Writing and editing for the Palaro Torch is as pleasant as writing for The Ilocos Herald and Tawid News Magazine, the latter of which is based in the Heritage City of Vigan — an opportunity of a lifetime.
You see, it’s not a matter of comparison, fellas, but a matter of pride. Writing for the Torch gives me the pride of writing for the nation. It’s also a good venue for pouring out the sentiments of some of our media people assigned to cover the Palaro events. It’s a rare chance to cover an event as big as this and to blend with our countrymen from all over the country.
Until we experienced the word “overkill”.
Prior to the Palarong Pambansa hostilities, the provincial government’s PIO office met with all media people in the province to discuss about the role of the media in covering the Palaro. Media IDs and vests were distributed. Media people from the DepEd were also tapped to contribute for the Palaro Torch. A media box was designated where they could stay to cover the coming of the president.
But it turned out to be a case of overkill.
The speaking engagement area of the president was so well secured by the PSG and the SWAT that they turned blind to all those media IDs, vests and the pleadings for accommodation by the “fourth estate.” They were scattered all over the area as if they were guarding Marawi for another terrorist attack. It was around 1:00 PM, April 15. Along with some mediamen, I came prepared with my camera, notebook, ballpen and all only to be accosted at the stadium entry where our ballpens were confiscated. Others said even their lipsticks were taken, too. We were rejected at the 1st gate to the cordoned area where the president was supposed to be speaking, The PSG man said we should try the next gate. The same thing happened until we reached the last gate entry where I desperately argued with a police officer. He was looking for MARO passes (whatever that is) which we did not have, and directed us to look for MARO officers somewhere in the stadium.
An officer wearing dark eyeglasses approached us.
“Dito po kayo, halina po kayo,” he said “politely” but visibly irritated, ferrying us to the northern exit gate, out of the stadium.
I don’t know how you call that, fellas, but it hurts. I am sure President Duterte, who came past 4:00 PM as a keynote speaker that day, would raise an eyebrow, because those who were with me trying to go inside that day were the authorized student-writers who won in the NSPC, considered the “Olympics” of campus journalism. The student-writers were so disappointed that they sat down in the sidewalk in near tears.
A former military man assigned in Camp Crame now turned radio announcer-tabloid columnist, was lucky enough to sneak in. He said that it was indeed a case of “overkill,” as if the Ilocos Sur student-writers and media people are dangerous people and would pose a threat to the president’s security.
He narrated: “A photographer for the tabloid Abante was busy taking photographs when his right foot accidentally stepped on the ‘demarcation line.’ Suddenly, a MARO man grabbed him from behind and pulled him back harshly as if he committed a grave act. The furious mediaman posed to retaliate. Only cooler heads stopped the commotion.”
“Sorry po, ginagawa lang naming ang aming tungkulin!”
To which the Abante photographer said: “E kami rin naman, ginagawa rin naming ang aming tungkulin!”
Of course, we love the president in as much as we love our governor, Gov. Ryan Luis Singson who moved heaven and earth to bring the Palaro to Ilocos Sur. We would like sana to have a glimpse of the president personally and to take 1st hand photos, record his speech and even to shake hands with him as a show of support and gratitude for sharing a bit of his time with us. We are not a dangerous people. We are here to showcase the best of us and show to the country how hospitable, kind and entertaining we are in treating visitors.
We understand the PSG, the MARO people, the SWAT with their K-9 dogs and the securing PNP.
Only it’s somewhat overkill.