Dinosaurs at Dinner

THE San Miguel Foundation for the Performing Arts was crooning about
being swayed ("Iduyan Mo") after I washed the grime my body collected
during the day.
Oh, what a day it was. The watch said it's already half-past one in
the morning and nerves continue to pump my fingers to the events that
unfolded Thursday and insights over a tall paper cup of coffee between
a fellow newspaper journalist covering the Securities and Exchange
Commission beat.
This is why citizen journalism would only work if they become like us:
eating, drinking, and breathing news even as the President sleeps,
alone or with somebody, again, our concern.
It's another Thursday evening of swapping the stories behind the
stories we tried successfully and unsuccessfully pinned down and
punched on our keyboards.
The harried waiter of Mang Inato amused to discover us sitting on the
same chairs in the same seating arrangement: our sponsor, Jeremaiah,
to the right of Philippine Star defense beat reporter Ace and who's
sitting directly across me, a general assignments reporter for the
BusinessMirror. To my left, again, Ruelle, a five-year veteran of
Malaya, the first mosquito press.
Raising a finger, Ace, who prefers this brightly-lit watering hole
beside a nightclub for the tweens, orders our common favourite:
deep-fried chicken skin. We know it's one of the reasons why voices
increase a decibel above the ordinary, but we ask for it anyway,
readying ourselves for the adrenaline rush the debates these dinners
These dinners began five years ago as a Dutch treat in a Quonset hut
beside the stair landing of the train station in Quezon Avenue and on
a square meter of land that is now part of a shopping mall. It began
with just fellow BusinessMirror reporter Villy and I, nursing a couple
of bottles of beer to evaluate the stories we filed during the day,
the public and private officials hunting us to either praise or
threaten us with lawsuits, and the juicy tidbits on key players in our
industry: the Philippine news media.
Others joined us and before long, the grilled pork barbeque haunt
became too small. Also, it had to give way to the construction of the
place its developers call Centris Shopping Complex.
Several bars in front of the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Network replaced
that but Villy's luck, the bad side of it, rubbed off on these
establishments that closed or moved out.
Three years ago, we discovered DInoy's, a dimly-lit booze place beside
a Laundromat and gated apartment row along Scout Albano. We grew a
liking to the place because of the friendly treatment we got from the
waiters Eison and Bryan, who epitomized personalized service.
They knew who wanted the sizzling hotdog or Hungarian sausage (if
available) and how many cups of rice accompanied that order. They
already knew how many bottles of beer should be opened and to whom to
give it to. They tell us weeks ahead the days they'll be closed and
when they'll be opening. They introduced us to their mother, who cooks
one of the best tokwa't baboy Villy said he tasted.
Most of the times, they'd automatically lower the volume of their
speakers when all 12 journalists are there. Yes, there's now a dozen
journalists that were introduced to what we jokingly refer to as the
"Dinoy's Press Club."
While the range of topics grew far and wide, there was a simple rule:
anything said there should remain kept in the back of those who
listened and offered information.
Of course, there were breaches but the source of the leak was openly
chided, castigated and reminded that we have been trained to exercise
self-restraint, especially on information.
Last night, the topic was citizen journalism and how much information
journalists are duty-bound to reveal or keep from the public.
The consensus leaned on citizen reporting and that journalism is best
kept in the able hands of professionals. The bungled twitter entry of
a self-proclaimed eventologist connected to well-heeled sections of
Philippine society was used as basis.
Aside from ethics, those present last night –two are Jeremaiah's
students in the University of Sto. Tomas– noted the institutional
protection accorded to some journalists could not be enjoyed by
citizens and may put their and their family member's lives at risk.
"We are aware of the dangers of liberal application of rules as well
as the benefits of rigorous organization of facts. Let's not place
these additional burdens to the public," one of those at the dinner
In between poking fun at imbecile editors and our stupidity, talk also
goes to relationship, the absence or possibilities of it and with
other or the same gender.
But like all good things, the evening must end.
Like clockwork, Jeremaiah signals for the check and while we show
hands moving to get wallets, again he admonishes us.
"Having this on me is the least I can do for good journalism."
So we go back to our respective nests, with tired hearts because of
too much laughter or chicken skin but spirited enough to hunt
confidently for what keeps it pumping the next days: news and the
responsibility to share it with the Filipino people.
Oh, may I add: looking forward again to another Thursday to these
dinners where, borrowing from a line in Howard Kurtz's story
candor is the entrée.

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