“Have Pen, Will Travel” is a mantra for journalists for they roam the world in search of stories. All kinds of stories, from the mundane to the earth-shaking developments.
It’s their job!
But, at the same time, they also become what is described as “accidental tourist” or tourist by chance during their assignments, which take them in all and every corner of the world.
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Having bundles of money gets one to travel and see every nook and cranny of the world. It’s the surest way.
But not the only way. Surely, there are other ways to get a chance to travel.
One, being a journalist! For journalists, too, by the nature of their job, roam the world; the warriors armed with the pen. And in the Internet era, with a smartphone, a notebook, a
laptop . But the pen will be there. Always.
It comes with the job, journalists traveling often, that is. Journalists are accidental tourists.
They live out of a suitcase.
Particularly pen-pushers who cover the Sports Beat; they get to see the world during international sporting events. Also journalists who cover the Presidential/ Malacañang Beat .
Journalists in Entertainment Beat also go on junkets for a movie launch; still others are foreign correspondents posted abroad.
Surely, other beats offer travel opportunities ; like rain in summer, though .
In my case, I cover ed Muslim Affairs Beat, Manila Bulletin’s pioneering reportage for many years, and then the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Beat Technical Education and Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its 18 attached agencies, or the Science Beat.
M anila Bulletin sent me abroad 38 times from 1994 to January 2016. One, two, three, or four times a year, sometimes.
Now that I am no longer with Manila Bulletin, I am still into Science Beat, and also IT (Information Technology) Beat as well as Current Events as a freelance journalist.
Science Beat brought me to Tsukuba City, Japan, on January 11-14, 2016, for the handover of Diwata-1 microsatellite to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
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The IT or Cyberpress Beat let me travel four times to Singapore, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan in 2016-2017. Lucky me!
But traveling as journalist entails a lot of work, you are expected to write articles/stories about the coverage. Work and pleasure, with emphasis on work.
I’ve seen the world, or at least parts of it, only because I am a journalist. Never would have I made the foreign trips through my own pocket, which usually holds only loose change !
All of my travels abroad were on official business: all-expense-paid trips, either by the host or local sponsor. Free hotel accommodation and all, and many times with a chauffeured Limousine. Shuttle transfer from airport-hotel-airport, too.
Visit to historic and other tourist spots is part of the package. You feel like a king, sometimes.
Some of my trips were coverage for events such as sessions of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), mainly because of the Philippine government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process brokered by the OIC; educational tours; journalism seminars; three-time Mecca pilgrimage and coverage , etc.
My first trip abroad was to Saudi Arabia on invitation of the Ministry of Information, along with over 200 journalists from around the world. It was to cover and perform the Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
That 1994 Saudi Arabia trip was the gate that opened the world to me. It paved the way for yearly foreign trips that was unbroken until 201 2. I declined an invitation from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in 2013, and recommended someone else.
Manila Bulletin sent me to Bangkok, Thailand, in 2014; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in 2015; and Tokyo, Japan, in 2016; Newsbytes in Singapore and Macau, SAR, in 2016; Rappler in Taipei, Taiwan, and Newsbytes in Singapore in 2017. Lovely indeed the life of a journalist.
Thus, I walked hollowed and historic grounds in many countries, such as in 2010 — Libya and Indonesia; 2009 — Libya; 2008 — United States and Libya; 2007 — Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan; 2006 — Thailand; 2005 — Indonesia and Yemen; 2004 — Indonesia and Turkey; 2003 — Iran, Malaysia, Libya, and Saudi Arabia; 2002 — South Korea; 2001 — Libya; 2000 — Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Libya; 1999 — Iran and Saudi Arabia; 1998 — Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Libya; 1997 — Iran; 1996 — Kuwait; 1995 — United Arab Emirates; and 1994 — Saudi Arabia.
Not even in my wildest imagination did I ever dream of visiting all these countries. So, if I would have to choose again for the next 30 years, then I would surely choose to be a journalist again. It’s a no-brainer!
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My first published article was on the Argentine-British Falklands Island War in the defunct Evening Post in 1982. Then on June 12, 1982, a Sunday, I transferred to the then Bulletin Today, later renamed Manila Bulletin.
Later on, I moonlighted as a correspondent for the paper and its sister tabloid, Tempo, covering the Police Beat at the Western Police District Command. I also wrote for two Saudi Arabian newspapers, such as Saudi Gazette and Riyadh Daily, and Qatar’s The Peninsula as their Manila-based correspondent.
Many, many years after, I still enjoy seeing my by-line with my articles. Little joys, but another cure for stress from chasing and beating deadlines after deadlines after deadlines!