Of first jobs and college friends

The one where I met Miss Australia 1994 Michelle van Eimeren.

Michelle is one of the nicest people I’ve met, and I’m glad I was able to get a photo with her. This was during my very first job. I was a staff writer for CHiC, an English-language magazine for women (and for men, too!) published by Graphic Arts Service, Inc. or, as it was more popularly known, GASI.

It was actually an unlikely job for me, because I was supposed to go to UP Law after passing the Law Aptitude Exam and panel interview, and getting my invitation to enroll. Also, I was never interested in lifestyle and showbiz stories, and was having second thoughts during the interview with CHiC Editor-in-Chief Alexander Aurelia Gatpandan (who, by the way, was also from UP Diliman), when he told me that part of my job was to interview celebrities for the cover story.

Honestly, I was panicking at the thought of interviewing celebrities and getting a job which didn’t exactly involve the topics that I liked. But I’m glad I broke out of my comfort zone, because I learned a lot from this first job and my CHiC family. I gained more self-confidence and realized I could write about any topic, cover different kinds of events, and interact with celebrities without getting intimidated.

It also helped that Alex was kind enough to approve my proposal to come up with a new column, where I critiqued pop culture and discussed ideas and theories, including my own insights on Roland Barthes’ essay on pro wrestling, and a column piece on “Why I Am A Male Feminist”. Plus Ray Alegado Jimeno became my best friend at CHiC, and was always there to support me. Pareng Ray gave me a lot of advice, taught me how to cover events, and drank many bottles of beer with me hehe!

Another factor that encouraged me to stick with the job, apart of course from the fact that I needed to earn money, was my best friend since college, Raffy Lirag. He got a kick out of the fact that I was meeting different celebrities. I was supposed to be a batch behind him in UP Law, and while he initially thought sayang di ko itinuloy, he was glad this was my first job.

“Ang cool nga ng job niya!” he would tell his younger brother Mon, our friends, and his law classmates. He would point out that I was actually getting paid to do something I loved, which was writing, and meeting celebrities, to boot.

I even got to meet one celebrity we both liked, Donita Rose, though sadly I don’t have a picture with her hehe! It was a different era, when we didn’t have camera phones, and it wasn’t the usual practice then for journalists to have our photo taken with the people we interviewed 😃

Also, Donita’s schedule was so hectic that I conducted the short interview while she was getting made up for the photo shoot. She was very nice, however, and signed a file photo of hers that I got for Raf. She also said sorry for the rushed interview, and gave me her phone number in case I had additional questions.

So when I went to Raf’s house to give him the autographed photo and to hang out and play video games with him and Mon, I asked him if I could use the phone. I went to their living room and called up Donita. After thanking her again and asking a few questions, I went back to the room.

“O, sino yung kausap mo?” Raf asked.

“Oh, si Donita Rose,” I replied. “Sabi niya kasi I could call if I had additional questions.”

The look on Raf’s face was priceless. It was one of the rare times he was speechless for a moment.

Finally, he said: “Kausap mo si Donita Rose? On our phone?” And then added incredulously: “And you talked to her like she’s a normal person?”

I’m grateful to Raf for many things, and one of them is that he kept telling people how awesome my job was. Aside, of course, for always making me laugh.

We would joke around, make fun of each other and things, and only talk about “light stuff” like comic books, Dungeons & Dragons (and, later on, Magic: The Gathering), video games, science fiction, Agatha Christie (he was actually the one who introduced me to her books, and since then she’s been one of my all-time favorite authors while Hercule Poirot is one of my all-time favorite characters), anime, movies, and TV shows. None of the “deep stuff” or “sentimental stuff” hehe because that’s not what our friendship was about, but our friendship has endured over the decades.

Raf’s smart and a smart aleck, but he also has one of the kindest hearts.

I thought it would be too senti to share this when I was called on stage at Raf’s 50th birthday celebration hahaha! At least now he doesn’t have to hear this in person and in front of all those people 😃

In my 48 years, I’ve been blessed to have met many kind people in my life. This 2020 and beyond, I will continue my journey of becoming a kinder person—and returning all your kindness.

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