Saturday, May 25, 2024

When Our Ink Ran Dry

by John Macklien Olandag | January 15, 2022

Allow me to expose myself first. I have been writing articles for years already, starting from editorial pieces to feature articles. The pen knows so much about my approach to living my life as well as chronicling the lives of others. The blots on the papers narrate my struggles in telling the stories that sometimes test my sanity and consume me like wildfire. 

It’s even harder to be an editor to say the least. You get to comprehend a writer’s approach to a story while finding ways to make them relatable to people who may have the luxury of not suffering these pains or the misfortune of not experiencing the lavishness of life. Aside from the editing work, you also have to manage a roster of staff who have different styles of doing the work and put them in a single frame.

As an editor, you have to treat the staff not just as colleagues, but as sheep who need to be tended. 

When Super Typhoon Rai (or Odette in our local setting) hit several areas of the country, including Negros Oriental, communication systems were severed. It’s an untimely moment though, that as a publication, we are operating in a virtual setting because of the pandemic. We had lost contact with some of our staff members. We could not push through with our commitment to telling the stories despite holding on with that zeal to let the people know what is happening, while also giving them hope despite our uncertainty as to how long we can hold until our ‘ink will run dry.’

For a time being, we have realized that we were in need of being heard. We were facing an unprecedented struggle as storytellers. You read it right. Storytellers sometimes have to be the subjects of the story themselves, and we had experienced this a hard way.

The aftermath of the typhoon was indeed disastrous. Damaged homes, uprooted trees, loss of lives and properties, and further damages to whatever once stood already made a strong statement. But the worry over the unresponsiveness of a colleague, their social media posts calling for help, and other micro-stories that took a toll on our mental and emotional health further paralyzed us. We could not write down what we saw or felt. We could only hope for them to pass. We could only hope that power and connectivity would be restored so that we can tune in for updates or check our loved ones.

Being an editor, I had to rebuild the morale of the staff. I knew the writers could not tell their stories for a time being, while the artists could not soundly depict the events around which they themselves could not even fathom. I had to come up, together with my co-editors, with one of the hardest decisions to put our work on hold, and instead focus on recovering from the disaster and reaching out to our staff members not as colleagues, but as friends who want to share whatever we have to them, even our time, comfort, and everything we could not muster to have during the hardest of times.

We were thinking dearly of the public who were in need to know the truth, especially in these challenging times. But we also found ourselves weaponless to fight and we had to wield anew to replace what was damaged. We had to refill the ink so that we could write again. We had to raise the morale of our staff so that we could fight for the people again. 

Without ink, we could not write these stories. We had to fall back for a while, replenish what was lost, and come back to tell the stories in a time when we could already fathom fully what had happened during those times. 

We’ll come back, bringing these scars to make a statement — stories will not go unheard, starting from our own, to yours.

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