journalism in the Philippines

[New School] 158,344 steps 

Jhona Reyes Vitor

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[New School] 158,344 steps 

Marian Hukom/Rappler

'When Rappler said it was not an ordinary desk job, they really meant it'

There were two times in my life when I felt like I was in control of how my future would play out, and both times it had something to do with walking. 

The first time, I was a 16-year-old student then. I could not wait to get out of junior high school. My siblings told me I’d walk a lot when I got to Manila. So, I prepared for walking like I was about to take an entrance exam. I walked and walked and walked every day after classes. Although our house was near my school, I thought it did not matter; at the very least, I would develop some muscle memory. 

That’s how I found my love for walking. But I fell deeper in love with it when I realized walking would lead to meeting people and getting to know their unique stories.

Most of the time in senior high school, I intended to meet people from all walks of life. From the exploited workers of NutriAsia to the Lumad students who had to evacuate from their schools and ancestral lands, I would ask why they had to leave their place and march to protest. They would not give me a straight answer; instead, they would tell their stories of desolation and hope.

I said to myself: This is it. This is how I want to spend my life — meeting people and echoing their aspirations. Back then, I didn’t have any ambition to be a journalist; I just had this strong desire to connect with the marginalized voices who had been telling the truth ever since.

I was ready to take on the world and fulfill my dream by then. Unfortunately, walking through college did not come either easily or quickly. I was forced to leave my student life to prioritize myself and my health. It was a difficult and emotional decision, so much so that I could not accept it. But I knew I’d always have regrets if I pressured myself to do it with half a heart and mind. So, I had to turn my perspective around.

Then, I came across Rappler’s internship opportunity announcement while walking home after working at a café.

First, I stopped. It scared me because I knew the experience, as I had applied to the program in 2019. The waiting game was too long — days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. Why would I want to put myself in that same situation again? Plus, I had already committed to a remote design internship. Why would I care to burden myself with other work? These were the questions I had in my mind, but deep inside, I knew I still had dreams I wanted to achieve. 

So, it took me four years to open the internship application form. I expected much of the content to change, but it took me a moment to realize that the deadline, schedule, and number of links to internship stories were different. 

In my second application, I put in much more effort than before. I polished my answers, double-checked my grammar, and invested more in curating my portfolio so that it was good enough to speak for my passion and determination to get accepted. 

Although it was a precarious time for me, the tense, unnerving interviews made it clear that the best way to move forward was to make peace with myself. I still felt like I’d fallen short; the only arsenal I could bring was the lessons I had learned during my first two years in journalism school, and my college publication and volunteer work with alternative media and writing organizations.

I tried to convince myself that I was thick-skinned and always up for a challenge. But in all honesty, I felt like I was fooling the people who interviewed me. With my fake confidence, I faced the webcam and answered the interview questions amid the buzz of that same café. In the end, I did show up and managed to be just myself. 

From there, I counted the steps I took to get here.

When Rappler said it was not an ordinary desk job, they really meant it. Instead of feeling afraid, I felt relieved. Being a research volunteer and witnessing first-hand how journalists and researchers did their job to report and write made me feel like I was walking in their shoes. It reignited my desire for connection and walking outside to meet people after enduring the longest and strictest lockdown during the pandemic. And that’s how I saw things work in the real world. 

To get me back to walking, I volunteered to do on-ground coverage. After doing it twice, it reaffirmed to me that the real world should not be like this. If only our government listened to the demands of the Filipinos and practiced transparency and accountability, the people would not need to take to the streets to remind them iagain and again about their fundamental rights. 

In the process, I developed a deeper appreciation for research and journalism. From polishing an article, to fact-checking pitches, to data encoding, to live-tweeting, the work must be high quality at every stage. Indeed, there are no shortcuts in the journalistic process. 

When I think about it, the lessons Rappler imparted to me are similar to what I realized after I found my love for walking. They taught me to enjoy the process and, more importantly, to continue aspiring to have better sidewalks wide enough to include everyone, where we can express our solidarity with the people and the truth.

At any rate, this is how my love for walking began and will continue. I reached this point after taking 158,344 steps; I don’t mind walking 158,344 steps more. –

Jhona Reyes Vitor was a volunteer under Rappler’s Research unit from May to July 2023. Her works were published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Media Commoner, and The Flame.

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