In Photo: Emil Sumangil geared up for another hustling day as a journalist. | taken from: flickr.com

By Bernadette Pamintuan

HARMONIOUSLY blending two distinct environments into a single world is probably the expertise of GMA field reporter Emil Santiago Sumangil as he fuses prized values of Catholic journalism into the serious and dangerous career of crime beat reportage. Faithfully claiming his deep-rooted inclination to the field, Sumangil stresses the need for a modern journalist’s respect and dedication enthusiastically geared towards the profession.

Sumangil claimed that from the very beginning, journalism had been his dream. Ever since he had the chance to decide a career path of his own, he had wanted to be a journalist; a field reporter who gets to see the news unfold before his own eyes. It had always been his greatest aspiration to narrate in front of the camera and the national audience. He held that even if he had all the choices either to be an engineer, an architect, a lawyer, or a doctor, nothing else could possibly snatch him out of journalism’s grip.

“It is like a calling,” he explained. “Coming from Catholic schools, alam natin yung kahulugan ng “tawag”. Para itong maihahalintulad sa pagpapari. Mayroon kang purposekaya ka naririto sa ganitong klase ng hanapbuhay… ng propesiyon.

Metaphorically aligning the notion of priesthood with journalism, Sumangil also expressed his desire to have more devoted people working in the field. He mentioned that the current Philippine media needs to be transformed just like how the society needs to be gradually changed for the better.

In journalism, he reiterated, this change can be attributed to the reporters who are willing to dedicate their time and talent for the service of the community.

Kailangan pa ng mas magagaling, mas matatapat at mas mahuhusay na mamamahayag,” he believed, “para mapagyaman ang lipunan at maituwid ang mga alinlangan [maging] iyong mga katiwalian sa pamahalaan.”

No matter how ecclesiastically-founded his principles on journalism are, Sumangil still accepts the profession’s constant challenges to personal values and tradition. Having been assigned to cover police beat, Sumangil admitted that he had deeper advocacies aside from the daily goal of accurate crime news delivery. It is in fact one of his long-term objectives to be a part of the development of investigative journalism in the country.

Technicalities aside, Sumangil expounded on the role of crime reportage in protecting the society. He mentioned that it is never easy to face criminals and other personalities behind bars. However, he said, there is always a touch of fulfilment whenever he finds himself of assistance to our police authorities in resolving crimes and providing justice to the victims.

Para sa akin, malaki ang maitutulong ng peace and order sa isang bansa para makamtan nito ang kaunlaran at katahimikan ng bawat indibidwal at pamilya sa lipunan,” he explained. “Malaki ang tulong nito at maaari mo pang sabihin at pangatawanan na ang resultang maaaring idulot ng mahusay at epektibong crime reporting ay katahimikan na isang factor para marating ng isang bansa ang maunlad na estado.

Aside from his staunch commitment towards his profession, Sumangil likewise expresses his deep affection for the country. He shared that he considers being deployed in conflict areas inside the archipelago one of the most difficult coverages he is typically involved with.

He related the tough situations he had been into whenever he goes to Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan, Lanao, and other provinces where peace and order are yet to be stabilized.

Mayroong rebelyon… mayroong kaguluhan sa bawat sektor, sa lahat ng sangay ng pamahalaan involving the military [and] police,” he recalled. “Doon mo makikita kung paano nasasayang ang yaman, ang kalikasan na ibinigay [sa kanila] ng Mahal na Panginoon.

He specifically pointed at Maguindanao that was labelled as the “Food Basket of the Philippines” but fails to be regarded as such because of the atrocities and unstable security in the region. At present, the province officials strive to sustain peace by joining ceremonial activities such as the annual “Mindanao Week of Peace” this December.

 Reportage pillared on fides and espes

Emil Sumangil admitted that the theological virtues of faith and hope keep him well-grounded in his professional philosophies. For him, Catholic teachings pillar his principles and lead his writings to an evenhanded trail.

Malaki ang impluwensiya ng mga natutunan ko sa isang paaralan na nagtuturo ng Katolisismo at pagpapayaman ng relihiyon,” he said. “Ito ang nagsilbing pundasiyon bago ako makapaglunsad ng mga pasya at desisiyon, sa pagsusulat, sa mga taong kailangan kong hanapin upang pagkuhanan ng impormasiyon…

Catholic journalism in the Philippines is rooted upon historical narratives that dated back when the first book in the islands, Doctrina Christiana, was published during the beginning of the Spanish colonization period. The early writings of Tomas Pinpin and the publications of the friars do not only contain prayers and sacraments but also daily reports about the lives of the indios to be sent to the king of Spain. This early form of journalism carry with it the status of Christianization in the country promulgated by the religious orders themselves.

This practice of Catholic reporting, although not generally recognized as a branch of journalism, is still utilized in institutions that are headed by Church leaders.

Emil Sumangil, having graduated secondary education in Pasig Catholic College and tertiary education in Colegio De San Juan de Letran, had been influenced greatly by the values instilled by the Church.

Recalling the nostalgia of the recent papal visit, Sumangil described his next “dream coverage” of similar sort. He disclosed having all his senses frozen when he saw Pope Francis coming near his area when he was in Tacloban, Leyte.

Nasa Tacloban, Leyte ako noong dumating siya (Pope Francis) pero yun ay nadaanan lamang ako,” he narrated. “Kung bibigyan sana ako ng pagkakataon mga namumuno sa network na pinagsisilbihan ko, mas maganda kung ako ang susundo sa kaniya.

He said he wanted to escort the Supreme Pontiff to make him feel the need of our countrymen for comfort and hope during times of trial. It is his utmost desire to let him hear the unheard voices in our society.

Journalism for the strong-willed

From being a production assistant to becoming one of the most renowned police beat reporters in the Philippines, Emil Sumangil still sees his profession as a way to address the calling to serve. He said that the best thing about his job is the fulfilment he feels whenever he brings true information to the public.

However, it is not always that he manages to get one step ahead of his competitors. At the end of the day, reporting in its nature is still a battlefield that yields the best and brightest reporters.

“The worst thing ay kapag ma-i-scoopan ka… ma-unahan ng scoop,” he confessed. “Isa pa ay ang mag-blunder o magkamali sa balita.

He then mentioned that he finds drug raids most comfortable in the roster of his daily assignments and he has a personal goal to end the kind of criminality for his children’s sake and for the future generation.

Kung hindi mo ito mapipigilan… hindi mo alam na ang anak mo ay nabibiktima na pala,” he said.

Covering police beat, as he described, is journalism for the strong-willed. A good journalist then should possess three major qualities; fear of the Lord, respect for oneself and for others, and unconditional zeal for the profession.

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