February 28, 2011 — the day when I rediscovered my calling.
It has been five years since I have taken that big leap into the unfamiliar. You see, I never really pictured myself as a hard-core journalist. Although I took up journalism in college, it was never my plan to make a career out of it. But as they say, sometimes life gives you a nudge into the right direction. And so I found myself working for GMA News, a few months after graduation.
Eight years later, I would again find myself at a crossroad. I was offered a job to produce a news program. Admittedly, I was anxious since I had little experience in TV production. But mostly, I felt excited to try something different, something new. Little did I know that I would take the greatest challenge of my career. I was to produce a news program anchored by Miss Jessica Soho. If the name alone doesn’t intimidate you, then the huge expectation for the show surely would. During our numerous brainstorming, meetings and technical dry-runs, I think I lost 10 pounds or more (which of course I have gained back and more ☺).
After months of preparation, State of the Nation with Jessica Soho’s pilot episode aired on February 28, 2011 on GMA News TV. I have vague memories of that nerve-wracking pilot except for a control booth filled with bosses. During the first few days, we only had a few advertisements and a small audience but what the show never lacked was substance. A week after, a magnitude 9 earthquake hit Japan. Our special episode showed the vast damage brought about by the earthquake and tsunami and we also had an expert to talk about the disaster. Suddenly, the audience was paying attention.
Aside from the Japan earthquake special, one of my favorite episodes so far was our coverage of the National Day of Mourning for the SAF 44. I think most of us were fighting off tears while previewing the materials. Another memorable one was our Supertyphoon Yolanda coverage. I remember bringing my luggage from the airport straight to work that day since I was supposed to be on vacation. Everyone’s hard work eventually paid off as GMA News won a Peabody Award for that coverage.
Besides the positive reviews and awards, there are a lot of things to be grateful for in the last five years. I take pride to have worked with and to be working with some of the most passionate and brilliant minds in the industry. Ma’am Jess continues to be the anchor of the show, figuratively speaking, since our program strives to reflect everything she stands for as a journalist—objectivity, fairness and integrity. I guess not too many people could say that they have been mentored by their idol. From her, I learned that there is a “science to everything,” that you can’t make something work with just “art-art” (arte-arte). I also learned that you should always be ahead of time (not just on time) when you go with her for shoots. Moreover, I am blessed to get to know Ma’am Jess on a more personal level and to be a witness to her unwavering loyalty and generosity.
The last five years though has not been easy and I’m not expecting that to change any time soon. I have gotten extremely mad that I have shouted and even cried in disappointment numerous times. There is no let up in challenges every day for a troubleshooter like me. I still feel the nerves during airing but that probably just means I still have high expectations for the show, for the people behind it and for myself. I don’t know who said this: kabahan ka kung hindi ka na kinakabahan. That rings true for me.
One of my favorite lines in the now defunct HBO mini-series The Newsroom, says, “There was a time when journalism wasn’t a career, it was a calling.” Journalism still is a calling for me and I am grateful to be able to do this along with the rest of the SONA team. #