Leaving Estosan Hotel at around 7:30 PM, we went to our office in Cotabato City for a briefing of the activities of the day ahead. Seeing the situation in Cotabato City and Maguindanao during the daylight made the situation clear: it was not a surprise to see checkpoints and armed soldiers in every kilometer of the road. It was no good pretending that it did not make me feel uneasy. And as we were going to Maguindanao, it made me more worried. It was no secret that the mere mention of “Maguindanao” in mainstream media invokes images of the infamous Maguindanao Massacre. But as we have seen, Maguindanao is more than just a place that should be associated with such a heinous incident.
My colleagues, especially Robyn, have been working very hard for the past few weeks for the event organized with UNHCR and the Department of Justice. June 20 marks “World Refugee Day” and our NGO has put up an exhibit of artworks done by refugees near the fountain in Shangri-la Mall . It was my first event and I even had to borrow Mon’s blazer because I realized I had none. LOL I have a barong from my graduation rites two months ago, but that would have been too formal for something that requires smart casual.
Waking up at 6:00 AM was very worth it! On my second day of work, we were informed that we will be having a meeting/consultation with Ms. Cheche Lazaro on Tuesday the following week. Honestly, it was a task to conceal my excitement upon hearing the news because I am a BIG fan of Ms. Lazaro. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of our NGO, and she is also the Public Relations Officer and Chairman of the Communications Committee — which was not a surprise at all.
Growing up in the Philippines, television plays a big part of our lives; but it was also quite difficult to find programs that bring quality content. And this is where Ms. Cheche came in, along with other esteemed journalists — to pioneer investigative journalism in the country through Probe and expose several issues in the society, which are often misrepresented or even overlooked by mainstream media. I was also an avid fan of the Probe-produced kids show 5 and Up. My Saturday afternoon was not complete, unless I watch those English-speaking kids on ABC 5 (now TV 5). I was just amazed of their eloquence because, it took me years as a kid to build confidence in my spoken English.
Anyway, my colleagues and I met up at exactly 8:00 AM in our headquarters in Pasay, then left past 8:30 AM to visit Ms. Lazaro’s house in Forbes Park. First, her house was amazing and I still could not believe I would be meeting her in person. We got in and somebody from one of the rooms came out barefooted in her house clothes. It was her. She gave a cheery welcome and ushered us straight away into the dining hall (room is an understatement). Before jumping the gun on the agenda of that meeting, Robyn and I were introduced to her, as we were obviously the newbies in the NGO. Again, I had to shake myself out of this surreal experience — I was seated right across Cheche Lazaro! LOL I seldom fawn over famous people, and I don’t even consider her a ‘celebrity’ celebrity. She is a mover and a shaker and hopefully shaking her hands might have rubbed off some of those magical dusts that she have, and hopefully landed on me. =D
What I love most about my new workplace: lunch! Everyday, at around 11:00 AM, someone from the carinderia in front of our “building” will go upstairs and pass around a sheet of paper with the day’s menu written on it. At first, I did not know that payment can be done at the end of the week as I reached out for my wallet last Monday. It turned out that we can opt to pay at the end of the week or even at the end of the month. When I was given my receipt today, I was so surprised to see that the total was just Php 285! That was almost the price of our dinner for two days in Makati.