Interviews by Sara Grace C. Fojas
Portraits by Noel Pabalate and Pinggot Zulueta
The Woman on the Road
Metro Manila Development Authority spokesperson
How did you enter this industry?
I graduated AB Communications in Miriam College and finished my Masters in Journalism in Ateneo de Manila University two years ago. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be part of the media. If you will review my yearbook when I was young, I placed there: “When I grow up, I want to be a newscaster.” I’ve always seen myself as talking in front, communicating, and interacting. My forte was Math then, so I improved myself in English. I’ve always wanted to excel in communication.
I started as one of the on-the-job trainee (OJT) of Failon Ngayon at ABS-CBN DZMM. Even when I was finished with my 200 hours, I was still an OJT. I did that for one year because I wanted to learn the job while I was studying and at the same time, there might be someone who might spot me and see potential in me.
After graduating, my first job was as a reporter for RPN 9. The I transferred to Channel 4 and had a Balitaan program there from 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. While working for them, I was also taking my masters. I neglected myself then and weighed 220 pounds. So, to encourage myself to be healthy and fit again, I joined a national pageant. So from 220, I became 150 pounds.
Then, I tried this reality show in GMA 7, the Pinoy Beauty Queen academy. I attended acting workshops, became a character in some teleseryes until I realized that showbiz was not for me. So I decided to stick to hosting and organizing events. I also became a radio jock in DZRJ with a program Heart to Heart.
I wanted to go back to the media industry and when I applied, there was no vacant position. They told me instead that the principals for campaign needed help and I might be interested. That’s when I joined the Liberal Party. My first job was the media relations officer (MRO) of then vice mayor of Makati Kid Peña. I was also assigned to help in the campaign of secretary Mar Roxas. Then, I applied to President Rodrigo Duterte (PRRD) after the election.
With all humility and honesty, I declared everything, that I worked as MRO for Pena and Roxas, that I wasn’t a political adviser nor a campaign funder, just one of their assistants, and PRRD accepted me wholeheartedly.
I want to serve and I want to communicate whoever the president will be. So he assigned me under former secretary Ismael Sueno of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), also as MRO. After three months, an opportunity opened here in MMDA for a spokesperson and the president appointed me for the position. That was in Sept. 11, 2016.
As a spokesperson, what are your roles and responsibilities?
I represent the agency. I am now considered to be the voice and face of MMDA and whatever I say and whatever I do would reflect the mandate of the agency and the personality of the chairman. I am the alter ego of my chairman so I have to act properly. I join the clearing operations because I wanted to learn it from the grounds and not rely on the reports every time I am interviewed regarding the new policies, rules, and regulations. The agency is not only concern about the traffic but also with solid waste management, flood control, and public safety of Metro Manila.
I want to relay the information properly that’s why I’m very hands on with this job. Everything I say is official and there’s no take two in this job. You can’t say “I didn’t mean to” or “I don’t know” if you’re here.
I also have off-cam duties like having a dialogue with the barangay officers. I’m also part of the Task Force Special Operations under Bong Nebrija so I have to have the talent of public speaking and charisma in encouraging the vendors to sell in a safe and right place.
My position is really life changing. I am just 26 years old.
People are crediting your office for a better traffic flow.
Thank you for those statements. I want to be remembered as a leader. I don’t want to be just the face of the agency. I believe I can lead, that I am a leader. I don’t want to be the celebrity who everybody expects to smile all the time.
To be honest, the capacity of EDSA is only 257,000 cars. We are now at 475, 000 and no matter how many beautiful celebrities you put in this position, that won’t lessen the traffic. It would only lessen if the drivers have discipline and if they can follow the simple traffic rules and regulations.
What do you think is the women’s role in nation building?
In a male-dominated industry, the power of a woman is knowing how to handle herself well. If you are able to prove to these men that you are not “just a woman” that can be an object of their eyes, if you show them that you can lead with sincerity, that you can handle big responsibilities, you will get the respect that you deserve, but you have to earn it hard. Discrimination among women is not that rampant anymore at this age. If you can apply to the society your hands-on personality as a wife and a mother at home, you can influence the society. Women have the power to nurture. We have that charisma that boys will never have. We have that motherly glow that the community appreciates. As long as we prove ourselves and use that power, we can create a society that we never expected.
I grew up with two brothers, I worked in a police beat. They say I was one of the boys. In that environment, I saw how men looked at women so I worked hard for the respect that I want to get.
Why do you think women still have to prove themselves?
That’s the sad reality. The Philippines is a patriarchal society. But that is slowly changing. We have laws now in favor of women. Still, we should accept that as a woman, we still have weaknesses. There are areas we have to accept that aren’t really for us to do. But if you want to do it, by all means do it. In all fairness, in this male-dominated society, if a woman wants to prove herself, the people would let her, and if you proved yourself, they will support. Our women leaders, those people who do the jobs of men, they are the ones who uplift the spirit of women.
The only problem with women is that they pull each other down. We have that jealous personality that if you’re used to be the best and someone better than you comes, you start hating her. We should support each other. For women who want to be a leader someday, before demanding for the respect we want to get from men, let us also respect and uplift each other. We are all women here, so we should help each other.
How will you empower other women?
For me, if you want to influence other women, you should lead by example. They should see it in what you do and what you say. You don’t have to be academically wise, you just have to be sincere. It is typical for us women to look for a husband who will give us the life we want after graduation. There’s nothing wrong with that. But why settle for that immediately? You don’t have to be a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man. You should be independent in a way that you can love yourself with or without a man. You should never depend your happiness on a man; that makes you weak. Love yourself first, nurture yourself, because nobody will help you, but you.
The Woman Who Freezes Time
Manila Bulletin Police Beat Photographer
What made you interested in photography?
I’m a very adventurous girl. I never saw myself staying in once place just doing one thing over and over again. I wanted a job that had a little bit of thrill to it. I used to work as a freelance travel photographer in Bicol for airline and home magazines. Now, I’m a police beat photographer for the Manila Bulletin.
How different was your nature of work before to now?
I was always traveling before, staying in different resorts, and taking photos of rich people. Yet, it never left my mind that if ever I get a chance to be a photojournalist, I would immediately grab it. I remember it was a Sunday when I checked the classified ads of the Manila Bulletin and I saw that they were looking for a correspondent photographer. I immediately booked a plane ticket for Monday, left Sorsogon the next day, and applied.
Here at the police beat, it’s very unpredictable. You don’t have a definite schedule. You have to look out and be ready for flash reports and out-of-town coverage. Also in this job, there’s this “macho” idea that this is just for men. Good thing the society and the industry are slowly adjusting and realize that women are also cut out for this. But there are certain times that they would treat you differently. They won’t look at you as someone weak, in fact, they know you’re strong, but they will still disrespect you because you’re a girl. On intense assignments, we would sometimes surprise them with our shots. There were also times when they would push us off our chosen spot because they think it should be for them. As for me, I really guard my spot in order to take a good shot.
How would you encourage women to be in this field?
This kind of work will only be scary if you don’t have the heart for it. You’ll immediately feel weak if you never wanted to be here in the first place.
What was your most intense coverage yet?
It was an ambush in Pampanga. I came from Quezon City and there was a flash report so we immediately drove to Pampanga. Traffic was already bad after we passed the toll gate so I had to take a motorcycle to get there fast. When I arrived, I knew somebody was dead because of the amount of blood on the crime scene. Just when everything seemed calm, and I already submitted my photo, somebody moved under the car. One of the suspects was still alive and the police was telling us to get back because the person might be holding a grenade or a gun. They were able to catch him and at the end of the day, the suspect died.
Sometimes, my father would tell me that I should’ve been a policeman, because while others are escaping from danger, I was going toward it whether it was an earthquake, flood, and the bigger the tragedy, the more I want to be there and take a photo.
What do you think is the role of women in nation building?
Women should not adapt to change but be the change. When the norm dictates us what we should become, it’s our role to prove them wrong. Women’s growth should not be focused in just one place but in every part of the society.
How will you empower women?
Women should try new things, all the time, because with that, we can prove to people that we can what they can also do. Remember, you will never know if you never try.
Published online and in print by Manila Bulletin on March 11, 2018.
Online Link: newsbits.mb.com.ph/2018/03/11/empowered