Fast News

MANILA-Technology allows us to get news like fast food: instantly hot but immediately soggy.

In the rush to feed an information-gobbling Internet public, we journalists sometimes sacrifice the crispiness of the language.

Take as example a piece from the Abs-Cbn News website about a bus that hit three vehicles and a house []. The news said 15 people were hurt.

The head as well as the first three paragraphs captured basically what happened. But the fourth graf left me stumped: “Investigators said the bus finally stopped when it hit a residential house, located along the road, which almost fell into a deep ravine.”

If, like me, you guessed it was the bus that “almost fell into a deep ravine,” then you’re smarter than me. I guessed it was the house. Maybe the house was made of wood or stood on stilts, that's why it "almost fell into a deep ravine."

That last phrase also left wondering: is there a “shallow ravine” or a “deep arroyo”?

Anyway, I gathered the report was referring to the house almost fell into the "deep ravine," because the news said the bus "finally stopped."

The sentence would have been clearer if the report was written this way: "Investigators said the bus stopped after hitting a house along the road, nearly pushing the wooden structure into a ravine." Too, it saved three words if the editor was really aiming for brevity.

Continuing with the news report, there was also an urge to place a comma to replace the word "and" somewhere in the sentence about rescuers.

Maybe the reporter or editor wanted to make sure every segment of those who helped was properly acknowledged. If so, then the sentence should have dropped the phrase “Rescuers from the…” and rushed ahead to acknowledge the good Samaritans: “Residents and local police and village officials brought the 15 Elavil bus passengers to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries.”

We also saved six words in the process.

It would have been better if the reporter was able to get the name of the hospital or how “near” it is. Nonetheless, even if we put in “a block away,” the sentence would still be shorter by four words.

Also, even if we replace “minor injuries” with “cuts and bruises,” the sentence will have saved three words, as in “Residents, local police and village officials brought the 15 Elavil bus passengers to a hospital a block away for treatment of cuts and bruises.”

This sentence also stumped me: "Police said no one was hurt from the other vehicles involved in the road mishap as well as the people residing in the house."

An alternative may be: “Police said people in the house and in the other vehicles involved in the accident didn't appear hurt or injured. This’s 20 words as against the original’s 24.

The story ended with a sentence that recalled a road accident also involving buses but which was more fatal.

It could have been written as: “Three days ago, the Lucena bus lines and Bragais Lines collided along the Maharlika Highway in Barangay Domoit in Lucena City, killing 9 and injuring 40." Through this rework, four words were cut.

These errors appear minor though because the story still gave a factual presentation of what happened from a reporter’s own account and reconstruction of the event at the shortest time given by the need for fast news.

The good thing about this new technology is that it allows the story to be reworked, with updates or follow up information included, and hopefully written better before appearing again on the Abs-Cbn News online portal.

But should haste make way for errors in sentence construction? Is the English language that unimportant a tool for communicating something unfortunate in a more elegant way?

I leave this to readers; I have to catch up with the next, faster news.

Numbers Game

Here's something sent to me by my high school batch mate James that introduces the magic of mathematics.

I was amazed myself.

I Googled the phrase "Your age by diner & Restaurant Math," and found other blogs featuring this game (the first link that popped up is Blogger Praveen Puri also gives an explanation on how the process works.

But before you go to Mr. Puri's site, take time to enjoy the mystery first by grabbing a pen, paper and calculator (I used Windows's in the accessories menu) and go through the process.

The email advises us to scroll down only after completing the steps.

"It takes less than a minute. Work this out as you read. Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out! This is not one of those waste of time things, it's fun," the forwarded email said.


Step 1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to go out to eat. (more than once but less than 10)

Step 2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold!).

Step 3. Add 5

Step 4. Multiply it by 50  (get the calculator out)

Step 5. If you have already had your birthday this year, add 1759. If you haven't, add 1758.

Step 6. Now subtract the four digit year e.g., 1970, that you were born.

You should have a three digit number.

The first digit of this was your original number, or the times you want to go out to restaurants in a week.

The next two numbers are YOUR AGE!


Neat, huh?

Thanks, James!

Forced disappearance

MANILA - WAITING is galling.

It doesn’t matter whether it's in Afghanistan by a son for his father or in Thailand by a sister for her mother. The tick-tock of a clock is magnified, the mind works up a worry, and the heart beats toward fear.

It's jarring if the loved one was forced to disappear or abducted by agents of the powerful. The days of waiting for him or her turns to months; the months, years.

It’s difficult for those with deep reverence for death, since there’s no body to bury. It’s equally difficult for those with deep faith in humanity, since the assailant may have buried their compassion with their victim.

Waiting becomes an anguish.

The universality of such experience will be shared on August 30, the International Day of the Disappeared.

The Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad) and the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (Find) have asked journalists to cover a public event on August 28.

Afad said in its invitation letter it expects ten countries to be represented in such event in the run up to Sunday.

Representatives of organizations of families of desaparecidos from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bolivia, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are expected to be there in solidarity with Filipino families of the disappeared.

The event, according to Afad, will be held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in EDSA corner Quezon Ave. Quezon City, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.

The group said an inter-faith ritual will open the event and which will feature members of theater group Association of the Children of the Disappeared in a “dance interpretation of De Profundis simulating the deep anguish of the desaparecidos.”

The ritual, according to the group, will be followed by a laying of wreath for all the desaparecidos of the world.

After these, Afad said they have asked authors of the bill criminalizing enforced disappearance “to present their views on the measure."

They said they've also asked the United Nations to send someone to speak on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and why it is urgent for member-states to enforce this agreement.

At the Grocer's

MANILA - SUNDAY was one of the days I look forward to every month: grocery day.
A grocery and going to the grocer, like other words and events in our cosmic past, have evolved. My youngest daughter Ani Laya was more accurate and succinct: it's shopping at the supermarket. The latter sells products other than food supplies, which a grocery does, while the former couches the "experience" of buying grocery and non-grocery products.
A mall developer once told me that: shopping in itself is no longer just buying but an "experience."
Hence, some retailers built hypermarts that have wider aisles, interactive advertisement, and non-traditional market products like toys and garments.
The kids love wider aisles since we can race push carts. We also welcome the toys section because we can leave the kids there while we tick off the items on our shopping list.
But there's no such thing as a free lunch. Products in these markets are more expensive, as if they charge for the "experience." Likewise, parking is also not free.
In view of crimped budgets, we tend to move to smaller supermarkets, like the one we went to last Sunday.
The aisles were narrower -you tend to bump into other buyer's carts, and the selections were also fewer.
Still, the prices were lower compared to hypermarts. And they didn't charge us for the parking or the "experience."
Kids were running around shelves of glassware. Ani Laya found a way to squeeze into a push cart her size, hold on to the one I had, and imagine being on a train.
Despite being crowded, employees were cordial and helpful and buyers didn't frown when carts bump into each other. Nothing was broken and nobody got hurt while we were there from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
It was a good culmination of a 4-hour family bonding that started with a ride from home and preceeded by an early dinner.
Usually, we have dinner after shopping but last Sunday, as I said, was something I look forward to after days of going home late from work and leaving home sans seeing the kids before they go to school in the morning.
Even my eldest daughter Katha asked me what the special occasion was when we entered the restaurant that serves her favorite fried potatoes and Ani Laya's favorite pizza.
Cheeky as it may sound, it was another special day for me for the month of August since me, my wife and daughters again enjoyed each other's company.
Grocery bill: P3,000. Dinner tab: P900. Being a family: Priceless.
Notes on where we’ve shopped for the month’s supplies, arranged according to frequency of visit:

* Cherry Foodarama Mindanao Ave. - lower-priced goods, good meat and fresh produce section. parking's free but tip the guard and porter.
* ShopWise Araneta - great idea on free parking for shoppers and a play area for kids, complete with TV and slide. love those magnetic flat escalators (they call it "walkalator") to the parking area, which is just a floor above the supermarket. nobody to give a tip to.
* Landmark Trinoma - kiddie cart with steering wheel, aroma of freshly-baked bread to cap shopping, near food court. pay parking across a two-way avenue.
* Hi-Top Quezon Ave. - good if in a rush. free parking.
* SM North Hypermart – has a toy section, wide aisles, wider selection of products. online ATM payment. pay parking at another building.
* SM Pasig Hypermart - like SM North's. great idea on selling Filipino delicacies after cashier. pay parking.
* Hi-Top Aurora Ave. - low-priced goods like coffee, tissue, creamer, sugar. free parking.
* Puregold Commonwealth - wider aisles. ATM payment system breaks down. ramp from parking area tricky.

A reporter's day (Part 1)

- Woke up around 9am on Monday, August 17.
- Out of habit, I arranged the bed and endorsed to my mom my youngest daughter's preparation for kindergarten class.
- Checked day’s schedule, sipped coffee, and took a bath.
- Asked my brother-in-law to drive the kids to school as it started to rain by 10am
- Gave money to my eldest daughter for their travel home from school (P30/$0.60)
- Took a jeep from UP Diliman to Philcoa (P7/$0.15) and from Philcoa to Heart Center at East Avenue (P7/$0.15). Walked to Sulo Hotel to cover a press conference on slain social welfare attaché to Malaysia Fernand G. Cabilao. I declined the offer to have lunch.
- I took a jeep back to Philcoa (P7/$0.15) and bought lunch (P97/$1.98).
- It was already raining when I took a jeep to EDSA (P7/$0.15) and bought extra rice (P8/$0.16) and cigarettes (P12/$0.24) at a store near our work base at Mo. Ignacia Avenue.
- Climbed up the stairs to the office at the second floor, took out my lunch and things from my black mailman's bag, and booted up the laptop on the desk. I brought down the used cups, took a bottle of water from the fridge and went up again.
- I began to eat a lunch of rice and fried and steamed pork dumplings while reading the news online.
- First on the list is, of course, the website of the newspaper I work for. After that, I checked the websites of other news agencies and read until I finished my lunch.
- I plugged in the thermos, cleaned up the table, and brought the utensils down to the kitchen.
- I climbed the stairs again, opened my reporter’s notebook, and checked my schedule, ticking off the “done” items.
- Called up and sent SMS and email to sources for two stories: one on gaming and another on a tile manufacturer.
- Logged on to the Securities and Exchange Commission website to search records on Call Design. The Australian company's PR invited me to cover their event Tuesday. I jotted down the data, built an outline for my story and wrote the questions I plan to ask executives.
- Called up the files in my archive of stories to see if I have written a story on ExcelAsia, a company that also asked my paper for coverage of its event also Tuesday.
- After working for three hours on these stories and how I’ll cover the events, the desk called and told me to go instead to the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation press conference the next day.
- I dropped my research on the companies and began gathering data on this new story.

A reporter's day (Part 2)

- By 4pm of Monday, August 17, I searched again online for news updates on the Cabilao case. Having found none with what I got from the presscon, I worked on the story "Group forms task force to press resolution of Cabilao case."
- I activated the Google chat and was pinged by VG and a friend at the Manila Times.
- VG dropped a bad news: the father of former colleague Cher Jimenez died. My former colleague at the Times and I, meanwhile, chatted about a junket to Hong Kong for reporters.
- It was nearing 6pm when I was able to send the story, no thanks to Globe and its turtle-paced Internet connection.
- I checked my Facebook account and wrote comments on a thread from Vlad's list of 15 movies that had an effect on him.
- VG arrived while I was writing my own note for this thread.
- Deleted and arranged all the files I downloaded and copied some to my flash drive.
- Shut down the computer, turned off the fan, slung the bag on my shoulder, went down and stepped out to a clear night sky.
- I lit up the last stick in the pack of ten and walked to the MRT Quezon Ave. station.
- I chucked out the half-smoked cigarette, entered the elevator that brought me up to the third floor, crossed to the other side, and rode the elevator down.
- I walked again a kilometer to where jeepneys wait for passengers going to UP Campus.
- After 30 minutes, the jeepney drove off (P7/$0.15). Took another jeepney (P6/$0.14) inside the campus.
- Stopped by Jack's store to buy ten sticks of cigarettes (P14/$0.30).
- Surprised my wife and daughters who're talking in the bedroom. Shrieks and laughter filled the room. It felt nice to be home.
- After the excitement died down, I went to the sala where my mother was watching TV soap. I kiss her on the forehead before chucking my bag on the couch.
- Went back to the bedroom, took off my shoes, black long sleeves and in-shirt, and put the clothes in the laundry hamper.
- Having changed into shorts and cotton tees, I started heating the dinner of sinigang and rice.
- I took Michael Connelly's book "Crime Beat" to the dining table, expecting to eat alone, turned off the stove, and plopped into a seat to begin dinner.
- My wife Trisha sat to tell me about her first night in a Tai Chi class held every Monday night.
- After goading the two kids to sleep, I began writing this to recollect the events of a day of a Filipino reporter.

* Total spend: P194/$4 at $1=P49
* image cropped from photo by Nonie Reyes


MANILA—I got scared out of my wits last Monday: my eldest daughter Katha turned 13.

Her birthday as much as chalked up a notch on my biological age, sending jolts of questions on where I have done right and where can I go wrong as a parent.

Parenting is not a walk in the park, mind you. It was not a subject they taught in my days at a Catholic school in Manila.

Although the concept of family was taught in anthropology, the polemics was only to meet academic requirements, if not intellectual stimulation, for a degree in Sociology.

There was no manual on how to raise daughters –I have two, the youngest of whom is five years old.

I tried books. Many were West-centric and only a few spiked the grey matter (like The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir).

None captured the intricacy of raising daughters in a social milieu born out of half-a-century of colonialism and shaped by five decades of patronage politics and blood-soaked democracy.

Throw in the latest heady cocktail of technological revolution and sophisticated tools of miseducation and I have reasons to be very afraid of the present as well as the future.

“Most of them don’t go out and play anymore like when our generation did,” a parent said.

I can relate with that. My daughter spends her free time on the Internet, interacting with people –who I hope are within her age range– on an online gaming platform.

I reckon, however, it’s still safer for her to socialize via a screen; at least she wouldn’t get physically hurt. And if she does, she can easily pull the plug or continue hiding behind anonymous digital lines.

I know my views may come across like a control freak. But these, nonetheless, allay the fears of a father of a child treading on the path of puberty.

It also reflects the tough job of raising children today.

It’s a daily struggle keeping their mind, body and spirit well-fed. It’s a nonstop task keeping them happily embracing life as life embraces them.

Having written these, I remain scared out of my wits today just like on the eve of my daughter’s birthday.

I know I’ll feel this way tomorrow as any parent of the seventies I think normally should.

The fear would hopefully keeps us on our toes against the rampage of time in this race for genuine human progress.