By RONALYN V. OLEA
Sometimes, I have sleepless nights.
It usually happens after a difficult coverage. Images of the persons I interviewed come to mind. How are the farmers in Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Dolores? Have the urban poor in Isla Puting Bato rebuilt their shanties after the fire? Have the contractual employees of GMA 7 received their salaries? How are the relatives of the disappeared?
I let out a sigh to relieve the heaviness in my chest.
I write stories of ordinary people. I get details about their personal circumstances. It’s not easy not to be affected, especially if I see the children of those farmers, workers, urban poor, indigenous peoples.
Their lives have become miserable in the name of “development.” Thousands of farmers in Hacienda Dolores, Porac, Pampanga are being evicted from the land they have tilled for decades to pave the way for Ayala Land’s Alviera project. The urban poor in Isla Puting Bato, Tondo are being driven away purportedly for the port modernization. Hundreds of GMA 7 talents (the euphemism used by the management for their contractual employees) have been retrenched to improve the network’s ratings and to increase profits. Activists fighting for the poor are snatched away from their loved ones.
Such stories do not usually appear in the major dailies. Corporate media outfits do not report issues that contradict the business interests of their owners or their advertisers. The Cojuangco-Aquino clan continues to wrest control of the vast hacienda, and President Aquino utilizes the entire state machinery to do this. The Ayala clan is among the richest in the country and they have advertisements in the media. Issues of the urban poor are not usually deemed newsworthy by the corporate media unless there is a bloody demolition. The rival networks would not report the labor dispute at GMA 7 because they have the same practices of exploiting their employees.
I would say journalism is a blessing as it is a curse. Writing is my only way of trying to help out those whose voices are either unheard or muted. There are times I feel it is not enough.
Then again, I would like to believe that telling their stories somehow provide them even a tinge of hope. That in the mere act of listening, they know they deserve to be heard. It is okay to break what Paolo Freire calls the “culture of silence” which has been imposed upon them by the powers-that-be.
Freire points out that people’s participation is essential in development. To quote: “When they participate and construct their own history they become the subject of ‘authentic development.’”
The United Nation Research Institute for Social Development defines participation as “organised effort to increase control over resources and institutions for groups hitherto excluded from such control.”
In the many communities I visited for coverage, I witness how many Davids band together to confront the Goliaths. This they do to defend their resources, livelihood, right to decent living, to fight for what to them is “authentic development.”
I am happy to play a modest role in the quest for authentic development of ordinary people. Although I know there would be more sleepless nights, I draw my inspiration from my sources – whose strength relies on their unity and whose hope depends on their continuing struggle for a better life.