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I like to believe I was born a writer. For the first 18 years of my life (and I’m barely 21 so that’s not saying much), I knew no other way but to write. It was where I found my home, and it was where I grew. I’ve always found comfort in words – both in the abstract and the concrete. I draw particular pleasure in being able to sound out the right words for the right sentences. I think the best writers are made, trained to master the pen (or in these times, the keyboard) with a might that can slice through glass gracefully like only a diamond can. But I’d like to think that most writers just know they are made to write. And an egoistic part of me likes to believe I’m just like that.

Naturally, the only path for me was to pursue journalism. I never even took a second glance at creative writing. My words were never flowery or imaginative. They were always clear, simple, and direct to the point – just like a news article. I joined the school paper when I was 12; I was the only 6th grader in a paper run by high schoolers. I eventually became editor-in-chief, and that just cemented my view that I was to be a journalist. Up until my first semester of senior year in college, I clung trepidly to the dream. My yearbook write-up, which a good friend (herself a very good writer) kindly wrote for me ends with a prediction that I will be a journalist.

Clearly, something seismic happened in the world and my world shifted. Law school has kept me on my toes (and dare I say, entertained) so I’ve forgotten all about my childhood dream. Until I read today’s Inquirer in the library (the only place I can get newspapers now), and saw a story inside its pages.

It was about a 16-year-old girl, who was running for valedictorian in her class. She was also the Sangguniang Kabataan president of her barangay. While in a town meeting, a former barangay captain barged in and started to methodically shoot every person in the room. She texted her father, a farmer, “Father, help.”

Her father ran 1.5 kilometers from their house to the barangay hall. Underneath a table, enveloped in a pool of blood, was his daughter, with a bullet hole between her eyes.

It’s the story that can break hearts. But what caught really caught my eye wasn’t the story, but the picture that accompanined it. In a 2×2 inset, the girl, all made-up, smiled at me.

I don’t get the need to put up that picture. I don’t know whether practices have changed since I was a journalism student, but I remember our professors always ground on us the importance of going after the story – not the sensationalism. Sure, the picture of a 16-year-old girl may not be as sensational as, say, the Maguindanao massacre pictures, but she’s still a minor. A little discretion would have been nice. Usually, the names of minors who have transgressed the law are never printed in stories. But victims like these, they are always posted. Yes, it’s a way to let the story reach the reader. More often than not, however, they become ploys to catch attention.

The story itself was enough. It didn’t need the picture to catch attention. I felt that it was unnecessary — and all things unnecessary must be struck out in a news article.

Now, I find myself asking this question: if I were on the other side, if I were the writer or the editor, would I have included the picture?

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If I were not a law student, I would probably be one of the reporters on scene that day–when a man regained his life after 15 years while another had his heart torn apart and his wounds salted.

I don’t remember watching the movies, but I do remember the story. A mother and her two daughters brutally murdered, and one of them raped. The case got traction when I was about five or six–old enough to hear people talk about it but too young to understand just how sad this story was. I do remember castigating Hubert Webb. Back then, nobody else could be guilty but him. He was young, handsome, and rich. There was no way he didn’t do it. His family’s just covering up for him.

The years, however, have eroded such single-minded, media-fueled convictions. The media’s meddling hand has left a bitter aftertaste, which, though pathetically clinging to the case, has mostly been relegated to the sidelines by cool heads and stronger convictions.

The day the Supreme Court decision went out about the Vizconde massacre, it was all everybody talked about. People in school (me, included) read that case instead of our law books and assigned cases. Professors asked us to recite about the decision. Do you think the court was right?

It doesn’t really matter what I think about what really happened, or if Webb is really guilty or not. The only thing I could think about was how such injustice could have permeated the system and rooted itself in almost two decades. How could the lower courts have taken in Jessica Alfaro’s testimony hook, line, and sinker? Maybe we should credit it to Justice Abad for penning a well-written decision. It plainly shows that the prosecution bungled this case by relying heavily on Alfaro’s testimony (and a few others’, which were also easily disproven). How could this have happened?

I pity Webb for the 15 years he lost. He entered his prison at his prime, and he gradually lost it there. I credit his family for staying by his side throughout those 15 years. Only a true (and perhaps well-based) belief on his innocence could have spurred them to visit him every Sunday without fail. But, Webb is still young. He is still alive, and his family is still there. He can still make something out of his life, albeit 15 years late.

The man I pity the most is Lauro Vizconde. I tell you, it’s only a person without a heart who will not break for this man–who loved his family so, so much, lost them in a single wrenching blow, and continues to lose in the absence of justice and closure. My heart, it breaks for him. I can’t imagine the pain of losing my family in one day, more so am I unable to imagine the sting of not knowing who killed them all these years. This judgment was all he had going for him–his peace of mind hinges upon the thought that the killers who brutalized his family are suffering their penalties behind the bars of justice. To bank on that security blanket, and then to have it so startlingly yanked from under your feet (while the whole world is watching) is just so unjust.

I saw a clip online of Mang Lauro after he heard the decision. He was in hysterics, and the cameras and lights were all up in his face–lined up–despite his relatives’ pleas of, “Pwede po bang ‘hwag muna? Please. Family matter po muna.” Did they heed those cries? Of course not. The media bosses would have their hides if they shied away from such a ratings scoop. God, how I hate this ugly side of journalism. And of law.

I only have one wish: that this injustice of epic proportions be put to a stop.

The heat swelters. It’s 5PM, and a tide of people flow through the gates, onto the streets, and into the claps and cheers of friends, brothers, and sisters. Hugs from family. Hand shakes. Kisses. Nobody goes out alone, really. Everybody has somebody to walk with, and there is always someone at the gate waiting for a particular person.

Except this man. He is older than most who are waiting, but he is not the oldest among those who have gone out. His skin is dark from years of hard work, and his face bears the mark of a man who has seen too much and has lived too much. He’s wearing a simple, button-down blue polo shirt, slightly wrinkled, but one can see that it was meticulously ironed at dawn this morning. Together with the shirt, he wears a pair of black slacks that altogether do not fit right. One can see he is an old man. His shoes, on the other hand, are lace-up leather, akin to what a grade school child would wear the first day of school when he forgot to buy new shoes for the new year.

His attire speaks of a somber, old man. His shoes scrape like the embers of a childhood dream. He dressed up for this—to the best of what he is able to do. To him, this day is very special. But his steps echo the tired walk of a man who is out of his depth.

He is alone, which is not unheard of but remarkable. Others like him have passed that long stretch before—one grandfather, and about two men and a woman being pushed in a wheelchair. The people clapped for them. Nobody notices him. He walks slowly, each step by painful step. He doesn’t expect anybody to wait for him, and his eyes, though looking straight ahead, are glazed.

He is passed by others who hurry to the people ready to ease their burden after a taxing day. He lets them. Because he walks a defeated man amongst heavily favored victors. An old person whose prime has clearly passed by him—and he knows it.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop him from walking away. So that next week, he can march back to Taft. Bet you, next Sunday, he’ll be there at 5AM. Maybe still alone. With his button-down polo, uncomfortable slacks, and school-day shoes. He’ll be there. Because he has given up so much to reach this far—that to give up a small chance of making so big a change to his life is an insult to all his years of hard work and sacrifice. He must know that out of all the people there, his chance is among the least; however, he will not give up that chance.

He never did, before. He does not plan on doing so now.

And I hope, I really, really pray like I’ve never prayed before, that come November, he will finally get his just reward.

When people speak of visionaries, they refer to people who dream big and talk big. People with vision usually know what they want to happen. They dream with the end in mind. A visionary will see a whole cathedral while other people will put it together for him.

Usually, visionaries don’t bother with the details–that’s for other people to worry about while he’s left to construct his vision. Usually.

I believe however, that vision is not limited with the broad stroke of a paintbrush. A true genius will know how his masterpiece will look like when it is finished and at every step of the process. He knows what colors to use, and what bases to utilize, whether to paint with oil or with water. He will sketch with a pencil first, and gradually fill the raw outline with minute details. Only a true master will know every excruciating detail that makes a piece whole.

True vision lies in the details. Vision that can be translated to concrete works and not just empty words needs details–knowledge that  can be used as an armory against those who claim otherwise.

According to this news article, most of the congressmen think that President Noy Aquino’s first-ever State Of the Nation Address (SONA) was “dry”, “with no inspiration” “without a vision”, but “direct” and “filled with details”.

I beg to disagree with these congressmen.

P-Noy’s speech had a vision–a very clear one, in fact. It’s thesis was simple: these are the facts that show just how our nation has been raped and plundered by the previous government. These are the problems we face today. These are the problems the current administration will address. These are the problems that will be fixed by the dawn of a new government against corruption.

That, my dears, is a vision.

It’s not an empty promise. He has surrounded himself with the facts upon which he can build a new government. And if he fails to do anything to curb and turn around what the previous administration has done, or God forbid, he does something more, then the people can slap his face with the facts he has presented and ridicule his honor: “These are the numbers you gave us and you have not done anything to change them. You have failed us. Shame on you.”

Also, I think those congressmen are just bitter that as P-Noy said, this will be a time for sacrifices. According to the SONA, a new budget will be drafted based on material and legitimate needs. No more instances of just using last year’s budget with a few additions. Take that, pork barrel.

I hope – I really, really, really hope – that P-Noy comes through with his promises. If he can’t do it, then I don’t know anybody else who can. And if nobody can do it, then our country will die a slow, painful death due to hunger, poverty, rebellion, and corruption.

His words may not have had Barack Obama’s magnetic pull, but they are concrete and well-founded. Years from now, when examples of “exemplary” speeches are needed, then charisma may win over facts. But this speech is more than the words it contains. It heralds the death of corruption that festers on impunity. I have no naive belief that P-Noy can eradicate corruption completely, but I have faith that he will effect the first sparks of change that will turn us around.

Words are powerful; but they are only as powerful as the change they can inspire. And inspiration can come in many forms. Sometimes, mere words are enough. At other times, though, the words are just the beginning and the explanation. That may not be as exciting, but it does not mean that they are less effective catalysts. They hold the promise of concrete change–that’s what’s important.

This summer, I’ve started on getting my TV series fix. Last summer, I found my undying love for Bones. This summer introduced me to Leverage. I finished downloading the remaining Leverage episodes quickly so I moved to NCIS: LA because it seemed fun and flashy. Although it’s not quite up there yet with the other two, NCIS: LA is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

NCIS: Los Angeles

The show stars Chris O’Donell and LL Cool J as partners in a super secret special ops division of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigation Service, also the title of the original show from which NCIS: LA was spun off). O’Donnell is Special Agent G. Callen (yes, just G. – really excited to watch more of his background story unfold), the head of a special unit that jumps in when Marines get themselves in (or cause) trouble. He’s partnered with former Navy Seal Sam Hanna (Cool J), and their quick-witted banter is fun to watch on screen.

They’re joined by Junior Special Agent Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah), a marine brat who’s a natural charmer, operational psychologist Nate Getz (Peter Cambor), whose biggest dream is to bring a gun to the field, technical operator Eric Beal (Barrett Foa), whose idea of work clothes is Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops, and the newest member of the team, Dominic Vail (Adam Jamal Craig), who, as of this writing, has been kidnapped and is still missing. Overseeing all of this mad, mad chaos in sunny California is deliciously quirky Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt), a pint-sized terror who can turn even Sam Hanna on his heels.

Have I mentioned that their office is a foreclosed mansion and their questioning room is a boat house?

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The Days Go By

June 2018
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