Saturday, April 16, 2016


MORE than a line is needed to connect two points.

Blame it on the heat, which dissuades us from leaving our homes for the outdoors unless the consequences of not doing so are dire enough.

Or on rage, which displaces the discourse that should be taking place face-to-face and online as the election approaches.

Actual or polemic, the heat serves a purpose: we draw back, evaluate. How we deal with the heat tells us something about ourselves.

Over the past weeks, for three occasions, I crossed over from my building to the Performing Arts Hall, venue for three forums.

Even in the heat, the stroll required physical exertion that paled with that expended by workers contracted to tear up and rebuild the city’s streets. Yet, every time, the walk had a disproportionately rewarding effect on me.

Crossing over is more difficult in the world of ideas than in the physical world. The closer one works with ideas, the greater the risk of ending with a closed mind.

The trap is sprung after roaming in innumerable rooms, we settle for the one room we enter to escape from the rest of the world. Then we lock ourselves in and throw away the key to be sure we are beyond the threat of ever wanting to leave the sanctuary of our beliefs.

Ironically, the new media that brings down walls and penetrates borders also feeds an atavistic instinct for self-defense. Freedom is frightening. We want our chains. We “like” only those we think are like us; we “unlike” those that betray this assumption.

So the challenge to “Free your mind”—the theme of this year’s “Mass Communication Days” at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu—seemed self-flagellating, a typical academic exercise in futility.

Fortunately, these past two weeks were bookended by speakers who showed why communication is the antidote to the disruptions that split apart and set society adrift.

Last Apr. 8, Jiggy and Marnie Manicad walked the audience through the art of storytelling, from the perspectives of traditional television journalism and the brave new world of media content creation.

The UP Cebu forum was a continuation of the “Jiggy Manicad TV Lectures,” a free series conducted by the couple in public and private schools all over the country. Alumni of UP Los BaƱos and UP Diliman, respectively, Jiggy and Marnie continue to pay forward, professionally and personally.

In his Apr. 12 interactive talk on “War and Media Studies,” Prof. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya peeled away— text by text, image by image—the layers by which mainstream media constructs and feeds Islamophobia.

By talking about his actual experiences as a journalist witnessing the “Arab Spring” in North Africa and Libya during the NATO bombing campaign and meticulous reading of media coverage, the UP Cebu visiting professor showed how Islamophobia, not Islam, is the demon lurking behind every act of terrorism.

Sun.Star Cebu editor-in-chief Isolde D. Amante closed the last forum on Apr. 14. She pleaded convincingly for “The Case for Journalism” by pointing out how, despite shifting technologies and vogues in business models, the act of witnessing and truth-telling remains timeless.

Freed from all fears, including resistance to self-examination, the communicator is well-adapted to the media landscape, crossing over to worlds and ideas once feared as alien and alienating.

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s April 17, 2016 edition of “Matamata,” the Sunday editorial-page column

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