Women with balls

[ Note : Congrats to the families of Tom and Ineng Agustin and Eric and Hope Bautista as well as other Pinoys in the Wellington Round The Bays half-marathon earlier today for their participation, go go go !  And a belated happy birthday to the Flipino’s Filipino, Ms Didith Tayawa – Figuracion !  Advanced happy birthday to our Fil-Danish blogger-kabatch, Ms Catherine Vi – Clausen ! ]

Great journalism has the power to change the world every bit as much as a great political speech, and Marie Colvin reporting from the cauldron of Homs was in the tradition of the finest there has been. – Peter Oborne, Telegraph Group

The sight above is about as far removed as can be from the glamorous image we like to maintain, of the intrepid, roving, frontline journalists that file their stories in the midst of heavy shelling and bombing, pursuing romantic conquests during the lull and leaving the scene before peace treaties are signed.

Marie Colvin chose the most dangerous assignments, put her body and Western establishment name on the line when civilians were in danger of being massacred by desperate miltary regimes, exposed the truth when no other reporter had the guts to do so, and in the end paid for her convictions with her life.  Sexist as the statement may be, but she had more balls than any male in her profession, and died the way she wanted to : on the firing line, reporting the news.

We won’t dwell on the details of the last moments of her glorious life, just that she continuously asked for the most perilous posts, in failed states, dying dictatorships and war zones where the militia had no qualms about exterminating who they thought were the enemy, never mind if these included unarmed nursing mothers and children barely starting to walk and talk.  There is a good opinion piece on her though, which tells as much as any the uncompromising life she led as a journalist and as a person.

By her death (although it should be the least of her worries) she has just set the bar sky high (or higher) for any person setting his/her sights on a journalistic career.  After all, beyond the perks, trappings and supposed elegance surrounding the profession, the career should be defined by delivering the news, uncluttered by slant and ideology, to the people who need it the most, which is everybody.

I hesitate using the words objective and journalism anywhere within 20 feet of each other, for after all it’s rather impossible to tell a story without subjecting the same through a prism of perspective, worldview or slant  developed by years of education, lifestyle and training.  In my jaundiced view,  probably a better modifier would be dispassionate, when a reporter seeks to be guided by everything he/she sees.

I was fortunate enough to serve on our university paper in the late 1980s that had three things going for it : a decent budget set by the school, fiercely protected editorial independence, and a talent pool that was constantly replenished by competitive editorial exams. The year of the multiple coups that threatened Tita Cory’s government, our editor-in-chief changed printers almost every week in a three-month period that spanned parts of both semesters, not just because of the volatile situation, but because we needed printers that could accommodate us at a moment’s notice.  We considered ourselves (rather naively in retrospect) every bit as important as the stalwarts of mainstream and alternative print media, and put every weekly issue to bed amid distant rumblings of mortar shells and short bursts of  semi-automatic machineguns in Quezon City.  But that was about as close as we got to occupational hazards of being journalists.  It felt so romantic then, but would any of us campus journalists have given up our lives in the pursuit of press freedom, so many years ago and today?

Marie Colvin never let a bullet or mortar shelling get in the way of a good story, especially when nobody else happened to have the guts to tell that story.  If in the process she could save fifteen hundred refugees from maniacal mercenaries, so much the better.  Compared to this, will you forgive us if everytime we are told of an “envelopmental” and press-release dependent media man (or woman) back home, the words “waste of oxygen” come to mind ?  Mabuhay ka Marie Colvin !

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Children of the 1990s and cable diehards will remember with fondness Xena the Warrior Princess, and Lucretia in Spartacus who was adept with battleaxes and swords as she was with a sharp tongue and eloquent repartee to kings and emperors.  After the shoot she was Lucy Lawless, one of the finest actors New Zealand has produced.

She is also one of its most fearless environmental activists,  Along with a group of Greenpeace protesters, she recently boarded a ship owned by Shell Oil pursuing a drilling operation and bound for the Arctic.

Despite being placed under arrest, they have declared that they have a “moral obligation” to stay with the ship unless Shell Oil discontinues its oil drilling and exploration of the Arctic, which is obviously one of the last remaining untouched ecosystems on the planet.

As fearless and principled as the characters she portrayed in the film and fantasy world, Lawless (despite her surname) nails my vote as another woman with balls the size of ten of her male counterparts (in showbiz) combined.  (To see the video of her commitment to putting her body on the line for the environment, click here.)

Marie Colvin and Lucy Lawless.  For today and until futher notice, they are the best examples of why I sometimes wish I was as brave as a woman.  Mabuhay ang mga kababaihan!

Thanks for reading !

2 thoughts on “Women with balls

  1. I find your memory of changing printers so often over a 3-month span remarkable. I remember a good number of things, too. The Collegian staff, most of whom were just freshmen and sophomores, was as relentless in pursuing the news as their mainstream counterparts. We were actually there to witness for ourselves and for the Collegian readership how the Philippine military challenged our fledgling democracy. The gunfire and the rumblings of the mortar shells were not so distant. I’d say, the Kule staff got pretty close to the hazards of the profession. Although the staff that year was young and quite wet behind the ears, they knew what they had to do and they did it well. To this day, I don’t think I have ever been in a room with so much talent and commitment per square inch than that at Room 201, Vinzons Hall.

    I believe there was no divide, de facto or otherwise, between campus journalists and the mainstream media back then. There was just the alternative media – and we were an important part of it. Changing printers may have made it difficult for the staff but we were never known for doing only the easy things. I am not sure that we were prompted by romanticism. I am quite certain though that every staff writer and photog who left campus to cover the skirmishes in Malacanang or Camp Aguinaldo was motivated by a deep-seated sense of responsibility to deliver the news swiftly, accurately and in its entirety.

    That’s probably why the National Press Club honored the staff that year with a campus paper award.

    I’m afraid I have to take exception when courage is likened to some form of testicular fortitude. I do not know how to define courage but I recognize it and I am in awe of it when I see it. Colvin had the courage to pursue the truth behind, around and unfortunately, in front of the firing line. I do not know if her courage is greater or less than that those that I see and recognize. I do not know that being in war zones to cover the news imbues courage with some gender-specific qualities or that it makes that courage big or small.

    I just know that there is courage everywhere, even in the seemingly tiresome, day-to-day ordinariness that we find ourselves in. Isn’t it quite a sight to see? When someone takes a deep breath and summons the courage to try something new; to let go; to admit wrongdoing; to face the consequences; to say sorry; or to be oneself? I’d like to take Corbin’s legacy of courage a little differently than just the ability to stare danger in the face. I think her courage is a reminder that there are so many kinds of it.

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