People & Inspiration

From The Editor: What ABS-CBN Taught Me About Writing—And Life

From The Editor: What ABS-CBN Taught Me About Writing—And Life

I'm a writer.

I wrote my first short story in first grade about a noisy cat, and titled it, well, “Ang Matabil na Pusa.” Back then, surrounded by my classmates who wanted to be doctors, architects, accountants, and even astronauts, I had a sore thumb of a dream to be a writer. I would pursue poetry in early high school as I eventually became our school paper’s associate editor. I then moved to fiction… and then, get this, comics. I even came up with Human Outrage, my own storyline of X-Men-inspired characters who with their superpowers protected the powerless, often "outraged" humans. But I would give up my love of fiction and all that sense of ~*imagination*~ once I took a basic Creative Writing class in college—and almost flunked it. Long story short, I stayed with my first course Journalism—that then kept me to writing about real people, real places, real emotions, reality, realities.

I knew writing was never lucrative. But I learned to love it more once I started my career with ABS-CBN. I’ve always seen the Kapamilya network as the foundation of my entire editorial career, working here fresh from graduation staying on up to the next nine years and 10 months. I started at ABS-CBN News Online as a 20 year-old sports writer before moving to ABS-CBN Publishing as a magazine editorial assistant. I then worked my way up to my post now as ABS-CBN Lifestyle editor-in-chief under the company’s Digital Media Division. Now at almost 30, I have featured countless people from all walks of life—from a Miss Universe candidate before she became Miss Universe to a celebrity crush from the 90s I only used to watch as a kid down to this group of paratriathletes who yearly competed at Iron Man.

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There was a time I thought I wanted to pursue a Masters degree related to communication and culture. But working at ABS-CBN, in retrospect, already did most of the schooling. I might have written hundreds of articles for many Kapamilya sites and titles over time, and with it saw my journalistic game evolve and my understanding of society deepen. If the network didn’t make me a better person after all this time, I’d like to think it at least helped me be better at that one thing I’ve been doing since my childhood—writing.

As my team and I bid goodbye following the retrenchment program that the network’s franchise denial has brought about, allow me to fill the rest of my last editor’s note with tried-and-tested writing tips that I’ve recently somehow found just as applicable when approaching life. I'd like to leave you, our dear Kapamilya, with life hacks ABS-CBN has inadvertently ingrained in me all these years on the job—things that might as well work its magic in your every day, aspiring writer or not.

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First, make sure there’s a 'story.' Before even pursuing a subject, make sure he’s worthy of your time and your platform’s space. Go past the popularity and any shallow reason why he’s on the radar—find some substance in him way before chasing him for more. If there’s less to him than meets the eye, forget it. You don’t want to repeat what other platforms have already said about him. Instead, find a more interesting person to feature.

Every person is interesting. You’ll be forced to cover an uninteresting subject at times. Go face it—like a challenge! Note that just because he’s boring, it doesn’t mean he’s bland. Do your research. Find out what he likes or dislikes and talk about it. If he seems so inhibited, ask about his dreams or fears. Everyone has at least one of those, and if he doesn’t, ask why again.

Ask more questions. Always prepare an outline of questions—many questions. You can niftily use this as your outline when you finally write the story. Don’t settle for your subject’s monosyllabic answers. Always follow up with a “why,” “how so,” “how much,” etc. You always have to know your subject’s raison d’être.

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Pay attention to details. If you can’t deduce enough from his words, proceed to the non-verbal cues. Relish in the unspoken—sometimes, it bears more meaning than what comes out of his mouth.

Always cite multiple sources. Don’t just rely on one interview. Corroborate. For all you know, your subject’s a fake news purveyor like most of this government’s nuisance supporters. Try to get two sources or more, and if you can’t get another interview, browse for related literature online. What you don’t know yet might surprise you or at least give your story a new flavor.

Proofread, proofread, proofread. Always give your work a couple of run-throughs. If you’re not a perfectionist, your reader is. So, learn to be one.

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Not everything is about you. Just because you poured your heart into your story, it means it’s Palanca-worthy right away. Welcome criticisms, and be humble when discussing about them. Thank everyone who has spent time and effort in making your work good enough to be even published.

Promote your work. Be proud of it, even if your editor butchered it that it’s almost unrecognizable. You have to appreciate your own effort, no matter how small or reduced it has seemingly been—while working on improving on your next assignment the next day.

No story is worth dying for. Or, that being paid for.

It can just be a job. As it is an extension of yourself, writing has become no less than your art. In your case, it’s what keeps both your body and soul alive. Don’t feel bad if you’re not in the mood to deliver your story. Take a break, get into some distraction, go crazy if you may. Give yourself some time and let that passion come back in eventually. And if it doesn’t, move on. You can always start writing another story—your own.

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Photo taken from a work trip to Singapore in 2017

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