One small step toward a dream
Everyone has a story to share. Mine began with aspiring to be on top, losing, winning and yearning to tell Filipino stories through the art of journalism.
As the school year 2014-2015 ended, I had the chance to participate in the annual National Schools Press Conference (NSPC).
The country’s most prestigious campus journalism competition offers interested high school students an opportunity to hone their skills in print and broadcast journalism by competing against the best of the best from other schools.
Given the number of students wanting to participate in the NSPC, I wondered if my being in Taguig City, where this year’s conference was held, was a stroke of luck or the answer to a prayer.
It was particularly magical when, after runner-up finishes in individual and group contests in the past, my name was called as Region IV-A’s (Calabarzon, or Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Most Outstanding Campus Journalist. This put me in the magic circle of the Most Outstanding Campus Journalists, together with the other regional winners.
When I joined the throng at the registration desk at the NSPC venue in Taguig, I realized I was finally going to experience firsthand the stories I had heard about the NSPC—the grand ceremonies, tough competition rules, competitive atmosphere and celebration of young, aspiring journalists.
Following tradition, this year’s NSPC had a star-studded opening ceremony at the Taguig City concert grounds. The directors of the different regions marched proudly in their respective uniforms, followed by each regional delegation cheering at the top of their lungs. It was a parade of colors, smiles and cheers.
With a gentle smile and a sweet voice, Mayor Laarni Cayetano welcomed the delegates, citing the progress Taguig residents were currently experiencing. With obvious pride, she mentioned that the city provided school supplies and facilities to public elementary and high schools, similar to that in private schools.
As an NSPC participant, I was able to enjoy the amenities Taguig provided its schools.
The public elementary school where we stayed had air-conditioned rooms, enough to make a large population of students comfortable.
Shelves in every classroom were filled with books, and walls displayed posters on basic language and scientific concepts to make them great learning areas to nurture young minds.
But what was truly memorable during the NSPC was seeing and listening to Rappler’s chief executive officer Maria Ressa. Having watched her broadcast videos only on YouTube, meeting an icon of investigative journalism in person made me feel like I was experiencing how journalism worked.
As she discussed the large influence and impact of modern technology and social media on the current practice of journalism, she further set my love for the profession ablaze.
The real highlight of my NSPC experience was sharing a room with fellow campus writers with the same love for journalism. Every night, we would spread out our worn-out traveling mattresses, form a big circle, and exchange stories of success and defeat and morals from previous experiences, unmindful of the time.
We had difficulty ending our sharing sessions although we knew we needed our sleep.
A day before the closing ceremonies, I decided to explore Taguig. I went to the lower part of the barangay where we stayed to see what life was like in that part of the city.
I expected to see a slum-like community with undressed children running around and uncollected garbage. To my surprise, I saw a rather clean and organized community, though somewhat congested with all kinds of stores.
I dared to ask a vendor about the barangay and mentioned what I had thought I would see there. With a faint hint of laughter in his voice, he admitted the barangay used to be what I had expected.
“It is like magic. But it is true that people have the capacity for progress and change,” he said.
In that moment, a thought hit me: “There is still hope for the Philippines; there is still hope for us.”
I left the progressive city of Taguig not just as an NSPC winner but also as an individual with renewed hope for our country—hope that, just like Taguig, the Philippines will soon achieve full prosperity, with righteous citizens bonded by journalism’s advocacy toward social consciousness and collaborative development.
This boy’s NSPC story may have ended, but his desire to listen and narrate more Filipino stories has grown stronger.
Janron Joshua A. Surquia, Region IV-A’s (Calabarzon) Most Outstanding Campus Journalist, graduated from Quezon National High School this year.