A couple of days ago, I was deep in quarter-life crisis when Facebook decided to kick me in the butt, as if I wasn’t suffering enough.
Displayed on my newsfeed was a Timehop photo I took four years ago of the New York Times building.
It was everything I expected it to be—all 52 stories of high and mighty glass-and-steel structure, straddling 40th and 41st Streets in Midtown Manhattan. The Times’ culture of transparency is symbolized by the diaphanous glass façade.
And like any giddy 20-year-old fresh out of journalism, I told myself that one day I would work in that newsroom, in the greatest city in the world.
Now, here I am, a day before I turn 25—13,665 km from New York.
The Inquirer newsroom where I work is on Chino Roces Avenue, about a kilometer from Makati’s central business district. There’s no Dean & Deluca on the ground floor of the building, and the street below transforms into a river when rain starts pouring.
Chatter and laughter
Employees in the editorial department start coming in at 2 p.m., but the bustle begins around 7 p.m., when the stories are in and we, proofreaders who also do minor layout design on the pages, assist in putting the paper to bed. The editor instructs which photos will go on the page and a million other things to do.
The funny thing about the Inquirer newsroom is that, even if the staff are constantly chasing deadlines, there is always chatter and laughter.
When there is a University Athletic Association of the Philippines basketball match, well, there’s a lot of swearing, gasping and cheering. I have heard many times that the dream finals match in the Inquirer office is between the University of the Philippines and the University of Santo Tomas, as many employees are products of these schools.
There are also unexpected visitors: beauty queens (Pia Wurtzbach, pre-Miss Universe, once walked past me), pop singers, sports icons, theater actors, three giant M&M mascots and, uh, mice. Politicos come here for interviews, and they bring a lot of pancit .
When a newbie arrives at the Inquirer, editors would warn the new hire to note their current weight. It’s impossible not to gain a few pounds in the newsroom because of the steady supply of KFC fried chicken, pizza, ensaymada, ice cream and cake. Add to that: two restaurants famous for bagnet are just a tricycle ride away, and the Makati institution that is Lugawan sa Tejeros (P45 for a bowl of rice porridge topped with lechon kawali, scallions and garlic) is just a short walk away.
I arrived in the newsroom over three years ago. I was assigned to Lifestyle, my desk literally three steps away from the “buffet” table. I don’t want to give an exact number, but I am, for the first time in my life, overweight.
But I think the very first thing I gave up when I signed a contract with the Inquirer is weekend rest. Friday is the busiest night of the week, and sometimes I go home past 2 a.m. Saturday (my current record is a 9-hour overtime, when I clocked out at 7 a.m.), curl up in my bed until I fall asleep, and go back to work that same day, at 2 p.m. It means no Friday-night drinking in Poblacion, and no kiddie birthday party on Saturday.
Still, despite all the calories consumed and all the parties missed, no regrets. My Fridays are well spent closing pages for the Inquirer.