Thursday, December 11, 2014

No '30' for Sunday Inquirer Magazine

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

For the magazine that is leaving the Sunday scene, staff writer Eric Caruncho wrote a eulogy that sounded happy (for the memories, not for its closing) rather than elegiac.

“As the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (SIM) ends its current incarnation as a glossy monthly (one year and two months) shy of its 30th year, it could only mean that we’ll never write ‘30’! The absence of a sense of finality that this suggests is strangely reassuring: you might just see us again, in another form, another platform.”

Caruncho explained in his cover story (“The story of SIM,” 12/7/14) that “to write ‘30’ in the journalism racket is to end the story.” And this is not the case for SIM. Or so we hope. SIM was my home base for many years since it first came out the week after the Edsa People Power Revolt in February 1986 (with President Cory Aquino on the cover), or two months after the birth of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (which celebrated its 29th anniversary two days ago, Dec. 9).

I was one of the first staff writers and my first assignment was to go to Leyte twice for a story on the banished Imelda Marcos’ fabulous haunts in her home province. Many of my SIM stories are included in my books. Several of my award-winning pieces came out in SIM.

The magazine had seven editors: Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, the Inquirer newspaper’s editor in chief since the 1990s, was the first, and Pennie de la Cruz the last. It went through several transformations—from wide magazine to broadsheet and back to smaller magazine size, from newsprint to semiglossy, from color to black and white and then back again to color. The contents, too, changed over the years—from long features (series sometimes) to shorter stories on politics, crime, show biz, indigenous communities, celebrities and unknowns, victors and villains, health, food, the environment, women, spiritual stuff, etc. Even its masthead and layout changed several times. It had always been a weekly, but this year it became a monthly.

In 1996, after 10 years in SIM, I moved to the daily to also do features and special reports while writing a weekly column in Opinion. But I continued to contribute stories to SIM. I went back to it as my home base just a couple of years ago, after a health scare that I have since overcome with flying colors. SIM or no SIM, the friendship and camaraderie among the SIM staff—old and new—will continue. And the writing, too, in other sections, other pages.

Last Dec. 4, some former staff writers, editors and contributors (among them the ageless Gilda Cordero-Fernando) who made SIM come alive during its 28 years had a “#lastprintissue” bash at the fourth floor of the Inquirer even without elevator service.

I have copies of all the SIM issues with my articles. Am thinking of donating them to ALIWW (Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings), where many of my written stuff (scanned and microfilmed) are archived.

To celebrate SIM’s glorious passing, I thought I’d share some thoughts I was asked to write years ago about my life with the magazine.

I’ve had a great time. I’ve lived (and continue to live) a privileged life, meaning I have been privy to so many things of this world that other mortals are not because “they are not there.” Oh, “to be there” where people live and die, feast and famish, laugh and cry, to be there where events unfold and to watch history leave its tracks behind for us to decipher and to sometimes be awed and humbled enough to make us fall on our knees in thanksgiving and sometimes in mourning.

To be there where the heavens opened and hell broke loose. To watch great lives, small lives, dirty lives, fascinating lives, beautiful lives, incredible lives rise and fall, bloom, break into a thousand pieces, and become whole again.

Nobody told me feature writing would lead me to this. I would not have met people so diverse and strange and beautiful and ugly had I stayed on in a previous career in behavioral science or stayed holy in the convent. From behavioral science to feature writing? It was an easy shift. The reason is obvious.

There are stories I consider significant to me, not because they won honors or anything (like prize money), but because I thought they were high in excitement, danger, the human factor. Or simply because I relished doing them. Nobody told me I’d be climbing mountains and bathing in freezing rivers. Nobody told me I’d be meeting with armed men and women who had spent their youth and their dreams in uncharted jungles. Nobody told me I’d be able to talk to the powerful and the mighty as well as to the poorest and the most forgotten of the land.

Nobody told me I’d mingle with people who were the epitome of saintliness, or that I’d one day come face to face with a 17-time assassin who would tell me his life story. Nobody told me people would entrust to me their ugly secrets and deadly sins. Nobody told me I’d confront a snake and slip on a mountain slope, or that I’d meet people of the forest who spoke in songs. Nobody told me I’d have lunches, dinners, or coffee with generals, politicians and movie stars, or that I’d be sleeping with prostitutes and embracing AIDS-stricken women. Nobody told me I’d have to track down members of a death squad and break bread with them.

I’ve learned about the sex lives of the very poor as well as the proclivities of the rich. I’ve realized that the most obnoxious could be likable and the most attractive could reek of bad odor. I’ve been honored and praised. I’ve been rebuked and reviled.

The stories are not exactly literary gems but, rather, imperfect shards of so many lives, events and places. What does it matter? I would say. I was there, others were not. And doing the stories gave me great times—of terror and joy and sadness and fun. A great sobering adventure it has been.#