Mindanao Mission – Day 4: Maguindanao and the Tedurays

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.STOP --- Army Checkpoint

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Mindanao Mission – Day 3: Not so slow day

Housemates Dormitel was just a hop, skip and a pirouette away from our Sub-Office in Davao, so it was a surprise that we had to drive that short distance. =P We conducted two interviews with our colleagues, but the most tiring one was the short clips of everyone working in Davao. Rob and I had an idea of splicing several shots of our colleagues, but I can only imagine how bloody the editing job could be. Anyway, I will definitely be up for it, and I am still thankful that I get to do these things and have a creative outlet on a paying job. =D

I brought two pair of Red Wing boots with me, but I did not have a chance to use the brown 8875s. It was a pity but I guess it would have been severely abused from all the terrain mishaps that has been happening to us. I was trying to get B rolls from every place as I can, with my humble camera and I was hoping that my shaky hand would not make these clips unusable. I know that I should have bought a portable, mini-tripod to make my life easier, but alas, I was too stingy at that inconvenient time.

My boots has been through a lot within three days

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A morning with Cheche

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

She's one of my childhood heroesTEAM STRIPES! My colleagues with Ms. Cheche Lazaro

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Election day

I had a problem sleeping last night because I’m used to hitting the sack way past 1:00 AM. I was told to sleep very early, though, because we would be heading to our designated precinct not later than 8:00 AM. True to word, at around quarter to 7:00 AM, my nephew was asked to wake me up in my room. I only managed to eat a chicken burger from last night and a cup of coffee, and immediately changed to something decent from my sleep clothes. Time to cast our votes.

Voters in H. Bautista Elementary SchoolComing all the way from Makati, my brother was the first one to arrive in the school and he has already found our precinct. It was lcoated all the way to the third floor and there were already a bunch of people waiting outside. Good thing the weather was gloomy because, as expected, there were no  electric fans inside the classrooms and we still had to fan ourselves to remain cool. While we were waiting, I saw a lot of people still handing out sample ballots and campaign materials to prospective voters. These supporters were not to be dissuaded by the Omnibus Election Code. As far as I can recall, this should not be the case but I was no longer surprised.  This was also the case three years ago during the presidential election.

Still handing out sample ballots and campaign materials

A lot of funny things also happened while waiting for our turn. We were the 85th to 88th to vote, and we were lucky enough to sit inside the waiting room. The exasperating group was the set of newcomers who kept on whining over the queueing system. I think the system was not fixed and it depends on the COMELEC representatives in that particualr precinct. What they did was hand us out  little stubs with a number, sit inside the room following that given number, and wait to be asked to transfer to the other room. It was working smoothly until about 9:30 AM when the better-than-everybody people arrived and kept on complaining about the system. They were stupid enough to follow their number listed on the paper posted on the blackboard and NOT ask for a stub. Then some would even go as far as to condescendingly shout at the COMELEC people that they should let 10 people in, instead of one by one. They fail to recognize that this won’t work because there were a lot of senior citizens who need assistance, as well as those who are not well-versed in reading and writing, thus requiring help as well. Everybody wants to cast their vote as fast as possible, but if you arrive very late and get the 200-up number — do not even wonder.

"PANGET UMUPU DITO" --- Funny graffiti written on chairs

Roughly translated as “s/he who sits here is ugly”

Then finally, at quarter to 10:00 AM, all four us were able to vote and immediately left H. Bautista Elementary School. Good luck to the people who are still waiting for their turn and I hope they will stay put and not leave just because the line is long. We also even managed to see the incumbent Mayor and his wife on their way. On Facebook, however, I’ve been seeing posts from my contacts weighing in on the “to vote or not to vote” debate. The main argument was that those who did not vote has no right to complain, while others hold that complaining has got nothing to do with the process of voting and everyone has the right to do so (i.e. complain). Personally, every person of legal age and are mentally-able SHOULD vote because it is a responsibility, and we are already way past the ‘right’ status. Unless it is extremely tasking to go back to your designated precinct because it is located in a far-flung province AND you have no means to go there, or if you are bedridden in a hospotal, or with other compelling reasons preventing you to vote, you should still vote.

The 'indelibly' inked finger of my sister and her funny silver nail polish