HOW THE NEWS­ROOM CHANGED MY YOUNG LIFE

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE - By Nikka G. Valen­zuela @NikkaINQ

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-and­steel 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-yearold 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.

I gave up Fri­daynight drink­ing in Pobla­cion and, for the first time, I’m over­weight—but no re­grets

—FILE PHOTO

The Inquirer ed­i­to­rial team’s Christ­mas party in 2015

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