Living in Gunfire

Originally published at El Fuente Magazine, SY 2008-2009

“The killers made sure that the broadcaster was dead.”

–an interminable resonance that refuses to cease in this room of realism. It was the lead of a write-up from the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) published on December 04 of last year (2008). The Year of the Rat, 2008, was indeed a graphic year for all of us Filipinos. It painted a stained glass with shades of controversies, politics, rebels, weapons, and blood.

The media industry, as a canvas, presented different angled stories about ABS-CBN—GMA rate issue, MOA-AD and BJE, fertilizer scams, CONCON and CONASS discourse, Ces Drilon abduction, Manny Pacquiao fight, and Vicky Bello – Hayden Kho breakup. These, however, does not exempt the media people, the painters themselves.

Journalists, broadcasters, reporters, announcers—these are the people who look for stories to tell us, investigate anomalies that affect the public, search for information to disseminate, report odd scenes that happen everyday. Without them, we would never know that Joc-joc Bolante used people’s money, that MILF wants to occupy parts of Zamboanga city, and that Joed Pilanga, a Nursing student in Ateneo, has been kidnapped.

Every aspect of media—news, entertainment, etc…—serves as an arena of reality. A reality that shows that someone must get the information for us, that someone must risk his life for the sake of many. However, media people are no Clark Kent nor Naruto as everything is no fantasy—no comic books, no animes. Every single thing around them “…reminds us of the dangerous nature of our work (future work, that is)…it instills in us that the responsibility of telling the truth to the people come hand in hand with certain risks,” says Maila Madrigalejo, sophomore Mass Communication student. “…this truth can only go two ways: 1) the people take it and believe it 2) it is shut off and it goes down with you to the grave.”

Just this previous year, eight journalists have been murdered in the Philippines. To sum up, about 122 media people were slain since the overthrown Marcos regime in 1986. (And in just a blink of an eye, the number of media people murdered last year was multiplied six times in the following year, 2009, during the Maguindanao Massacre where over 40 journalists were killed.)

More than 60 journalists were killed since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became the president. Thus, making our country one of the most dangerous places in the world for news men. “Nakakathreaten…ibig sabihin nararamdaman nila ang importance ng media people…” Karen Barba, another Masscomm sophomore, expressed.

Motives for killing media men are very relative—some may be for private purposes while mostly are politically-inclined. “We are agents of truth,” states Earl Larroder, Masscomm freshman. That may be the main reason why most journalists’ lives are at stake. It is a saddening reality that most people are afraid of, or worst cannot accept, the truth. With that, they tend to prefer evasions than facing issues head on.

On a soon-to-be media person’s side, “…when I decided to be a mass communicator, alam ko nang ganyan ang status ng field. On the contrary, isa ‘yang motivation kasi it only shows how important our work is and that it can mean life or death…”, second year Masscomm student Christine Querubin imparts. “…we can always throw historical facts that prove our importance in the society and give evidences that show how people live and die for communication,” she discloses.

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