Tuesday, June 12, 2001

My 15 Minutes of Fame

Just got back from a couple of bowling games with some friends, followed by a late dinner at our favorite Thai resto in Hollywood.

I have also just finished watching and rewinding and rewinding and rewinding (you get the idea) a tape of last night’s 11 o’clock news on CBS. That’s where my ‘15 Minutes of Fame’ story (more like 3 minutes, so i still have 12 reserved somewhere in time) comes in.

At 5:00 pm kaninang hapon, i got a frantic call from CBS News. [CBS is one of the top 3 broadcasting cosporations here in the US. The other two are NBC and ABC.] The guy on the other line told me that they are doing a story for the 11 pm news and they need a resource person. Say again, sir? They need daw someone to interview for the Abu Sayyaf story that they are doing. They have searched and asked people and I was recommended daw. Ah-huh, yeah right!

I asked them if they think I’d be ‘credible’ enough to talk about the Abu Sayyaf and they said, “We’ll see when we get there...” with matching laugh, it looks like they were bent on going to my office to get the interview even if I don’t permit them to. Sabi ko, I’ll ask permission first from my publishers if it is alright with them. “I’ll call you in a couple of minutes,” sabi ko.
My publishers agreed, so I called them back. One ring. “CBS News.” Sabi ko, “Yes, I’d like to speak with John please.” “Momar! So what time are we coming over?”

I know how hard that person’s job is (he’s probably a PA or an Associate Producer) so hindi na ako nagpatumpik-tumpik. “You can come here anytime.” “We’ll be there in forty five minutes.”
In less than 45 minutes, the cameraman arrived. This was already around 7:00 pm. Chuck, the cameraman told me, “Hey Momar. The reporter will be here in a few minutes. He’s coming from the studio, he just did the 6 o’oclock news. His name is Jonathan Elias.”

Freeze frame. I have been watching this guy for the longest time. His reports are incisive, he is good in what he does and well, he looks good. Hahaha. He has won Emmy awards for his newscasts and reports, he even has a George Peabody award. The only word I could muster then, “Uhm, okay.”

So he set up, took establishing shots and sitners (situationers, yung casual shots baga). By 7:30 pm, Jonathan Elias arrived. Face to face with that face I always see on TV, I immediately got tense, I got flustered. After a short exchange of hello’s and how are you’s, he asked me backgrounders. Then they made me stand in front of the cam, gave me a lapel mike and the cameras started rolling.

After what seemed like an eternity, (office-mates would later tell me that the interview took almost 20 minutes) the interview was over. Off-cam, he continued asking me questions about the Philippines and about Abu Sayyaf.

His on-cam questions were well thought of, well analyzed and he shot them like I was in a firing range. Some of the questions were easy to answer but I got stumped by a couple. He asked me the amount, in US dollars, that the Philippine tourism industry is getting from tourists who are from the United States.

Obviously, I didn’t know the answer. Not even a ballpark figure. I answered the question vaguely, trying to evade a possible follow-up. “I don’t have the figures, but it’s huge.” Then I said, I was so unsure but I said this confidently, “Next to the Europeans, the Americans are the most frequesnt visitors of the Philippines.” I may have interchanged the facts, and I have no way of knowing at that exact time if what I said was factual.

The next question that stumped me. “What is the Philippine government doing to make sure that this won’t happen again.” Uh-oh. Goddamnit, I am not the Philippine government. I had no idea. This happened last year and it has happened again. What assurance do we have that this won’t happen again? Lord of the rings, I was grasping for an answer. Not for the righta nswer but for any possible answer. Dead air, for about 5 seconds. Maybe he thought I didn’tget his question. I beat around the bush, you know blah-blah-blah yada-yada-yada, until I, myself got tired of beating around the bush. I told him that the government is intensifying its efforts to make sure that this does not happen again. Goddamn.

After the interview, time check: 8:30, we proceeded to the bowling lanes. I called my flat-mate so she can program my VCR. I had no plans of telling my relatives but then my cousin called me up, I had no choice but to tell him to wait for the 11 pm news on CBS.

11:10, i got three text messages. My cousin left a voice mail. An office-mate called. They saw me on TV. They fucking saw me on TV. 11:30, my boss called me up, asking me if I saw the news. I told her that I was still out bowling and she told me that it came out good. Those were the lead stories of the newscast last night (it was a twin bill because the other one was an interview with the neighbors of the American that the Abu Sayyaf beheaded) and I was in there for a good three to four minutes of it.

I almost had a turkey (three strikes in a row) after I found out about it. It was well close to a turkey because I hit two strikes and a nine. I could’t get the fucking last pin to drop. My weakness.

We had dinner around 12:20 and got finished around 1:00 am. Three games of bowling can be tiring.

In my room, at 1:15 am. I opened my TV and there was David Duchovny on the Craig Kilborn Show. I watched it for almost ten minutes. My flat-mate got impatient. “Aren’t you watching the tape?” she asked me. “I told her that I was watching David Duchovny first.” “David can wait, watch yourself first,” she told me.

I rewound (rewinded? hahaha) the tape. Hit stop, and hit play. Sumobra. Forward. Then the news. “Tonight on CBS News... A California man is said to be beheaded by terrorists in the Philippines, who exactly are the members of the ABu Sayyaf and what do they want?”
After around four minutes of backgrounders, my face appeared. “Oh God, I look so big.” I almost forgot, the camera adds 10 pounds. I looked like i was 160. Hell, I am lying. I have a friend who is 140 and it’s just mathematically impossible for me to be 150 if I compare my frame with his. Hahaha.

After watching myself for about 15 times, I decided to write this.