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Writing tools

So, in the evening by candlelight or in the early morning, I would write my articles in longhand.

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Before Covid came, I had been avoiding watching live telecasts of the regular press conference in Malacañang. They reminded me of how nerve-racking it was to stand before a microphone and ask either the president, spokesperson or Press secretary a question.

Although very few people I know watched those broadcasts, I was always afraid whether I would buckle in front of hundreds of Filipinos — let’s admit that broadcasts from the Palace are not popular entertainment fare — or if my grammar was correct or whether I would look good in front of the camera.

That was then.

The few times I watched recent press cons, I noticed one thing. Very few reporters used pen and paper to take down notes. Most of them were busy typing away on their laptops to note down what they were told

I was never a whiz at the typewriter, much less a laptop, making me wonder whether they got their notes right. I guess they would later on get a transcript of the meeting, but that must be at least a two-hour wait. Perhaps they just needed a few words for their Twitter posts or summaries, and the full article would come later.

When I went out on a coverage, a pen and notebook were de rigeuer. The late Rosalinda Orosa, lifestyle editor and keen culture observer, compared a pen to a reporter’s weapon when going to war, which is an assignment.

I still have so many notebooks I’ve kept through the years, nostalgically attached to them for what they’re worth. Some of them are gathering dust on my desk or in a box in my room. If I open them now, I wouldn’t be able to make out the scribblings on them. I had already forgotten the moment behind those notes.

Nowadays, I still use pen and notebook when I have to, or use instead the blank side of a press release to write down my notes. If it’s an important interview, then I would bring out a tape recorder — no longer the analog or digital kind, but my smartphone. I would load up the mp3 of the interview on my laptop and refer to it if I needed to get my quotes right. Most of the times I don’t; I save that for bigwigs and really important persons.

Pen and paper remind me of the time when I went to Zambales to cover the Pinatubo eruption. I went there a week before the big eruption on 12 June 1992. Our photographer suggested I phone in my stories from the local telegraph office, but there was always a long line of frazzled residents who needed to make a call to their relations to tell them they were fine.

So, in the evening by candlelight or in the early morning, I would write my articles in longhand. Since I was not expected to send spot news, mostly features instead, I could take my time with those stories.

I took with me yellow paper and lots of ballpens to write my story, as well as brown envelopes where I placed my stories. (This was long before the Internet and cell phones.)

Our photographer would send his rolls of film and my article as cargo at the nearest bus station. When the bus reached Manila, the conductor would call our office to pick up the package. The next day, my story and our photographer’s photos would make it to the front page.

I wonder how reporters now will survive without the Internet or smartphone during coverages of disasters and calamities. I wonder if they will be able to write a story by hand.

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