goodness bank account they can turn to for the rest of their lives after retirement.

That’s why I work even after my years at City Hall. I’m just glad Beneco took me in, not necessarily for my competence but because it wants to help me survive. Like any grandparent, I want to see my grandsons grow up before I kick the bucket.

That’s why I couldn’t help but cry when people I meet on the street, including those I hardly know, clasp my hand to hand over cash so I won’t skip my next life-saving dialysis. That’s why I cried when I learned of Ms. Opiña’s posting, while other colleagues in media prod me on to continue working to survive. After all, life is beautiful.

On Ms. Opiña’s posting, let me share a journalist’s prayer I learned from my God-daughter Annabelle Codiase-Bangsoy, an honest-to-goodness former news writer who made us, her older colleagues, proud of her intelligence, sensitivity and honesty: “From the ignorance that knows no truth/ From the cowardice that shirks from new truths/ And from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth/ O, God of truth, please deliver us.”

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