The smell of home

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo February 10,2017 - 10:00 PM

I tried to maintain a confident stance when I entered the Cebu Daily News building in the middle of an oppressive summer heat of 2006.

I was one of the six Mass Communication students from the University of the Philippines Cebu College assigned to have their print journalism internship in CDN that April.

Upon entering the main door, I immediately noticed the smell of ink and newsprint. The smell made me feel at home. Still, my palms were sweaty when the six of us were led to a conference room and then executive editor Connie Fernandez asked us questions including: “What’s the difference between a straight news story and a news feature?”

We knew the answer but Connie looked strict and scary that even the most talkative among us was left with no words to answer her questions. One brave lady — I cannot remember who — gave an answer that was unsatisfactory to Connie. She was visibly upset. I was shaking from the inside and it made me think if I’m going to walk out of that internship as a traumatized 19-year-old girl.

I ended up covering the business and economics beat. I did not have a senior reporter to guide me so most of the journalism tips I learned came from Connie and then business editor Irene Sino Cruz. A year later, after college graduation, Connie asked me if I was interested to join the paper as its business and economics reporter. I declined and told her I am more interested to apply for a nongovernment organization.

But Connie was a patient and convincing suitor. She chased me all the way to Leyte (where my family lived then) and talked to my mother convincing her with all passion and brains why I should embrace my calling as a journalist. My mother talked to me that night and ended the conversation with the line: “Find a job where you can make use of your skill to inform and inspire people.”
Connie didn’t have to chase me again after my heartfelt talk with my mother.

My original plan of a monthlong vacation after college graduation was cut short because after two weeks, I packed my bags and reported to the CDN newsroom.

Connie was grinning from ear to ear when she saw me.

“I told you so,” she said.

Former editor Nestor Ramirez, now professor at the University of San Jose-Recoletos, told me that I won’t get rich if I honestly do my job as a journalist. But if I want to contribute to society and to nation building, Sir Nestor said this is the perfect job for me.

He also said that I will do better in my future job as a social development professional if I gain experience and expand my network as a journalist.

I am glad I listened to him. (Later in 2011, when I worked as local expert for the Strategic Corporate-Community Partnership for Local Development program of the German Agency for International Cooperation and Philippine Business for Social Progress, I remembered Sir Nestor’s words and I wanted to give him a high five for that piece of advice.)

I left CDN as a full-time reporter in June 2009 when I started my Chinese studies at the Confucius Institute at the Ateneo De Manila University. I got a scholarship from the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation-China Scholarship Program. The same program took me to Fudan University in Shanghai, China, where I embarked in another linguistic and cultural adventure.

When I came home in August 2010, I joined the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a Visayas correspondent upon the encouragement of then Visayas Bureau Chief (now CDN editor-in-chief) Edra Benedicto. I continued to write for CDN even when I moved back to China and the USA when I got married and had children.

A good friend once asked me why I still go back to CDN after all my exposures and experiences in various fields in different countries. My usual answer is: “I guess you can never really let go of your first love.”

I have had so many firsts in CDN.

Believe me or not, I was Miss CDN in 2007. I won the Miss Vitaginseng Body Award and finished as first runner-up in the Miss Press Freedom Pageant.

There were only four contestants. But it didn’t matter.

I had one of the best times of my life that night.

I wore a gown by Ronald Villavelez. Wenwen Zaspa worked magic on my hair and makeup. My chaperone and cheerleader was the loyal Connie while photographer Lito Tecson was there because former publisher Eileen Mangubat said my moment needs to be documented.

Former CDN reporters Suzanne Alueta, Jolene Bolambot, Nilda Gallo, Dale Israel, Mars Alison and Bernadette Parco can attest to the fun that we had while we working together at CDN. The videoke nights, the planned days off, the conversations shared over bottles of beer. My one and only male editor Dennis Singson learned the business jargon and explored the economic landscape with me as we worked on the paper’s Enterprise page.

Like CDN’s mascot, Siloy (Cebu Black Shama), I was given the freedom to fly and explore Cebu because I knew Cebu. To embrace siloy as the official mascot of CDN is a very fitting tribute to the paper’s drive to practice journalism that builds communities. The siloy can only be found in Cebu, nowhere else in the world can you hear it sing its signature melodious song.

In the same manner, the Siloys of CDN are given the task of reporting Cebu, equipped with the values of fairness and accuracy.

Beyond all its garbage and drug problems, the alleged presence of a Korean “mafia,” savage criminals who prey on children, lechon wars and cyberbullying, CDN is that voice in the middle of a forest that sings the song of truth. It may be quite different from the others and it may not be liked by some, but it is a song that embraces what is essential in a democracy: the kind of journalism that is fair, factual, balanced and takes into account the general welfare of the public.

Every time I enter the CDN building, I always pause to take a deep breath and smell the ink and the newsprint.

I love coming back to the smell of home.

Happy 19th Anniversary, Siloys!

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TAGS: CDN, Cebu, Cebu City, home, Journalism, journalist, paper, smell, University of the Philippines
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