Showing posts with label The Journalist within. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Journalist within. Show all posts


    A total of 196 pictures from all over the world were featured. They tackled a variety of topics—politics, disaster, daily life, nature, personalities, sports, arts and entertainment. From more than 96,000 entries, they emerged as the most “moving,” “thought-provoking” and “challenging” photos, preserving in film and digital information images that tried to define humanity at its best and worst.

For photojournalists, the images at the World Press Photo exhibition set the standards of technique, style, vision and journalistic skill for the industry. But what do they mean for the inexperienced eyes?

The child stood with his mother infront of the photo of a decaying body floating in a river in the Irrawaddy Delta. The caption said the person was a victim of massive flooding brought by a cyclone in Burma. To the four-year-old, however, the image said it all. Pulling the edges of his mother’s dress he pointed at the picture and asked, “Mommy, why is that person dead?”

His mother paid no attention. Wrinkles lined her face as she read the captions of the adjacent images of disaster. Horror was visible through her distorted face.

Across the exhibition hall, a middle-aged woman stood scanning the war photos in the breakaway region of South Ossetia in Georgia. Her right hand covered her mouth in what was clearly an attempt to hide shock. She did not bother to read the caption but focused on the images of a man in grief who was closing the eyes of his dead brother. He was killed in the Russian bombardment of the place.

“The events in the pictures are terrifying,” Emmy del Rosario said, moving from the war photos to the images of disaster. She stopped infront of the image of a man on an improvised stretcher. The caption said he was rescued from the rubbles after an earthquake struck parts of China.

“I remember Baguio in the photo. I remember Hyatt hotel. Fear… I feel afraid,” she added.

Emmy was in Baguio when the great 1990 earthquake devastated the Summer Capital. She was not hurt but she witnessed the tragic loss of lives, including a number of her friends.

Behind the images of tragedy and war, an old man quietly scanned the photos in the Portrait category of the exhibition. “I’m 72,” he barked with pride, his nose almost touching the boards in an attempt to read the caption. “I do remember.”

Teddy Gomez was examining the images of doll soldiers in a miniature war field. They caught his attention as they revisited iconic events and personalities like the Spanish Civil War and Mao Tse Tung of China.

“Those look like Japanese soldiers in Hiroshima. It’s like the Second World War…,” the retired accountant added, pausing for a long time before repeating, “I do remember.”

Teddy was only five or six when World War II broke out. At that age, people don’t normally remember much, but for him, living through the war years left strong images he will never forget.

She was fighting back tears while explaining how the idea of daily deaths struck her. From a distance she appeared taken-aback while reading the captions in the General News category. “This one,” Marian Beltran pointed at a war photo in Georgia, “the caption said hundreds are dying everyday. It’s disconcerting.”

Lars Lindqvist captured the images at the height of the Russian intervention against the separatist forces in South Ossetia in Georgia. She caught the fear in the faces of the people in her pictures, as well as the tears and exhaustion.

“The pictures are shocking but it’s the reality. It’s out there… it’s just that they have never been shown this vivid before. I’m hoping we can do something,” Marian added.

There was silence everytime people passed by the images of war, death and tragedy. One can see how faces were transformed from curiosity, awe, dread to sadness as they slowly understood what the photos meant.

One visitor from Isabela captured the general sentiment in a comment she left in the message notebook in the center of the gallery. She wrote, “The images of war…pray that we will not see more of these in the Philippines.”

At around three in the afternoon, people began flooding into the exhibit. There were families, classmates, men and women in relationship, students, businessmen, taxi drivers, tourists—people from all walks of life. Pictures of the American president Barack Obama greeted them as they emerged from the front escalators of The Block.

Those who chose to look at the photos displayed in the left panels generally wore smiles and laughter as they examined the subjects.

“This caught my attention,” Harry Cabe was standing infront of mug shots of six men. They were the before and after shots of boxers in the Beijing Olympics.

“Look at how their faces changed,” he pointed out.

Beside him was a woman laughing at the expressions plastered on the faces of athletes in the 10-meter platform diving competition. She was joined by her friend who, at the sight of the images, could not help but call her companions.

Soon, they were imitating the expressions in the photos. They made funny faces, curled their foreheads, opened their mouths and puffed their cheeks in an attempt to rival the athletes. They ended, however, laughing at one another.

All over the Sports category, visitors were enjoying the action and the telling movement captured by the photographers.

“I like the pictures here. I can’t read English so I don’t know what those pictures meant,” Jimmy Himalogan said, referring to the Current Events photos.

“I don’t need to read here because I understand the pictures,” he added.

Near the corner of the gallery, a man was stooping close examining the drop of blood from a Judo athlete. The photo by Wu Xiaoling won the first prize in the Sports Features category. It preserved a drop of blood as it splattered on the blue mat of the arena. The hand and knees of the athlete were the only other objects visible, helping viewers surmise how the rest of the image looked like—a Judoka on her knees; the portrait of surrender.

“The way it was shot is different. A struck of luck and skill,” Cris Vidal was looking at the blood splatter.

“It makes you think it was edited, but I think the photographer is just lucky,” he added.

These are the best journalistic photos from around the world. But a quick interview of the people in the exhibit revealed several interpretations and opinions.

To photographer and Film graduate Paolo Gonzales this is expected because photo is a medium.

“It’s not true that you mirror reality. You have a choice as a photographer… The fact that you choose to take the picture at that moment and not later shows that you really have a say on the outcome.”

He said photographers usually place their biases through the angling, choice of focus, lighting, contrast and a number of other factors.

As to the interpretation of the viewers, culture and experience play a crucial role. He said the images that attract people are the images they can relate to because of a memory, emotion, familiarity, upbringing and worldview.

For him, a good picture, then, is one that can pierce through these social and cultural screens and put across a clear message.

“Photos have more immediate effects. If you execute it right, it can give the desired results in five seconds. That is the power of the visual medium,” he said.

Indeed, a number of photos achieved this effect and were even immortalized because of their power. There is the photo of an African child with a vulture. Another is that of a naked girl running after a napalm attack in Vietnam. In the Philippine, Albert Garcia struck the world with his photograph of a truck trying to outrun a pyroclastic flow from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991.

How do photographers achieve these photos?

“We have preparations,” Paolo said. “But on the field, you have to be quick. Move fast, take shots and pray that you get a good one.”


He described it a “daily regimen.” Every night, at around 10 p.m., his cursor starts to open links, drag scrollbars up and down and play videos, all with a few mouse movements and button clicks. He is ahead of tomorrow’s newspapers, reading their stories as they are uploaded in local news sites also around that time.

It was a Saturday, the 31st of May, 2008, when he stumbled on the online version of the “Journal of Democracy,” a website containing essays that discussed the theory, practice and challenges of democracy worldwide. He scrolled down the page and a familiar name caught his attention near the bottom. He moved his cursor over the red link and clicked it open.

A new window popped up containing an essay by Paul Hutchcroft of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Entitled, “The Arroyo imbroglio in the Philippines,” it discussed the corruption and scandals of Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s administration. This report was Antonio Ian Cruz’s source in an article he wrote for the local paper, Malaya.

Cruz, who is now a full-time professional blogger, sifted through the 16-page paper to write his story, “Influential US journal says GMA sank RP into morass of corruption.”  It landed on page one of Malaya, generating reactions from Malacañang Palace.

Another local newspaper, The Daily Tribune (Tribune), ran the response in the story of Sherwin Olaes, “Palace downplays US journal’s charges vs GMA.” Cruz saw it on Tribune’s site the next day, and he initially thought, “Wow! They’re quick. They followed up my story.”

 Olaes’ article, however, was not a follow up in the strictest sense. When Cruz read it, he felt “eerily familiar” with the writing style. He compared the two stories and confirmed that he was plagiarized both in Tribune’s paper and website. From paragraph five, down, Olaes copied Cruz’s story in toto without attribution.

 Cruz immediately informed his news editor and Malaya’s desk of the plagiarism. The desk initially felt “pleased” because they saw the plagiarism case as “complement,” Cruz said. Even his news editor only managed to say, “Okay. Noted.” Cruz himself did not even call Tribune or Olaes to complain about the plagiarized article.

 To date, Tribune has not yet issued an apology or a statement online or on paper. Even Cruz, however, admitted that Malaya never updated him on the case. “I do not know. I do not know if they (Malaya) contacted them (Tribune). I think I already fulfilled my duty when I informed the editor,” he said. Olaes is also unavailable for comment because his contact number at the Tribune is not updated.

 Inside her office at the Tribune, Ninez Cacho-Olivares, the paper’s editor-in-chief and publisher, sat behind her wooden desk, an ashtray on her left and a flat screen monitor on her right. She was scanning the early morning stories in local news sites, her wrinkled hand maneuvering the mouse slowly with age. She puffed a ball of smoke before leaving her cigarette stick lighted on the ashtray.

 “Who says it’s a plagiarism case?” Olivares asked, her tone a bit defensive.

 “Malaya never bothered to call us up… and all of a sudden I hear these things on television saying that this was a case of plagiarism,” she said, her voice sounded annoyed.

 For Tribune’s publisher, Olaes’ story is not plagiarism because it is “not a copy” of Cruz’s. It is simply Malacañang’s reaction to Cruz’s story. Olivares believes that plagiarism happens only when a person copies the “whole story in itself” and takes authorship for that.

 Her definition of plagiarism is correct but incomplete. According to, an online anti-plagiarism resource, there are at least 11 kinds of plagiarism, and Olivares’ definition is only one of them. What is clear, however, is that plagiarism can be committed not only by copying an entire work as it is and passing it off as one’s own. In fact, even if a writer paraphrases other works and fuses them together, as long as no original idea is added and attribution is missing, the product is still considered plagiarized.

 “Sherwin Olaes came up with that reaction…it was the first two paragraphs I think. And then apparently what he did was he picked up the [Malaya] report and copied it as background. His mistake there was he did not put out that this was reported in another newspaper,” Olivares explained.

 For the publisher of Tribune, this was a case of missing attribution, not plagiarism. However, the lack of attribution is plagiarism.

 Olaes clearly plagiarized Cruz. Even if he added seven original paragraphs, his failure to attribute the remaining parts of the story which are lifted verbatim, makes it a clear case of plagiarism. Also worthy of analysis, however, is Malaya’s response on the plagiarism case, reflecting the industry’s attitude towards the ethical dilemma.

   Cruz and Malaya admitted that they never contacted Olaes or Tribune regarding the plagiarized article. Cruz said there are “more important things to do” than to waste his time personally going after the case. He added that he had already done his part when he informed his editors on what happened. Cruz believes that it is Malaya’s responsibility to “assert” its rights and “protect” its content, not his.

 “After all, it’s not the Tonyo Cruz newspaper, it’s Malaya. It is Malaya that should be offended,” he said.

 For Enrique Romualdez, Malaya’s executive editor, on the other hand, their paper has “zero tolerance” on plagiarism committed by their reporters. They can do the extreme and ask the reporter to resign or retire from work. However, if they are plagiarized—as in this case with Tribune—Malaya lacks the necessary mechanisms and guidelines to address the issue.

Romualdez can only go as far as saying, “That’s their problem. Go ahead; plagiarize, as long as you take responsibility for your actions.” When it comes to plagiarism, he believes the solution and action rest only on the perpetrator, not the victim.

 Cruz added that the pressure in covering news and beating deadlines can sometimes overshadow ethical concerns inside the newsroom. “We have to understand that Malaya has different priorities. The editors have plenty of work to do. Do you expect them to drop all stories for the day just to storm in the Tribune’s office?” he said.

 Olivares agreed with Cruz that plagiarism is not the priority and added that it cannot be prioritized. “How the heck can you prioritize plagiarism? It's impossible because you're doing it on a fast-paced literature,” she said.

 This one-way attitude towards plagiarism and the precedence of “more important work” over ethical breaches are reflected in other newsrooms as well.

 Romy Tangbawan, editor of, said they do not have mechanisms to address plagiarism. He explained that the desk does not take any action unless a reporter personally complains and pursues a plagiarism case. “We really don't care about it. Or we are so busy looking for stories to watch for plagiarized stories of ours,” he said.

 Robert Basilio, a desk person at, added that it is easier to catch plagiarism in the academe. For the media and online industry, however, he said, “How do you deal with such? We don’t do anything about that.”

 Tangbawan had accepted the reality of plagiarism online and the difficulty of addressing it, thus, he said, “It’s okay to steal from us as long as we don’t end up in bad light… as long as we don’t do the stealing.”

 Erwin Oliva of the said they have mechanism against plagiarism but these are focused more on preventing “wholesale copying of articles.” They even have links on their website explaining company policies on the use of their content, but he said people still copy their videos and articles without proper attribution.

 Clearly, plagiarism is not a priority in some newsrooms. Because of the fast-paced and technology-driven culture of the online medium, ethics is often subordinated to competition and the pressure to beat deadlines.

 This is not surprising because ethics, after all, is not mandatory. In Tribune’s case, Olivares even questioned the authority of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), refusing to be under its jurisdiction on matters of plagiarism and journalism ethics.

 “This is my newspaper, I make my own code of ethics…Who are they to tell me what to do and what not to do? And what is ethical and what is not?” Olivares said.

The sixth principle of the PPI-National Press Club (NPC) Code of Ethics states plainly, “I shall not commit any act of plagiarism.” All local newspapers who are members of PPI adhere to this standard in their conduct of journalism.

 However, Tribune’s lapses cannot be assessed using this code because the paper is not a member of PPI. This would not have been a problem if Tribune had an in-house code. For Olivares, however, “everyone knows” what ethics is so there is no need to produce a written code.

 “I have my own values and I impose that in my newspaper and among my desk people,” Olivares said. What these values are, however, she failed to specify.

 Olivares may be right about their non-membership in PPI and their exemption from its code of ethics, but journalists’ responsibility against plagiarism transcends local and even organizational codes.

 In his book, “Committed Journalism,” Edmund Lambeth said Journalists must seek and tell the truth including how they acquired their information. They need to properly acknowledge ideas that are not their own. These tenets are also reflected in the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Code of ethics that demands honesty and fairness in gathering and reporting data.

 Lambeth added that journalistic freedom needs “principled practice.” Thus, the need for media “to develop and implement their own means of self-regulation.” In the Philippines, this is achieved in the form of ethics codes outlining the standards of journalistic practice.

 Journalists are also called to “respect the rights of others”—sources, subjects and colleagues—in practicing their profession. Before plagiarizing anyone, Olaes should have remembered that journalists are also “human beings… not merely means to journalistic ends.”   

 The SPJ code also encourages journalists to be accountable to one another. They must “admit mistakes and correct them promptly, expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media, and abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.” If Tribune puts this to practice, its best response to the plagiarism case is to issue an apology or a correction the moment it learned of the shortcoming.

 For Malaya, on the other hand, accountability translates to informing immediately and directly the editors of Tribune of the plagiarized article in their website and paper. On the immediacy of action, online expert Oliva says, “The longer you delay, the higher the chance that nothing will happen.”

 Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in “The Elements of Journalism” captured these values best when they said, “In the end, journalism is an act of character.”

 Even if journalists set aside all these ethical tenets, however, a law exists punishing plagiarism as violation of intellectual property right. Plagiarism, then, is not only a major ethical breach, but also a violation of the law.

 According to the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines or Republic Act 8293, news articles are considered original intellectual works that are protected from “the moment of their creation, with respect to, among others, their reproduction and communication to the public.”

 The provision on moral rights also compels a writer to attribute the lifted part of his/her article to the original author. Infringement of the copyright law is punishable by one to three years imprisonment, with fines ranging from P50,000 to P150,000 for the first offense.

 Cruz refused to blame Malaya on the plagiarism case. When asked, however, whether or not he was contented with how they handled the issue, he had to pause, seemingly weighing the question on his mind.

 When he answered, his voice sounded heavy. “No.”

 Cruz argued that Malaya should have filed a formal complaint with its counterparts at Tribune or should have at least created mechanisms to address such disputes arising between newspapers.

 Non-compliance with codes of ethics and lack of mechanisms and standard operating procedures to address plagiarism reflect the media industry’s attitude towards the ethical issue—inaction, negligence and indirect consent.

 In committing plagiarism, the violator does not only break the rights of the original author but also deceives the public by publishing articles he or she did not write. When such happens, the journalist stains not only his credibility and integrity but also that of editors, the newspaper where he or she works and the media industry as a whole.

 As gatekeepers, editors should have sharp eyes in detecting borrowed portions in their reporters’ works. After all, the plagiarized article won’t appear in print or online unless the editor gives the “go signal” to run or upload the story.

 In the era of digital technology where information flows freely in and out of the Internet, the online medium is fast becoming the choice platform for many developed countries. News gets delivered to readers quickly, anytime, anywhere, through the Internet, assuring the audience of fresh stories minute by minute.

 With these features, however, the recycling of information also gets more difficult to detect, let alone remedy. Internet users copy and paste articles online, disregarding copyright and claiming illegal ownership, intentionally or out of ignorance.

 Luz Rimban, ethics professor from the Ateneo de Manila University, confirms this, saying, “It’s really difficult to keep track because millions of millions of millions of records are online. I think that's really just one big problem whether it's on the academe or journalism. It's so easy to copy and paste.”

 She added, however, that detection of plagiarism is equally easy with the use of search engines like Google and Yahoo!. Aside from this, several free plagiarism detection sites like and offer quick and easy checks against copied content.

 For Oliva, plagiarism is “lazy work” that should not, in any way, be tolerated in the newsroom. Competition and daily beat assignments, he said, should not be used as excuses in failing to curb ethical breaches.

  Rimban finds flaw in Malaya’s inaction regarding the plagiarism case. Commenting on the paper’s view of plagiarism as complement, Rimban said, “Let's call a spade a spade. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. Let’s not add color to that.”

 Tribune, on the other hand, is still liable. Even if Malaya and Cruz did not call their attention, the fact that they have learned of a plagiarized article in their website and newspaper calls for prompt correction. Hiding behind the inaction of Malaya is still unjustifiable.

 Despite the lack of official mechanisms to resolve plagiarism cases in the newsrooms, reporters and editors can still protect themselves from bootlegging by other newspapers or within their ranks. The first and most obvious remedy is simple attribution of all borrowed materials. Attribution is a question of moral integrity, a plain courtesy to your fellow journalists, and obedience to the law.

 Olaes could have at least mentioned in his article that the story was originally published in Malaya. This simple act of attribution could have saved him from the numerous ethical controversies he is in now.

For Basilio of, however, this solution also poses problems in the competitive world of media. He said papers or networks will rarely attribute information they get from one another for fear of “promoting” their rivals and tilting business in their favor.

For him, an alternative that can go away with attribution and plagiarism at the same time is to use existing stories as leads in making one’s own stories. 

“If you’re out scooped, there are ways to catch up. Change your story’s angle be more in-depth,” Basilio said.  

The editors should also screen and filter the content of their reporters’ articles to make sure they are “safe” to publish. Verification and fact-checking are basic disciplines that promote accuracy and honesty, and at the same time prevent plagiarism. 

“Editors should know their reporter’s writing style. They should be able to detect if a line, a sentence, or a phrase, is not the reporter’s anymore,” Rimban said.

She added that editors need to constantly remind their reporters of the journalist’s code of ethics. This is important because Malaya, Tribune, the and even admitted on not having regular refresher courses on ethics and journalism values.

Editors may also consider having in-house codes of ethics. Specialized codes are helpful in dealing with specific dilemmas that are vaguely discussed in general codes. Newspapers, for example, can come up with their own guidelines that tackle plagiarism in detail, from its definition and kinds to its prevention.

If this is not feasible, however, media organizations can simply adopt existing codes like the SPJ or the PPI-NPC or the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas code for television. What is important is media organizations must follow at least one written code and not simply rely on the judgment of a single person in the newsroom as in the case of Tribune.

The media organization may also form a group specifically tasked to monitor ethical lapses among its reporters and to formulate courses of action quickly.

Online plagiarism is a cybercrime that co-exists with technology. Therefore, journalists should fight technology with technology. Newsrooms should use the latest software and programs to keep track of plagiarism. Subscribing to online newsfeeds and Google or Yahoo! alerts may help reporters detect familiar, copy-and-pasted articles in the web.

Contrary to what Tangbawan and Basilio said, website developers can use codes that disable the copy-and-paste and video-download options in websites. A simple web search can yield queries detailing how these can be done. Though these methods are far from perfect, they can at least provide first line of defense against plagiarism.

In the end, prevention still works better than cure. Attribution and rigorous editing and verification of stories are the best ways to ensure that a story is safe, legal, and ethical. The pressure of deadlines inside the newsroom can become overwhelming at times but this is no excuse to becoming unethical and unlawful.

Aside from the editors, if a monitoring body inside the organization exists, the work of checking and rechecking articles against plagiarism and other ethical breaches become more effective.

The media industry must also reach a consensus on how to deal with plagiarism through censures, penalties and several preventive mechanisms like editing and regular ethics refresher courses in newspapers, online and broadcast media.

These solutions are anchored on Immanuel Kant’s Rights Approach, pointing out that “every individual has the fundamental right to be respected and treated as free and equal.” In respecting their colleagues, journalists are warned against unduly gaining credit from others’ hard work through plagiarism.    

While the finger of blame points straight to the reporter who plagiarized, the editors, too, should be held accountable in cases of plagiarism. As gatekeepers, they are expected not only to monitor objectivity or grammatical errors in a story but also ethical lapses that reporters may have overlooked.

At the same time, both victim and offender need to be active agents in correcting plagiarism breaches. Both parties need to reach a compromise guided by the ethical standards of journalism. Tribune and Malaya failed in this aspect in that they blamed each other, never initiating to remedy the case.

At present, Cruz’s original article is no longer in Malaya’s website and can only be accessed through a link in his blog. Olaes’, however, can still be accessed through the old Tribune website. Without any correction or note from Tribune’s editor, any Internet user will not suspect the article to be plagiarized. Instead of debating on whose fault it is and whether or not this is a case of plagiarism, it is about time to remove the article altogether and to issue a long overdue apology.

The Coffee Painter

She was in her dream—a fairy falling; no, drowning in the sea. Her hair swirled about the water, but her face looked calm. Deeper and deeper she went, but no one witnessed her death. She was silent, trapped in her own time and space. Yet, she was described beautiful.
Around this time, her creator was a nobody—a teacher who quit teaching, an artist who earned nothing, a painter who experimented with what some called an “illegitimate” medium.
“That painting,” Sosie Plata pointed at the drowning fairy, “that made her cry. What you’re seeing, I think, is her third try.”
Sosie, the mother of coffee painter Sunshine Plata, described her daughter as a go-getter. Sunshine never stops until she finishes what she determined to do, she said. She had been like that even when she was young. And though the attitude sometimes caused rifts among the four siblings, it undoubtedly pushed Sunshine beyond her limits.
“In that painting, she saw defects in her first try… ‘Why won’t it dry up?’ she would ask. But she did not stop until she perfected the process,” Sosie added.
Finally, on Sunshine’s third try, the colors became distinct. They were no longer just brown. The entire work came to life with different shades of brown.
“I myself got so amazed,” Sosie recalled, her eyes that of a proud mother’s. “She can really come up with beauty in this whole brown material. I saw that it was talent that was coming out. This is so unique.”
For Sunshine, however, it would take another year before her craft caught anyone’s attention. The drowning fairy hung silently above the family piano from 2007 to 2008. It would be joined by a number of others as Sunshine’s works accumulated, and her painting style seemingly unappreciated.
“I thought of having an exhibit for my collection but that meant paying for the venue, the food, the flyers and the invitation. It was too much for me that time,” a bubbly Sunshine said.
Then she thought of asking help from the food giant, Nescafe. After all, she was using their coffee product for her paintings, she said. To her delight, the company liked the idea. As exchange to their sponsorship, Nescafe asked Sunshine to paint for them a farmer harvesting coffee grains. This painting became the face of a new line of coffee products Nescafe launched.
That night on January 2008, a one-woman, one-night-only painting exhibit was held at Casino Espanol. There were 33 coffee paintings, all bearing Sunshine’s signature. People poured into the hall, praising her works. One by one, the paintings got sold—a total of 27 by the end of the night.
“I was so shocked!” Sunshine said of the exhibit’s outcome. “My whole life I only wanted an exhibit, just a small one for my family and friends. It didn’t matter if people wouldn’t buy. I just wanted it.”
After her initial success, the family offered to display the remaining paintings in the galleries of SM Megamall to give Sunshine continuous exposure. Owners, however, were reluctant because of the medium—coffee. They were nervous of “experimental” art because of their reputation and the money involved.
“None of them wanted to take Sunshine’s art because they didn't think it’s a legitimate medium,” Sosie recalled. “I asked, ‘What, then, is legitimate?’ and they would say, ‘oil, paint and watercolor’.”
“That was a setback for us. We really felt downtrodden after the experience,” she added.
For Sunshine, however, giving up was never an option. She had gone that far and was determined to push through. She continued painting and scouting for sponsors. She did not give up on the medium for in her own words, “I wanted it so badly.”
“I wanted my remaining paintings sold so I emailed Ripley’s. ‘Maybe they hadn’t found coffee paintings yet,’ I thought. And after 24 hours, they bought two of my paintings,” Sunshine said.
Her works were featured in the Martha Stuart’s Show, then by Reuters. From then on, the coffee painter became somebody and her works were known the world over.
“At first when she was experimenting on the coffee painting, it’s…a wait and see thing,” Sosie said, “I know she has talent for the arts but trying it on coffee…is this possible?”
Sunshine first got the idea of coffee as a medium after seeing a 19th-century signature in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum. According to its caption, the signature was at least a hundred years old.
“If this signature lasts a hundred years, then if I paint with coffee, it’s going to last as long,” she said.
True enough, studies were made showing that coffee as paint can last at least 70 years before fading begins to show. Long after this ingenious artist is gone her works will still be appreciated by generations of art enthusiasts.
“To this day I'm not a master yet because everyday’s a learning experience. Maybe I'm a lot better now than I was in 2000,” Sunshine said, putting aside her latest painting—her version of the Virgin Mary.
Nine years ago she made her first coffee painting. It was the façade of the University of Sto. Tomas. In the same university she finished Psychology, after being rejected in Fine Arts. She was just in her second year then, and though she really wanted to purse her passion for the arts, her father persuaded her to take a practical course.
“Papa said I just take med school because it’s practical…but whenever I see fine arts students copying buildings and enjoying themselves, the more I felt out of place in my course,” Sunshine said.
At one point she thought it was alright to just turn her passion into a hobby. Even if she did not make it to Fine Arts, she could still produce paintings. However, it would be much of a burden to her parents to support her in this plan.
“An oil paint costs 500 pesos. You’ll need at least three—red, blue and yellow… This is an expensive hobby, so I really sought a cheaper alternative that’s permanent and at the same time unique. Then, I discovered coffee” she said.
Sunshine’s first coffee painting hung beside the drowning fairy. They are just two of the several coffee works adorning their home in Marikina. Most of Sunshine’s crafts are about fairies and women, and distinct to her style are the curves and swirls all around them. Some of her paintings even looked like mosaics because of repeated patterns, dots and lines.
“Secretly, before, I used to want to be a fairy. I really fancy that character from the children's fairy tale—Thumbelina. She's the size of a thumb. With my small frame I can relate to her when she likes to be free and explore different places,” Sunshine said.
Among her fairy paintings was a giant work of a swan. Parts of it appeared to be damaged. Sunshine said molds grew on the painting because of a defect in the framing. There was not enough breathing space, causing moisture to seep into the work.
The painting stayed at home, however, not because of the molds but because it belonged to her mother. Sunshine made it for her—a long overdue gift.
“‘Nanay this is for you…watch and see,’ Sunshine told me. Then, when she finished it, it was such an accomplishment. Even if no one else could see it, even if I’m the only one who could appreciate it, I’m already happy,” Sosie recalled.
Her daughter is now a full-time coffee painter. From simply channeling her creative juices in her illustrations as a pre-school teacher, Sunshine now has freedom to paint the things she wants. For those that she really liked, it takes her only a day, though some commissioned ones can take as long as a month.
Everything paid off—the frustrations, the failures, the long nights of painting, the decision to pursue the medium, the tenacity to go on.
Asked about the secret of a successful artist, Sunshine could only borrow this saying:
“When love and art come together, you create a masterpiece.” 

Day 17

My last day! Well I woke up today eager to get a copy of the Inquirer to check if my story was published. It was, but without my byline or tagline. That was really annoying. Later today I found out from Sir Marlon that the desk opted to run it without a tagline or byline since most of the information came from a press release. Well they had a point, but they disregarded the corroboration I did with the other information. Oh, well, I could not argue with the desk. Still that’s my story. (Smiles.)

Being my last day at work, I wrote only a feature story. I was actually pre-occupied with the blowout I and Rachel Miranda planned for the Makati City reporters. I also invited Sir Marlon Ramos but he came later in the evening because of his Manila beat. I finished my feature story quickly so that I could go to Makati and prepare for our blowout party.

The feature story was about the National Capital Region Police Office’s teaching program at Camp Bagong Diwa. The program covered Prep, Nursery and Kinder, and was open to everyone for free. It was realized with the help of the Ronald McDonald House Charities that focuses on improved literacy through donations of facilities and equipment.

Sir Marlon Ramos asked me to write the story when we were still covering the South Manila beat. The story was offered by NCRPO community relations Chief Supt. Rodelio Jocson who also pushed for the reopening of the program after the facilities got damaged in an explosion inside the camp.

While still at NCRPO, we interviewed the students who were mostly children of police officers. We also asked the teachers and the parents about their opinions on the program. The “Bahay Bulilit,” as it was called, was a great financial help to the parents and residents of the community. Most of those we interviewed pointed out that private schools would drain their savings so they opted to enroll their children in the free school inside NCRPO.

I finished writing the story before 2 p.m. and sent it to Sir Marlon. After that, I dashed to Makati to give my share of the blowout. Rachel had prepared a pizza for the reporters. I was assigned to buy dessert so I bought refreshments from Jollibee. I really liked their peach-mango pie and their caramel mango ice craze so I bought them for the reporters. I also bought doughnuts for Sir Marlon.

So, what did I learn from my internship? Lots and lots. First, I got to taste how it was like to be a full-time reporter. The first week was difficult because it was the adjustment week. As I went through the internship, however, I felt more at ease with the profession. Though I am not yet sure if I will pursue the career, I think I will survive if ever I do.

Second, I understood that theories inside classrooms and practices in the real world often collided. There were many times I had to let go of what I was taught in favor of the tradition in the work place. I had recorded several of those incidents in my diary including my reactions. Perhaps the most unforgivable was the reporters’ dependence on press releases to make their stories. Though I also depended on such several times, I reminded myself that when I become a journalist, I would elevate my reporting. I would not be chained by these PRs.

Third, writing news is fun, but the gathering part is more enjoyable. I really found news difficult to write. Perhaps the best thing I learned in my internship was writing straight news stories. Though there are still vast rooms for improvement, I will treasure the insights from the practitioners. I no longer fear new, in fact, I have learned how to study it from newspapers and the Internet. I still enjoy data gathering more, however, especially when the information is difficult to come by. Several times I haggled with the police and other sources so that I could obtain the information that would complete my story. Most of the encounters were successful.

And fourth, journalism can be further enriched when one decides to enter the trade. I figured out that staying inside the classroom was insufficient if I wanted to learn journalism. I need to practice it and to live it out. Truly, experience is a great teacher.

That ends my internship.

Day 16

This is my second to the last day of internship and my second day in a new beat. The EcoWaste story was used by the Philippine Daily Inquirer but it was not my story. I found out later that such stories belonged to the other reporter of Manila, Alcuin Papa. I feel alright even if my story wasn’t used. At least I knew which stories could land in the newspaper.

Sir Marlon Ramos left early today because his brother was arrested for traffic violations. I was on my own on my second day at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines press office. Another Inquirer reporter took over Sir Marlon’s post for the mean time. She’s also a graduate of the University of the Philippines and a former writer of the Philippine Collegian. I didn’t get her name but Sir Marlon said she’s among the youngest reporters of the Inquirer.

The reporters at the CBCP were busy with the Commission on Elections story on the computerization of the 2010 elections. They were waiting for a statement from the commission regarding the possibility of bidding failure after none of the participants passed COMELEC’s standards. At the same time, they were waiting for comments on an alleged signing of procurement documents inside a COMELEC bathroom to bypass the procurement process. The raw video of the alleged signing was uploaded online, generating uproar from netizens and the media.

I did not join the throng of COMELEC reporters, however. Instead, I concentrated on the Bureau of Customs stories because they were assigned to me by Sir Marlon. Besides, I had just been in the beat for two days so I’m starting with the easier stories. In addition, my partner reporter also asked me to monitor the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Department of Labor and Employment while he was away.

I wrote a story on illegal aliens today after receiving a press release from the BI. The PR was actually well written except for the lead. I rewrote the story and called the Paranaque City police to confirm the information on the arrest of the aliens.

In my story, two foreigners were apprehended after they were caught cheating slot machines with a gadget. They did this scheme for several days at a Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. casino in Barangay Sto. Nino. One of the aliens was a Korean and the other was a Japanese and they had been under police custody from April 29 until today.

The BI agents moved to transfer the two after they learned that they were about to post bail for their temporary release. BI officers are already preparing the deportation papers of the two.

Putting this story together was relatively easier because most of the needed information were already available in the PR. I only had to confirm the other details by calling the Paranaque police and the BI itself. The police was accommodating, but the press officers of BI refused to add further details saying the release was already complete.
I finished the story and sent it to Sir Marlon via email. He said he will edit it and send it to the desk. I think the story has a good chance of being published. I hope it gets published.

Day 15

Just three days to go and I got transferred to a new beat with Sir Marlon Ramos. We were assigned to the Port Area in Manila to cover the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). This beat is smaller than the South Manila beat Sir Marlon formerly covered, but it is a lot busier. In my experience, it is even more difficult to cover because we deal with government agencies and all their banes.

Getting acquainted with the new beat is the most difficult of all. I had to adjust even my travel time, route and budget in order to reach the press office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on time. The press office was geographically closer than Camp Bicutan, but it took longer to get there because of the heavy traffic in Manila.

Seriously, that city has the worst traffic problem I have ever experienced. The air is also polluted and the surrounding’s gloomy. I can imagine what tourists think of the Philippines when they find out that Manila is our capital. Commuting there from Quezon City drained my energy. Upon reaching CBCP I felt like a used rug ready to be thrown out.

The CBCP press office is thrice the size of Makati City’s press room. There are tables everywhere and computer units lined one corner. The two air conditioners turn the room frigid even in the heat of noon. There are more journalists in CBCP than in Makati but they are mostly from print. Both the Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily Inquirer even have two reporters in the same beat.

The people were snobbish and less warm than in Makati, except for one Star reporter. It was a shame I didn’t get her name. Anyway, she was very accommodating and motherly. Whenever Sir Marlon’s out, she would teach me a thing or two about journalism. She was the female version of Sir Mike Frejalde (I don’t think I got the surname right), the Star reporter who doubled as my mentor in Makati.

The reporter from Star also covered the same beat except for COMELEC and DOH. Whenever a press release was faxed she would announce it to the people in the room to call the attention of the reporters concerned. Once or twice, we wrote the same story based on a PR from the BoC. Like in the police beat, Customs had staple stories of smuggling, deportation, trafficking and the like. Unlike in police, however, the BoC beat was stricter, with every story being decided upon by the press officer of the bureau. The reporter from Star said such set up was necessary owing to the sensitivity of the people involved in the stories—foreigners.

However, I don’t totally agree with the set up. Media should be the gatekeepers not the press officers of the government. If that is the case, then journalists become simply tools or extensions of the press office of departments, offices and bureaus. The independence is lost. At the same time the gate-keeping function is compromised. Media need to decide which news to release based on the stories’ merits not on the dictates of the people who provide them. Media owe their very existence and essence to the people, not the government.

Of course I only had these in my mind. I could not lecture them about journalism right there and then, but I honestly think they should consider these thoughts. The very foundation of the profession is at risk.

I wrote two stories today. The first one was about the launching of a green campaign for the upcoming elections and the second was about the forfeiture proceedings of smuggled goods in the BoC.

I chanced upon my first story while searching for the CBCP. When I saw a small gathering outside the COMELEC building in Intramuros , I went to investigate and I saw the 2009 Miss Philippines-Earth, At the back of my mind I thought, “This is newsworthy.” As I listened to their speeches and looked for people to interview, I slowly formed the story in my head. I even took pictures of the event just so I can have souvenir of the rare encounter.

The PR officer also gave out press releases for the media people covering the event. Included in the kit were statements from the organizers and the beauty queens, and a 10-point guideline on greener campaigns and sorties. The guideline was created by the EcoWaste Coalition, a pro-environment group pushing for earth-friendly elections.

I showed Sir Marlon my notes the other materials I got from the launching. He gave me the thumbs up so I wrote the story. It was relatively easier for me now to write news stories after 15 days of internship. After about an hour, I turned in my work and Sir Marlon edited it. He said the story’s okay with minor editing.

After finishing the story, my reporter-partner gave me a second story to write. The story was about the start of the forfeiture proceedings of P73 million worth of fake cellular phones intercepted by the BoC. Nokia also confirmed that the phones were imitations from China though they bear the company’s logo and name. With this, the owners of the cargo were also charged with copyright infringement.

Writing the Customs story was more difficult than the EcoWaste story because of the jargons of the trade. I had to research the meaning of certain terms so that I could understand the story better. The task became easier also with the help of the kind Star reporter.
That’s it for now. I’ll add more tomorrow.

Day 14

I’m still in Makati and Sir Marlon Ramos is still unsure with what to do with me. I’m thankful with Ms. Allison Lopez, however, for agreeing to be my temporary reporter-partner whenever I’m in the Makati Press Office. I pass all my stories to her and she edits them before sending it to the desk. I hope Sir Marlon also edits my stories, but he seldom does. He was trained the U.P. way so he does not spoon-feed me.

Not that Ms. Ali is spoon-feeding her interns, but the mentor-trainee relationship was more evident with her. I also appreciate Sir Marlon’s style, however, because it keeps me on my toes. He allows me to explore and to find stories for myself. Because of his style, I experienced being a journalist in search for stories to write. Though I seldom left the office and transacted only through phone, I still felt like a journalist in the real world.

I would have wanted to be like the older journalists, however, who went out to literally search for news. They walked the streets and visited police stations to find stories. Today, with the advent of press releases and fax machines, going out is no longer necessary. Though I have to admit that relying solely on a single source for information is a no-no in journalism.

But there was not much I could do. When I entered for internship the system was already like that. As much as possible, however, I corroborated the information in the spot report with the actual investigators who wrote the information. Even so, I’m not always sure of the credibility of my data since there is a good chance that the police I’m talking too is also relying on the same spot report I have.

It takes skill and resourcefulness to corroborate the information. Sometimes I call the institutions or organizations mentioned in the press release to confirm what was written about them. On other occasions, if the people in the story are affiliated with offices or groups, I search for them online. Usually the phone number of the organization can be found there. I use it as a lead to find the person I want to talk to.

Like yesterday, today’s relatively quiet. There was nothing big in the South Manila beat throughout the day. No news broke out and no incident happened. We attributed it to the Pacquiao mania. Whenever Manny Pacquiao makes the news, crime rates tend to go down throughout the country. This may have caused the reduced crime rate today.

I still managed to write a story, however, but it was from a press release furnished by the local government of Makati. It was about the city’s housing project for their displaced informal settlers. The local government partnered with the Gawad Kalinga (GK) foundation and Banco de Oro (BDO) in creating a GK village in Bulacan.

The project would build 28 houses to benefit the homeless and landless of Makati. Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay said this was in line with the city’s vision to provide for the less fortunate members of their community. He added that if needed be, they would create a mini-Makati in the resettlement area in San Jose del Monte City just to make the displaced citizens feel at home.
The project is a continuation of the partnership between Makati and GK and was funded by BDO. Employees of the bank even volunteered to help in the actual building of the homes for 10 Saturdays. They offered their time and energy for man power and in doing hard labor to finish the project on time.

Day 13

Today was relatively more peaceful than the past days. It was a dry day, as the journalists I am with say. I stayed at Makati today still under Ms. Allison Lopez. I found out that Sir Marlon had not been showing up because he was reassigned to the Port Area in Manila. He was trying to reacquaint himself with the new beat which was more difficult than the South Manila beat. For the mean time he told me to stay in Makati and continue covering his old beat.

Sir Marlon’s old beat was entrusted to a reporter-trainee, Ma’am Nina Ctherine Calleja. I also found out that in the Inquirer, reporters had to compete with one another in order to be promoted as beat reporters. This time, Ate Nina was up against three other reporter-trainees, and she was assigned to the South Manila beat. If she performed well, she would be promoted as a beat reporter, but if the other trainees performed better, she would retain her desk work as a copy editor.

That’s a weird system they have at the Inquirer, but I think they designed it that way to keep reporters on their toes. They are using the positive side of competition to elevate the works of reporters. Theoretically, if something’s at stake—especially if it’s their job—the reporters are supposedly forced to work harder. Whether this was a bad thing or not, I’m not sure, but since the Inquirer kept it that way, I think the system works for them.

Today I only wrote about a stabbing incident in Las Pinas story. It was a very small crime story but I wrote it anyway because the victim died. It was this small information that made it a tad bit more relevant.

Putting the story together was also relatively easier because the police spot report contained most of the information I needed. The missing details were also readily supplied by the police officers on duty.

It turned out that the suspect stabbed the victim, a subdivision maintenance worker, for revenge. According to the police investigator, three years ago, the victim beat up the suspect for still unknown reasons. So, when the suspect saw the worker, he stabbed him on the chest. The investigator also said that the suspect was drunk, most probably, causing him to lose control of himself.

The victim was rushed to the Alabang Medical Center but was declared dead-on-arrival. The lone stab wound on the chest cost him his life. The suspect on the other hand was apprehended by the police after a canteen owner reported the incident. Murder charges are being prepared against the suspect, who is now detained at the Las Pinas police station.

That’s about it today. It’s really relatively peaceful.

Day 12

The typhoon left the country. It passed through Luzon swiftly and now headed to open sea. My fire story also got published today, this is the fifth story I had published during my internship. However, the Inquirer desk deleted the second angle and used only the first portion of my story.

In one point, I’m happy for being able to publish another story. I’m also sad, however, because they cut away an important aspect of the story, the “So what?” part. I think the second angle is essential, but I can’t argue with the wisdom of the desk.

Anyway, today I went to Makati instead of to Bicutan because Sir Marlon Ramos did not go to work again. I had gotten used to being the first in the Makati Press Office. I go there around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m., a full two hours earlier than the reporters. I wonder why they always come late, or am I too early?

Today I wrote about an exhibit meant to raise awareness on the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in the country. IHL is a a set of rules seeking to “restrict means and methods of warfare” and “limit the effects of armed conflicts” to civilians and refugees.

The exhibit featured photos of war and calamity victims around the world bearing reminders to visitors of the atrocities of conflict and negligence to humanity. The Supreme Court and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sponsored this event which coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Solferino. This battle led to the formation of the ICRC and eventually the Geneva Convention from which present humanitarian laws are based on.

In the same exhibit, the ICRC deputy head of delegation, Cristoph Sutter, also called on the Abu Sayaff to release one of their workers who had been kidnapped by the rebel group and had been in their custody for more than a hundred days.

Makati Regional Trial Court executive judge Cristina Cornejo’s opening remarks was very powerful. She said the photos were “mute” but were nonetheless “eloquent reflection of sufferings” of humanity. The IHL aims to resolve these sufferings.

She added that the exhibit hoped to increase awareness on the atrocities brought by armed conflicts especially to women and children; the efforts of the global community in resolving humanitarian concerns arising from conflicts; and the role played by the high court “in support of human rights and the rule of law.”

Aside from the exhibit, I also wrote about a shoot incident in Muntinlupa city. A man died of several gunshot wounds after he allegedly figured in a traffic argument with the unidentified suspects. I finished the story early but Ma’am Allison Lopez asked me to find one missing detail—a narration of the alleged argument.

It took me around an hour to get the information because no one in Muntinlupa police knew how the traffic argument happened. The police said the investigator was out so I couldn’t talk to him. I did not give up, however, and really persuaded them to give me even the unofficial version of the encounter. None of the police wanted to go on the record but after several tries Major Edwardo Paningbatan, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division, said he was willing to be quoted.

He said the victim nearly struck the suspects’ van causing the heated argument between the men. When they could not settle the dispute, however, the victim walked out on them. He was pursued by the suspects, and when they cornered his car, shot him several times then took off.

The police recovered the get-away vehicle in Taguig City and found caliber .45 pistol with eight bullets and a 9 mm pistol with 12 bullets inside the van. Only one of the suspects was caught. He was a rice dealer. The rest remain at large.
That’s it for today, I’ll add more tomorrow.

Day 11

Today a typhoon is raging over the country. Emong has entered the Philippines and is threatening Northern Luzon and the Cordilleras. As for me, the typhoon made my internship more difficult because of the pounding rain and wind outside. Commuting to my destination was the first trial and going back home seemed impossible because of the flashfloods and heavy traffic.

Sir Marlon Ramos did not come to work today, but I pushed through because I wanted to finish my internship earlier. I went to Bicutan today instead of in Makati because I planned to go around the courts. Unfortunately, the typhoon literally locked me up inside Camp Bagong Diwa.

Despite that, however, I had a good story today which I think had a good chance for publication. It was a fire story in Paranaque City which struck the house of a former military official, Mateo Mayuga—the officer who headed the investigation on the alleged taped conversation between the president and Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garciliano.

The fire gutted the ancestral home of the ex-Navy chief after his brother left a mosquito repellant plugged on in his second floor bedroom. The house was easily consumed by fire because of its design which was similar to the old Spanish houses in Vigan and intramusos.

I find it a bit weird writing a fire story during a typhoon. At the same time, it is weird for a house to get destroyed by fire while other parts of the metropolis are soaked in rain. However, what’s most extraordinary is the fact that Paranaque City has recorded three fire incidents in eight days, not to mention their recent fire bureau upgrade supposedly to reduce cases of fire. I also wrote about the two other fire stories, thus, I kept track of the incidents.

I knew that this additional angle could enrich my fire story, but I wasn’t sure if the Inquirer desk would let it pass their scrutiny. Nonetheless, I was determined to put the information in so my fire story carried an additional angle—the brewing fire problem in Paranaque City. I hope this really gets published.

At first I wanted to write two separate stories—one on the fire incident and another on the problem of Paranaque. However, the one quote I needed from the fire bureau chief came elusive because the firemen would not want to call him. The officer who answered my call even sounded drunk so I guess he wouldn’t dare call his boss in that state. I exhausted all ways to get to the bureau chief but Paranaque fire really had just one phone so there was no other way for me to contact him. I had to give up.

I did not throw away the second story, however. Instead, I merged it with the Mayuga fire story as a backgrounder. It was an equally powerful angle, and it painted an overall picture increasing the relevance of the isolated fire incidents in Paranaque. The background answered the question, “Why should I care?”

In the additional angle, I pointed out that there had been three separate fire incidents in Paranaque, and two happened in the same barangay. On April 30, fire destroyed P200,000 worth of equipment in a handicrafts store in Barangay Tambo. Four days after, fire gutted four homes in Barangay San Isidro with an estimated damage of P1.2 million.

The third one involved the house of a former Navy chief which was also located in Barangay Tambo. All these incidents happened while the Paranaque fire bureau enjoyed new facilities and equipment, donated by the city government.
This second angle brings the story closer to the residents of the city. It encourages them to be involved in their community, to ask their local government to step up efforts against fire incidents. If it passes the scrutiny of the Inquirer desk, I will consider this my best story.
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