Rappler was never part of the plan.
Like most Chinese-Filipinos of my generation, I was raised in an environment that only considered business, medicine, and law as successful careers. And if you’re a woman, you’ll probably end up just getting married while limiting yourself to, at most, a part-time job to raise your kids for the cycle to continue.
This is why becoming a female sports journalist was a far fetched idea for a young Chinese girl, but here I am – thriving and growing in a field dominated by men.
It really becomes interesting for a Nobel Peace Prize-winning newsroom to take a chance on someone like me without holding back. I didn’t even have big journalist dreams. The only thing I had was a ‘Yes!’ spirit.
Never would I have known that this one ‘yes’ will open a gate and I unknowingly walked into my purpose.
Landing on good soil
“Welcome to our new pub room!” our police beat reporter Rambo Talabong greeted me on my welcome thread.
Immediately, I already felt a sense of belonging with how open the newsroom was and you could just feel the vibrant energy despite everyone hustling and bustling around the news cycle. At the same time, I knew I was up for a lot of learning in order for me to be capable and to stand out in a company that values excellence.
The story of how I ended up in Rappler would always be an unbelievable testimony – almost like a miracle I would say.
In January 2017 – the year I was going to graduate from college – a friend sent me a job posting for a sportswriter role in Rappler. I totally ignored it because I hardly fit the bill of a multimedia reporter. I was a management major with no educational background and formal training for communication roles – let alone journalism.
All I had were things that were not on the “qualification list,” which included being the sports editor of a campus publication and a competitive swimmer. The funny thing was that these were two activities in my life that I did for fun because I just loved being with athletes who inspired me and sports itself.
Four months later, an acquaintance of mine sent me an email asking if anyone from my campus publication would like to apply for the same sportswriter role.
This time, the call felt so strong. The timing caught my heart in a different position because I was getting so involved in the UAAP press room. Little did I know that I had already built my network in where I sowed my seeds in the past and I was making friends with the people who I would end up working with professionally in the future.
Well, I just took the shot. “No harm in trying,” as I would always tell myself. I emailed my resume and portfolio to our managing editor Ms Chay Hofileña and Ryan Songalia, the sports editor at that time, immediately got back to me and scheduled an interview with me on my finals week (ugh.. stress).
I will never know if this was even allowed, but Ryan just hired me on spot after my interview.
“W H A T!!! I have a job already??” I screamed in my head.
It might have been my first taste of supernatural grace from God because it just exceeded all expectations and I didn’t even feel like I tried too hard to receive such blessing.
When I started in Rappler, I didn’t have time to feel anxious and unconfident in myself. I was immediately thrown into the fire to help write 2017 Southeast Asian Games stories, anchor back-to-back Rappler Talks and I remember my first live event was a Philippine athletics press conference where I crossed paths with EJ Obiena again after years of just seeing him in training camp.
I never felt that the leaders in Rappler left me in my process of learning. I received the best mentorship from our production head Ms Beth Frondoso and was always at the edge of my seat when sending my breaking news stories under the watchful eye of Ms. Chay. I loved how everyone I worked with was passionate, driven, and talented in their own ways that it motivated me to keep learning.
Watering the soil
But the longer I spent in the industry, I became more grateful to Rappler and the community I was blessed with.
When I started, I had moments where I felt unprepared, especially when I didn’t know who the important figures in sports were or the rules and context of some games. There were some sports jargon I wasn’t familiar with and I had to learn how to write for sports I was very new to. I wasn’t even religious in following the popular leagues.
I would spend a lot of time Googling, watching Youtube videos on the rules of games and I even had a “football terms” webpage tab ready every coverage. While my peers came up with questions on the spot during press conferences, I would train myself to do the same. But I would also stand at the corner of the hallway to type down some questions for three-peat UAAP champion coach Tab Baldwin because I badly wanted to ask an impactful question.
The imposter syndrome could have swallowed me, but I always had my editors correct me and help me improve my writing. I would rewatch my Rappler Talks and ask for feedback from people I trusted in the industry on how I could be more confident. I never felt ashamed of asking my peers too because they were always so patient and happy in helping me learn the inside-outs of the sports I covered.
Sadly, the process was not the same for women in other publications, where I learned as part of the Women in News and Sports (WINS) Initiative that they were not given the same opportunities as men.
I had heard many of my female colleagues express how some men in the industry have judged them based on their looks rather than their skills or were limited to covering sports that have been “gendered” to be “female sports” like gymnastics and volleyball.
It’s a totally different culture in Rappler, where I have been conditioned to do my job well in any assignment.
When my current editor and a legend of Philippine sports journalism Jasmine Payo came on board, her first major task was the 2018 Asian Games coverage.
She had to lead three early 20-something year-olds, who were just so raw and lost in the field of sports journalism. But despite our youth, she had so much faith and compassion in our strengths.
Given my background in amateur sports, I was assigned to the sports governance beat, which is not frequented by young and new reporters.
But with the help of my editor’s colleagues, they were so intentional in explaining the context of the beat and introduced me to the people in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC). That also meant that I had to do my own part of showing up to every press event to build my network to prepare myself for the Asiad coverage in a span of four months.
I was more excited than ever to step foot into Jakarta. Rappler had empowered me so much to write breaking articles, pursue stories outside the playing field and report on cam every night for a vlog.
It was only after the three-week international coverage that I realized that I may have been the youngest reporter in the Philippine delegation at 22 years old.
Bearing the fruit
I had many more experiences and opportunities in Rappler that I just kept saying ‘yes’ to and embraced the process. It’s a newsroom that honored my ideas and supported me all the way when it came to covering the stories of our Filipino athletes.
I dipped my feet into all forms of multimedia journalism they called me to do. It’s not a perfect company, but I knew it was good soil because I was always reminded of the values of journalism and was inspired to be courageous when our CEO Maria Ressa and every Rappler reporter lived it out on the field.
I was the least qualified on paper, but the people in Rappler saw something in me that made them trust that I could make it out of the refining process. There were times when I would feel down, but I would come across our executive editor Ms. Glenda Gloria, who in all her authority, would genuinely make me feel valued.
The sports staff may be small with only four people on deck, but we had everyone help each other out and many talented contributors come in to help us cover our national news in sports.
And on my personal journey, it made me realize how God is greater than your plans. He shattered mine into pieces, but in His will comes favor, authority and protection.
In college thesis group interviews, a popular question for female sports journalists would be “Did you feel that you had to exert more effort in the industry to prove yourself because you’re female?”
I honestly answered: “I do exert a lot more effort than people in general, but not because I want to be the best female sports journalist, but because I want to be the best sports journalist out there who can serve our athletes.”
Then one of them asked: “Is this because you’re in Rappler?”
I proudly said “Yes!”. – Rappler.com