DIVERGING ROADS

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

I took the one less travelled by

And that has made all the difference.”

-Robert Frost

For Philippine Journalism, September 21, 1972 is the worst nightmare it
ever had. Aside from the groovy and funky music, there is another thing that
will remind people of the 70’s –it was when they woke up early in the morning
and turned on their television sets to see a commotion of black and white
gradients. This scene marked Proclamation 1081 or the so-called Martial Law
implemented by his excellence, Ferdinand Marcos.

Marcos believed that this is the best way to be in control of the lawless
elements that mounted massive propaganda against the government. Every
Filipino knows how he used his power in suppressing and gagging the press. In
fact, some considered him as one of the brilliant Filipinos who walked the face
of the earth. He was intelligent enough in closing all the media outlets except
those owned by his sympathizers. And to think about his concept of banning
Manila based newspapers (since Manila is a powerful city), shows how dynamic
he is. But here comes the crony press. What happened to be a press release
became a “praise release”. And how about those who are not in favour of his
cause? They faced the torture of incarceration, closure or banning and the
worst- death.

Because of the animosity given to the press, media men are bound to do
a single choice. They are to choose among the four hells no matter what awaits
them. First they can choose to do their job of being the purveyors of truth and
face the agony of being put behind the bars. Second, it is their prerogative to go
to the mountains, join the underground movement and have their pens and
ripples in hand. And the two left choices are really hard enough- it’s either to
die physically (it can be a martyr’s death, like those whose faces are erased
from this world with a blink of an eye leaving no traces at all) or to die the
worst death as a journalist by abandoning their jobs.

If I were in the shoes of these media men, what would be the path that I
shall take? Upon knowing how powerful mass media is in shaping public
opinion and how hard it is to live with ignorance due to the suppression of the
truth, I realized and said to myself that I will choose to face the consequences
of serving the public and to be imprisoned for a noble cause.
I’d rather be convicted than be one of those mountain lads out there who
fought for their principles with guns not pens, with brute force not words. I
don’t want to hide in the shadows of the woods and idolize Robin Hood’s life
lurking with the Merry Men in Sherwood, always ready for an ambush. I grew
up with an understanding of what they are fighting for but I know for certain
that their ideology will never justify their means of achieving it.

I’d rather be put in a cage than in a sarcophagus. It is not for the reason
that I am afraid to die. To be a journalist is like digging your own grave. It is
heroic to die for honour and for a noble purpose but then, like Zeus’ lightning
bolt, a realization struck my mind. If I die, what will happen next? Death will
end everything that I’ve started and I wouldn’t want to end it that way. At least
in prison, though I can never get away with the tortures one can get there, I
would be able to find a way of doing my job as a journalist. I can make use of
my time there doing some necessary stuff.

I’d rather be called a crook than a coward. They can call me a criminal
for doing what is ought to be done than to be a free man doing nothing and
dumping my duty. The public journal is indeed a public trust and turning away
from this service is a betrayal of this trust. At the first place, if there is a culprit
here, it will never be the journalist who wrote what he has in his heart but it is
the one who stops him for doing so and the ones who do nothing for this
harassment.

But I am fortunate enough for I don’t have to choose between these
options. I’m blessed because I don’t see myself in the middle of these four
diverging roads not knowing where they lead. Thanks to those people of the
Martial Law era who chose well. But then, it’s just hard to reconcile that upon
seeing how these people fought and risked their lives just to achieve freedom
for the press, still the press today isn’t experiencing that absolute
independence.

Sad to say, press people are sometimes bound to rely on the wills of their
proprietors- the Lords of the Press, a much vivid version of Tolkien’s Lord of the
Rings. But it can be a good allusion to it- the owners as Sauron and the press
as the people of Middle Earth. But, going back to the reality, the filtering of the
news to be posted and those not to be posted is still practiced. The efforts of
the harassed journalists before are sometimes put to waste.

All in all, this world is still filled with sarcasm and illusions. Saying you
are free when you’re not, having this feeling of absolute freedom when in fact it
is only in your mind’s eye. Still, everything depends on our choice of how we
see things in our own perspective. Remember what Shakespeare said, to be or
not to be-that is the question.
-Dado, Sarah Jean A.

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