Covering the Big HOUSE

  • Written by Jester P. Manalastas
  • Published in Nation
  • Read: 492

(Greetings to the Philippine Journalists, Inc., the publisher of People’s Journal and People’s Tonight on its 45th Anniversary. With pride and honor, I have been part of this company for 16 years.)

IN 16 years of reporting for the People’s Journal, my editors have trusted me to cover the House of Representatives for the last 11 years. Covering politics and writing political stories could be compared to a love-hate relationship.

And despite its demands, ups and downs, I still enjoy and love my job in its entirety.

Talking of experience in covering big events, I guess I have a lot.

I covered two impeachment trials –first the case of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in 2001 and the second, the complaint against former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

By telling about these two impeachment coverages, I am pretty sure you will have an idea how old I am now. But needless to say, I am still the youngest reporter of People’s Journal, aside from being the last “rose” standing.
If the impeachment case against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno gets elevated to the Senate impeachment court in this 17th Congress, this could be my third impeachment coverage.
Another memorable and very tedious assignment is covering the national elections where I,  together with fellow journalists, have to dog the campaign trail of the candidates.
I started covering elections in 2004 and was first assigned to the presidential campaign of Senator  Panfilo “Ping” Lacson. But because my editors found out that I was pregnant with my first child they decided to assign me to another presidential  candidate with fewer sorties –the late Senator Raul Roco.
Covering a campaign while “infanticipating” is both difficult and exciting. I remember during those days that due to morning sickness, I spent more time sleeping in our service van than listening to the candidates’ promises and platform of government.  I was also given to vomiting,  was irritable without any reason and was always hungry.
And I survived that coverage, thanks to my colleagues’ patience and understanding.
This was followed by two more presidential elections in 2010 and 2016 , assigned to Gilbert Teodoro of Lakas and Mar Roxas of Liberal Party (LP) respectively. I was also able to join the 2013 campaign of the Team PNoy.
These tiring yet exciting coverages gave me a chance to see several parts of this beautiful archipelago. And I am so grateful for the opportunity. During the campaigns, I saw people from all walks of life trying to relate to the elections. For me, the right to suffrage is the only right given to the rich and poor equally.
Another unforgettable experience is when I was given the chance to cover President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s state and working visits in United Kingdom  and Canada in 2002.
The coverage lasted for 14 days, including the World Economic Forum held in New York.
While we were in Canada, a snow storm struck. It was my first time, too, see snow and walk in it. But my excitement soon gave way to consternation as it became difficult to walk and it was too cold to stay outside.
The snow storm caused the cancellation of our flight from Canada to New York.  We had to take a 15-hour train to New York to cover the WEF.
What an experience, but it’s worth it and something to cherish.
More memorable as a spiritual experience was covering the apostolic visit of Pope Francis in Manila in 2015. “Feeling ko sobrang nabawasan ang kasalanan ko.”
I was fortunate to hear the mass he celebrated at the Manila Cathedral and watch and hear him at the University of Sto. Tomas (UST). Using my media ID, I begged to the security to let my husband (Tee) and two daughters (Deih and Yza) enter the UST premise for them to see His Holiness.
Aside from covering this event, we made a sacrifice of queueing outside the UST grounds as early as 1 a.m.  We did this for our son (TJ) who was diagnosed with Autism Disorder Syndrome. I believe through our prayers and blessings from the Pope, my son will be healed.
Again, this is an opportunity given to me by my editors that I will truly cherish.