Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Maria Ressa Book Launch

October 12 was a day that was already marked as a very special event on my calendar.  This was the day when Maria Ressa, Rappler’s CEO and Executive Editor, was going to launch her book entitled “10 days, 10 years: From Bin laden to Facebook. When I saw Rappler announced it online, I was ecstatic and quickly shared it on my Facebook page. I wouldn’t want to be stingy and keep all the great news to myself. It was an event that needs to be shared and appreciated with everyone. I made sure I won’t missed it, and that others would know and have the opportunity to celebrate the book launch with Maria.

The book launch program proper, moderated by Rappler’s Glenda Gloria, was started by Karina Bolasco from Anvil publishing. She said that Maria’s book was timely with the Framework agreement of the government and an astounding addition to the many books about terrorism. She also encouraged everyone to buy 4 books each, one for themselves and the other three for their 3 degrees of influence.

 US Ambassador Harry Thomas said Bin Laden and the 9/11 incident was very personal to him. Something he would never forget and refuse to forgive just like the other acts of terrorism in the Philippines and worldwide. He also said that they are investing funds in human capital and continuing their work with the armed forces of the Philippines to make sure a lot of that assistance is in medical, veterinary, dental training, and civil engineering. They need to do this to make the government Framework agreement work. He added that until the social inequities finally end, we would continue to see people rebelling because of the injustices that they see. He said “Terrorism is an evil that has not ended, just blunted.”

One of the most significant characters in Maria’s book was TV broadcaster and journalist Ces Orena-Drilon, the “tireless and bullheaded” reporter, who was at the center of it all when she and her crew, Angel and Jimmy, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf back in 2008. I still remember the news about their ordeal and never imagined how stressful and emotional the process was not only for the victims, but also for the people who were negotiating for their release. Ces says she cried the last time she spoke about her kidnapping being the most difficult moments of her life. The “10 days” part of the book title were actually the 10 grueling days of hell that Ces, Angel, and Jimmy experienced while helplessly in the presence of their kidnappers. She thanked Maria for giving her and her crewmen a second lease on life.

Maria in turn couldn’t hold back her tears and her voice keeps breaking. “It’s a very emotional topic, this one. It was cathartic to write this book” confesses Maria. “This is the first time you will see what it’s like to have someone you love kidnapped” she added. She also said that there was less than 6 degrees of separation between Ces Orena-Drilon and Osama Bin Laden.

 “I hope that through all of it, you find the hope and the courage to move forward,” says Maria. Reading the book would indeed inspire and comfort you just the same way as how Ces got comfort after reading a blog quoting Conrad De Quiros statements while she was serving her suspension. “A journalist does his work because he must. The public has the right to know. Journalists provide service” says Ces quoting De Quiros. Another amazing revelation was how Maria and Ces continued to be the best of friends after Ces received a 6-month suspension because of the decision which put her and her crew in danger. I was also deeply touched that a “boss” would exert such an emotional effort to help a subordinate get out of a rut.

Journalists indeed provide real service especially if they report the facts unbiased and complete with all the necessary facts that the people deserve to know. The real journalists are those that are not threatened by danger, but are beckoned by these fears just to deliver the most substantial news. I also take my hat off to Ces and other journalists like her who scours length of Earth to do a story. Maria, in her book, has also displayed qualities every journalist should aspire for: the tenacity to pursue an issue.

The “10 years” part of the book title refers to the years that passed after the 9/11 bombings. That day was also the anniversary of the Bali bombings, the 9/11 of Southeast Asia. Maria says “Terrorism is not about ideas out there. It’s about the people you love. It’s a clash in values, an exclusionary view of the world.” According to her, the battle has now moved to the Internet and social media where terrorists could now have a wider reach. The reason why the book was partly entitled From Bin Laden To Facebook.

The aim of good journalists is to make a difference. Their courage is not measured by how many dangerous places they have gone to, but on how they continued to have the strength to deeply investigate. I believe their best trait would be their emotional link towards the issues. I send praises to those who make it one of their personal crusades.

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