Back in the field

I’M back in the field walking in the rain, looking for sources, hunting for a cheap hotel with a good Internet connection and figuring out the next story out of nowhere.

It has been a while since the last time I went out solo in some province where one has to figure out the east from the west or the way to the church from the road to the cheapest bar.

Friends would usually say how fortunate journalists are. We are able to travel places and witness history unfold. But, mind you, it’s not as easy as those portrayed in movies.

First, one has to wake up early in the morning to catch the first flight out of Manila. It is not an easy task for us who go to bed at three o’clock in the morning.

Upon reaching one’s destination, one has to drag the luggage, the camera bag and the computer case to the nearest metered taxi stand.
(It’s usually a few meters away from the airport gate.)

Next, one has to look for that cheap hotel and inquire about Internet connection, the nearest airline booking office, the way to the nearest police station, grocery, market, mall, church (Yes, Mr. Nicolas, church!), and maybe some entertainment center (Yes Fort, not the computer gaming center.)

After one settles in the hotel (or motel) room, one goes down the street, walk and look around, inquire about transport (taxi, bus, jeepney, tricycle) and befriend the most trustworthy cigarette vendor or “tambay” around.

Then one starts looking for a cheap place to eat (avoid the costly ones, your budget is for some street corner food stall only) before trying to locate the areas of one’s coverage where you inquire about sources and their schedule.

And you will be doing it under the heat of the sun, or in my case yesterday under a pouring rain that drenched me to the bones.

It’s not easy, but there’s always the excitement of the hunt. What will be my story? Will I be able to locate my source? Will he or she talk to me? What are the protocols to be followed and what clothes must I wear during the special occasion?

To be in the field is always a “high” for journalists. It is the time that the only competition is oneself. One has to be creative. There is no pack to depend on or provide a sense of security.

Alone in one’s room after the coverage, one looks at the mirror and asks: “Why the hell did I come here?”

One talks to the lizard on the ceiling as one formulates the story lead in his mind. Of course, there’s the beer in the ref and the cigarette (but it’s been 11 days already since I decided to quit the bad habit) to give one company.

After the story is written and the photographs sent, one goes down to look for a break, to spend the night as a stranger in a place that one tries to define, a place that one tries to understand, talk to the people that populate the place about their dreams and aspirations, their angst, their fetish, their crimes and passions, so that tomorrow one can have another story worth the ink on paper.

It’s not easy out here in the field, but it’s fun, and in some perverse way, I enjoy it more than any other assignment. Joe Torres


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