Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dan Campilan: Brief, brilliant life in journalism

The only time I had the chance to talk with Dan was during a training workshop for GMA News reporters early this year. I presented to the reporters the new website of GMA News and invited them to write stories for the site.

During the break I joined some of them for a chat. Dan was there. Maybe because of my Visayan diction that he introduced himself as Cebuano. He was happy to learn that I too am a Bisaya. He said "daghan na tang Bisaya sa GMA."

He also said he wanted to write. I told him to just start writing. "Maulaw man ko," he said. I told him there's no reason not to try. "There's always a first time," I said.

He was excited. There's a lot of life in him. I wished him the best. I saw a very promising and very eager journalist.

When I woke up this morning I saw several messages on my phone. Some were asking what happened to Dan. Lean, Newsbreak's artist, said Dan is a classmate at PUP's Open University as a first year broadcast communication student.

The man had a dream. As Jessica Soho said, Dan is an inspiration. May his short life inspire us.

Here's a tribute to our colleague:

Danifel "Dan" Campilan had a brief but exciting five-year career as a broadcast journalist. It ended in Quezon City the way it started in his home province of Cebu – by accident.

In his iGMA.Tv homepage, Dan recalled his first job: "Aksidente lang ang pagiging broadcaster ko. Pagkatapos ng kolehiyo, nag-work muna ako as a Bingo caller sa Cebu — as in Bingo na sugal: letter B 2. Then I found out na may boses pala ako at kaya magsalita in public."

[My being a broadcaster started by accident. After college, I worked first as a Bingo caller in Cebu — as in Bingo the gambling game: letter B 2. Then I found out that I had the voice and could speak in public.]

And so Dan applied for a job with Bombo Radyo Cebu. Readily, he was hired — but not just because of voice. He had some experience in campus journalism at the Cebu Institute of Technology, where he took a course in Information Technology as a scholar of the Department of Science and Technology.

His first major coverage assignment earned him a promotion.

Curiously, his career rose after he reported on the sinking of the M/V Asia South Korea tragedy in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

"The tragedy happened on December 23, 1999, and Christmas was near. Together with the survivors, we spent our Christmas at the site," Dan wrote.

"It was a major break for my radio broadcast career, because I was promoted on the 27th day of the same month to cover national news in our Bombo News Center in Makati."

Thereafter, his career steadily picked up at every turn that he covered accident, melee, upheaval, one after another.

Memorable stories

His profile offered a summary: "Dan Campilan was practically in the center of many upheavals and shakeups that the country has gone through, from the impeachment of Erap and the swearing in of PGMA to the impeachment bid of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr."

He was a young journalist but Dan ran a long list of memorable coverage events.

As a Bombo Radyo Makati reporter, he covered both EDSA Dos and "EDSA Tres," or the siege of MalacaƱang by pro-Estrada supporters on May Day 2001.

"Di ko makalimutan ang May 1 siege coverage na ito," he recalled.

"Habang nagko-cover sa dispersal ng mga Erap supporters noon biglang umulan ng tear gas at tinamaan ako at nagpulasan na lahat. Para mawala ang anghang sa mata, dinakot ko yung ice cream na tinitinda nung mama sa Mendiola at pinanghilamos. Nagsunuran na rin yung iba. Sorry sa manong, but you saved my life."

For GMA 7, Dan’s diligence and discipline yielded good stories. He was the first to break the story on cases of meninggococcemia in Baguio City.

He reported on the tragedy that befell the people and communities of Infanta, Quezon, after a terrible typhoon in 2005.

Great little lives, beings

But the big political upheavals were not what really caught Dan's fancy.

Some of the stories he found memorable were the features he did on great, little lives and beings, like the one on Juliet Chavez, the first Dumagat to win a beauty contest at the Sabutan Festival.

"Pinakagusto ko rin yung nire-rescue namin yung mga eagle, sawa, at unggoy at iba't iba pang mga hayop na inire-report sa GMA at dinadala namin sa Wildlife Rescue Center," he said. At home, he said he had love birds for pets.

[I liked it best when we would rescue eagles, snakes, monkeys and a variety of other animals, and we would take them to the Wildlife Rescue Center.]

Between tight work schedules, Dan managed to give time to two hobbies.

The first is job-related -- watching TV, art films and documentaries. The other is totally unrelated, even unexpected of a strong and sprightly man – cooking.

Dan had the built of an athlete and was given to sports. In high school, he was a varsity player in volleyball and table tennis, but also dabbled in basketball, badminton, swimming and track.

Dream: To be a farmer

Apart from sports, he was grounded in nature. In fact, if his broadcasting career had not taken off, Dan said he would have wanted to become a farmer.

"Kasi yun ang pangarap ko noon para tulungan ang aking mga lolo't lola sa pagtatanim ng mais sa probinsya. Ha-ha-ha, ang babaw lang ng mga pangarap ko. Kahit ngayon I still want to become a farmer, pero siguro pag nag-retire na kasi kailangan ko kumita."

[My dream is to be a farmer and help my grandfather and grandmother plant corn in the province. Ha-ha-ha, I have such a simple dream. To this day, I still want to become a farmer. Maybe when I retire I would, but for now, I have to earn a living.]

Retirement would have been a long way off except that the lie of life visited Dan so suddenly, just before he could turn 26 years old on November 27.

Since joining GMA News Dan had really been busy, so busy that on August 17, 2005, he started a blog — Kapusong Cebuano. More than a year later all that the blog contains is its first, and unfortunately also last, entry:

"matapos ang ilang linggong trabaho, day-off ako today at gumawa nitong first blog ko.

"trial pa lang ito kasi di ko alam paano mag-blog. hehehe."

[After weeks of work, I finally had a day-off today and so here is my first blog. This is a trial blog for now because I still don’t know how to blog. Hehehe.]

Treasured possessions

At the time of his unfinished blog’s posting, Dan wrote that his mobile phone was his most treasured possession.

It was, after all, the one thing that "keeps me in touch with my family in the province." As important, too, were "my steno notebook and pilot ballpen – the most important items while working in the field."

Just recently, Dan did something for himself for a change. He bought a second-hand car to drive to and from work.

It was, unfortunately, while driving it that he would meet yet another accident that would cap his brief but brilliant career as a broadcast journalist. - GMANews.TV

Monday, October 02, 2006

Victory for Uste!

Thanks to JJ. She said the lizard kisses the ground every evening as punishment for killing her mother. The lizard was supposed to be a woman who killed her mother and, as punishment, the gods turned her into a lizard that must kiss the ground every evening.

Why so, why a woman, not a man, must kill her mother, I don't know.

Luisa Igloria has this entry in her blog:

The elders told stories of how the lizard, among all creatures, understands the mysteries of the universe most because at dusk, at vesper-time, it runs or falls to the earth to kiss the ground. We saw them in the kitchen corners, under the eaves, beneath the windowsill, behind cabinets. More than once someone closed a door by mistake or too quickly lowered a skillet, and its severed tail went skittering across the floor. Thus, because it knows to give up part of itself to save the rest. The rest is a story of regeneration that I admire.

UST wins over Ateneo, 76-74.

It was not unexpected. I’ve always cheered for Ateneo (where I tried to fathom the mysteries of God in the late 80s), but when UST entered the UAAP finals this year, I could not help but wish my alma mater’s team the best. A lot of what I later learned in life I first heard from Dominican friars in UST.

“I only have one alma mater because there is only one God, and God is a Thomasian,” a UST journalism graduate said.

Congratulations to my alma mater, congratulations to all Thomasians!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The kissing-the-ground act of lizards

Every evening, when I have the time, I always look for house lizards. They are easy to find. They always come down from the ceiling, down the wall, to kiss the ground. I’ve always wondered why.

My father used to tell me a story why lizards kiss the ground every evening, about 6 p.m. I forgot the story already. Is it a kind of punishment from the gods? I can’t remember anymore.

The lizards, however, have been always a reminder to me. I mean their kissing-the-ground act. It reminds me of humility, of remembering, of recognizing from where we all came from.

With so many things to worry, I forget a lot of things, the simple things most of the time, like anniversaries, birthdays, acts of kindness and even the act of saying hello to people, I mean, just to be pleasant to others.

I wonder how come lizards don’t forget their kissing-the-ground act every evening.

Sometimes, when I feel reflective, I do admire the lizards. Aside their not forgetting their daily ritual, I admire them for – well this is a crazy reflection – their humility to remember where they came from. As priests say on Ash Wednesdays: “From dust thou art, to dust you’ll return,” or something to that effect.

Journalism is history in a hurry. That’s what I read last Monday in a journalism book I brought as reference material for a lecture on journalism in Zamboanga City. Life has been always a blur since I started working as a journalist, except maybe during those days and nights I spent in the barrios or in hotel rooms in some foreign country.

I’ve always told myself that it’s therapeutic just to stop for a moment, sit back, relax and just enjoy the ride. Yes, life is a ride and I’ve been enjoying the fast lane for a while now. It’s just funny that many times I don’t listen to myself. Many of us don’t, I supposed.

* * *

I’ve been trying to dig into my files these days to look for some papers – birth certificates, clearances, etc – that must be submitted to the office as part of my employment requirements. It’s not easy, the digging part. I have to look into envelopes, folders and boxes, leaf through old notebooks, books and files.

I’m still looking until now. I’m enjoying the search that I don’t want to find what I’m looking for anymore. I enjoy scanning old notes, books and files – and there are hundreds of them. Then, like ghosts from the past, people jumped from the yellowed pages of notebooks and pads. I have to talk to them, laugh with them, feel their pain and share their anguish.

While friends during my younger years accumulate wealth, here I am collecting dust, digging into dreams written on cheap notebooks, dreams that until now remain to be realized. What a life. But it’s fun.

I just wonder, as I write this, if 20 years from now I will be able to scan these pages, hese posts, this blog, to revisit the past. Will there be dust on my computer screen? What would be the feeling then?

* * *

A very dear friend gave me a book today. It’s Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s “The Insatiable Spider Man”. I intend to read it in the coming days. I scanned the first few pages and I came across sentences like these:

“He tries to kiss her. She smells the tobacco and alcohol on his breath and feels nauseous. She moves her face quickly to one side and pulls back. The man kisses her neck and licks her. She struggles some more. The man pushes her. Silvia loses her balance and stumbles. He holds her up to prevent her falling. He’s a giant playing with a little bird. Silvia is very slender and frail. She’s still trembling….With his right hand he fishes inside his trousers and pulls out a long black stiff thick prick. Shit. Silvia looks at it. She has to look at it since it’s a few inches from her eyes and she thinks, ‘Christ almighty, I’m really fucked now. Look at the size of it, dammit. If he puts it in me, he’ll split me in half, he’ll kill me, the motherfucker!’”

Just look at the lines, the short sentences, the active voice, the drama it brings to the reader sans the adjectives that many of us, lazy, trying-hard-copycat wannabe writers, use to pretend that we too know how to write.

Thanks for the book, my friend, it sure made my day!