The angle after the storm

>> Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Ramon S. Dacawi

Charles Kuralt said it: “The reporter is a stone skipping on a pond, taking an instant to tell a story and ricocheting to the next, covering a lot of water while only skimming the surface.”
In a life-time of journalistic work, Kuralt traveled the back roads, the rural streets of America. He was in search of ordinary people with extraordinary deeds, their simple pleasures and aches, the beauty of nature and the countryside. He wrote of folks otherwise nameless for their ordinariness, of places whose names may not be found on the map and never mentioned, much less covered, by conventional media. He did justice to these stories through the feature segment of the news telecast of CBS.  
Courage, sacrifice and fortitude, he found out, are not the monopoly of big names, of stars and celebrities, of world and national leaders, of usual and conventional newsmakers. He found heroism among common folk. For one, he found fulfillment recording and sharing the family story of brothers and sisters, all professionals, coming home to pay tribute to their parents who broke their backs sending them to school.
He wrote about a Russian dentist and war veteran who sought him out to finally be able to thank, through the power of television, American soldiers who risked their lives to share food so he and his fellow Russian prisoners could survive in a German concentration camp. 
It’s never water under the bridge to read and re-read his accounts of these human characters and places in his books “A Life on the Road” and “On the Road with…”, copies of which are still found in our “wagwag” bookshops. 
Similar stories surfaced from the recent deluge poured for days by the last two typhoons.. In the rush to meet the deadline and the element of immediacy in the news, thousands of these stories couldn’t be captured by reporters, however they tried to cover a lot of water.
Given the lack of time and space, the priority angle had to be on the number of victims, the extent of damage and loss, the cause and effect of calamity, the decisions from the top for relief and reconstruction, the lessons forgotten and re-learned, together with the finger-pointing that comes with the ebbing of the floods. 
A reporter has to sift through the voluminous accounts and facts taken from the coverage, and pick one or two that somehow give a picture of the rest. The rest would have to be written later, or never, forgotten as the situation normalizes and other newsworthy events needed to be covered also surface.
        Within the limited givens, media, especially television, depended on the amateur footages of witnesses and victims of the floods and landslides, for a better picture of what happened. Even in the aftermath, journalists will rely on the submitted accounts of the rescuers themselves in saving lives. These stories about selflessness are timeless, worth telling and recalling before, during and after the next storm, fire or any other disaster. 
These stories that inspire need to be told even during normal times, even if we can’t term as such this unending struggle to stand up against poverty. 
It’s responsible journalism to also focus on the humanitarian efforts of lesser mortals and groups, as it is to recognize the contributions of greater mortals and agencies in easing human suffering. The analogy lies in a plate of ham and eggs, as the late human rights lawyer and Baguio boy Art Galace once wrote. The chicken provided the egg and that’s involvement. The pig contributed the ham and that’s commitment. 
It’s fulfilling enough to write about a kid skipping his or her birthday bash and giving the party fund to another kid in need , as it is to record the number of people who will join this year’s “Stand Up Against Poverty” being mounted by the United Nations. The news value of a cancer patient giving up part of her chemotherapy fund for another patient is equal to that of the donation of, say, a Bill Gates. Except for the amounts, there’s no difference in the efforts. Both acts are driven by sensitivity.
Karl Marx said it so, even if not within this context: “From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her needs.”
The difference lies in helping and not helping. As Mike Jacobs of the Grand Forks Herald of North Carolina noted in one of his winning editorials, we are not what we have or own. He wrote the piece in the wake of a flood that hit his community. The residents  were not what they lost as they began clearing and putting order back to their town. Despite their personal loss, they tried to contribute to ease the loss of other victims. 
Just do it, then health secretary and Baguio boy Juan Flavier advised. That’s why journalists, especially those on television, are again doing it. They have gone beyond writing, shooting and broadcasting news, editorials and opinion pieces. They have mounted fund drives and relief operations. Thousands responded to their call, underscoring the power of media. 
The angle, however, may need to be refocused more on the donors rather than on the conduits. In the same token, a footage or two on volunteer rescuers, some of whom are also victims - of sleepless nights, of hypothermia, of hunger and of injuries in the line of duty -, may  also help complete the story  about our  collective sense of community. Kuralt was right about the limitations of reporters
It takes one to know one. A world champion martial artist who fought poverty early as a mine laborer’s son in Benguet came to the rescue of three distraught patients, including two girls who were at a loss on to pay for the next session of their life-time dialysis treatment for kidney failure.
Responding to the women patients’ urgent plea for help coursed through the weekly papers, former world Shotokan karate champion Julian Chees last week sent P10,133.72 that provided relief to four kidney patients undergoing twice[ or thrice-a-week dialysis treatment for life.
The sum was the latest from Chees, a sixth dan blackbelt and native of Maligcong, Bontoc, Mt. Province who now heads Shoshin Kinderhilfe, the social arm of his Shotokan karate school based in Germany.
Of the amount, P4,500 covered two sessions of hemodialysis for Jemaima Gac-oy, 22, of Virac, Itogon, Benguet who began her life-time treatment for kidney failure September two years ago.
 One session costing P2,200 will be for Erly Dumansi, a 35-year old mother of two, also from Virac, Itogon who was diagnosed for kidney failure five years ago.
The other week, P2,250 was used for the dialysis of patient Marcelo Baccud who had exhausted his resources and was waiting for a Samaritan to enable him to undergo his overdue blood-cleansing session at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center.
Gac-oy earlier received P5,000 support from a retired professor of the University of the Philippines  whose late husband arranged the  opening  by the late Shihan Kunio Sasaki of a Shotokan karate school in Baguio under what is now the  Japan Karate Association where Chees honed his skills.
Chees earlier sent P16,452.25 for Marie Joy Ligudon, a 12-year old patient from Ifugao whose twice-a-week dialysis is being shouldered by his adoptive mother, Gina Epe of Bokod, Benguet.

Another Samaritan, Esther Alicoy, delivered P2,000 for the ailing girl, P2,500 for patient Bester Imbentan, and P2,500 for Gac-oy.  -- . (e-mail: for comments).  


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