Estremera: My SunStar story

Spiders web

IT WAS difficult to draft these thoughts as I have to take personal credit for the things my former colleagues and present-day editorial staff are saying in their own essays.

The moment I was given authority to manage the newsroom, nurturing and mentoring was top of the agenda. It wasn't an accidental result of the newsroom culture. In past board meeting reports, internship was very much part of the plans and programs presented where each member on the field is assigned a certain number of interns to manage, mentor, and correct. In this way, each editorial team member is given the chance to mentor even when they are still newbie reporters.

It was through mentors outside the school where I truly learned the craft and built my credibility upon. Bragging aside, I earned more accolades than any individual journalist in town, and yet, I garnered that without any formal education in communication. I only got my degree in AB Communication in March 2018, four months before I left full-time work as a journalist after spending my whole adult life as one. (I started with PeryodikoDabaw as a contributor, SunStar Davao's predecessor, when I was 21 and still an architecture student. I became an editor months after under then Atty. Cesar "Chuck" R. Nunez, who in those years was considered the dean of journalism in Davao. No one has been worthy of the title upon his death on December 17, 1987).

Chuck and PeryodikoDabaw publisher Elpidio "Pidiong" G. Damaso were my first mentors and they taught me more than all others who came after. Some of those who came after taught me how not to be.

In those days, we never called anyone Sir or Ma'am. There was Pidiong, Jimmy, FLQ, Tony, Olive, and we called the staff by their first names as well. The obviously elder ones were given the title of respect: Manong, but nothing else. It was only in the 1990s when people started using Sir or Ma'am. I found it disconcerting at first and would snap at anyone who called me Ma'am Stella or worse, Ma'am Ikik, but had to accept later that a new generation has come and they needed to call people Sir or Ma'am.

It was ingrained in me that you can learn and imbibe more from those you work with, whether as positive or negative examples, and that the greatest life lessons are learned from people who stay with you in your difficult moments... never in school.

Thus, the newsroom was designed to be just that. We even jokingly called it the SunStar Davao Finishing School of Journalism.

It evolved with the times. When used to be mentoring was through ego-crushing red marks on your draft followed by continuous verbal corrections and reminders and an occasional basketball throw toward the trashcan, or tough love as the 80s and 90s work force were used to, now mentoring has become the positive reinforcement matched with gentle but unrelenting push to find your heart in everything you do, no matter if you have to lose sleep and social life.

This was formalized as what I named "KultoniIkik," a weekly gathering where we reflected on the blessings we have encountered and our personal successes. It was empowering. And given the chance, I'd do it over again because this was how I became the SunStar journalist that I am.



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