“Journalists are called to set the world on fire, bringing the light of truth where truth can’t be found, and lighting the passion amidst the apathy of the world.”
This is what journalists do for 38-year-old Rolando Delos Reyes, a volunteer contributor for the Salesian Bulletin and St. John Bosco Today where he’s been writing for quarterly magazines such as Family Matters since 2013, when I interviewed him last November 8. His first and foremost target audience are the parents of the students he counsels on one of his primary jobs as a school counsellor at Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong City.
“The invitation was the start of it all. Eventually, I began to really want to write. Natanong ko pa nga ang sarili ko kung bakit hindi ko pa sinimulan ‘to dati.”
Sir Rollie, as his students and colleagues call him, was invited by Fr. Drans Nolasco, SDB, who recently garnered awards at the 2014 Catholic Mass Media Awards for his column Between the Lines, their magazine St. John Bosco Today, and a special citation for the Family Matters magazine. The Family Matters magazine was where Fr. Drans called Sir Rollie to write articles, mostly on the subjects of gender and sexuality, and peer ministry.
When I asked him about the difficulties he encounters with his job/s, he said, “Exactly. Sinabi mo na: JOBS. I have to juggle three! Researcher, tapos, school counsellor, tapos volunteer writer. Mahirap.”
Regarding his sacrifices, the hardest part was all the overtimes he takes to finish several works, like researching for the school on the management via the data given to him, and then having to write articles for the magazine. “Minsan kasi bigla na lang mawawala yung fire power mo sa pagsusulat kahit gusto mo pa talaga, kahit anong pilit mo, wala ka ng ma-type sa laptop.”
“It’s not really about difficult people in the workplace kasi I work at home naman, and I send my articles via e-mail,” he said, when I asked if he had to deal with difficult people in this particular job. “It’s more of the possible rejection of the message you’re trying to put out. It’s more of what my audiences might think. Nagwo-worry ako kung sell-able ba ‘yong mga sinusulat ko.”
I hesitated on asking him about the risks he takes in doing his job. It was sort of a given that there aren’t any risks in his job, but I asked anyways, and I was shocked by his answer. “Marami ring risks ‘to ha, kahit hindi halata. You risk having to translate old and traditional church language to the modern language of man. I’ve been known to write powerful things that people carry around with them. Kapag mali ang pagkakaintindi nila sa sinulat ko, there would be a huge problem.”
Then I ask the volunteer contributor if there is information too dangerous to put on his articles. He said, “I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous. It’s more of controversial. Lalo na’t I mostly talk about gender and sexuality. It’s hard to, ‘yon nga, translate Church teachings into the secular language. Alam ko marami rin kasing hindi tatanggap ng message ko.”
“Marami talagang precautions sa position ko kasi ang boss ko priest. Kailangan may proper filtering ng language na gagamitin ko. ‘Yon nga, kailangan maparating ko ng maliwanag ang gusto kong maparating sa pag-translate ko ng Church language to secular language,” he said, when I asked him about the precautions he takes in putting what he wants his audience to see in his articles.
When I asked him next about how important the truth is on his articles, how it needs to be out there, and how the audiences need to see it and hear it and believe it, he gave me two strong quick statements, “I will always stand by the truth. I will always stand by the Catholic Church.” He then explained that however difficult it is to deliver the truth, and how unpopular it is to those of concern, it is important that the truth should be exposed continuously, so his readers will stop believing in the lies.
And then, I asked him about online journalism, which is prevalent today with a lot of websites and social networking sites allowing this, and whether it is good or bad. He told me that he’ll take the gray area and sit right in the middle of it. Sir Rollie himself does some online journalism via Notes on Facebook. “In terms of the wide range of people to reach, online journalism is good. Hindi lang taga-Philippines ang abot mo, pati mga tao sa ibang bansa. It also demonstrates freedom of expression.” It didn’t take him long to get even with what he just said. “Pero reach mo nga ‘yong ibang bansa, e pano naman’yong mga nasa probinsya? Hindi mo sila mare-reach. Sa Tacloban nga wala pang kuryente ngayon e. Isa pang mahirap sa online journalism, it risks professionalism kasi almost all of the people who take ‘journalism,’ if you could call it that, are teenagers and other regular citizens. Nakakatapak rin sila ng ibang tao sa pinagsasasabi nila online. Wala kasing guidelines kaya careless writing ang nangyayari.”
Lastly, I asked for some advice from Sir Rollie on the matter of proper writing in journalism. He said, “Para sa ‘kin, important ang pagiging connected and open to the world. Information is unlimited to the world e. Kailangan din na pipili ka muna ng target audience. Hindi pwedeng kung sino na lang ang pagsusulatan mo, kung sino na lang ang magbabasa ng sinusulat mo. It is also important to filter what you say. To me, it’s a talent e. Kailangan balance ang passion and professionalism ng writer or journalist. Think of it this way: passion is the fire that journalists should have, which drives them to write, to say to the world what they should know, while professionalism is the fireplace. It controls the fire. It shows you your limits when writing.”