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It’s been more than three weeks since I submitted my final reporter’s assignment for my news reporting class. My story was about the Filipino community and what they were doing to help the people in the Philippines that were hit by Typhoon Haiyaan Nov. 8.

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COURTESY RENE SEVILLA
Humber Journalism reporter Donna Sevilla speaking to Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney on the situation in the Philippines. He said the Canadian government is doing what they can to help.

Whenever I worked on stories, I would be able to do them to the best of my ability and seek guidance from people about my work. I wanted to see if it was good and what I needed to do to make it even better. But sometimes “good” isn’t good enough. Call me a perfectionist, if you will. However, the work that went into filming and writing for this project was beyond what I had ever expected in my life.

This story was a story that was very much close to home. I was born in the Philippines and came to Canada when I was three, and have lived here ever since but my family has made trips going there. Although I struggled – and still do – with learning and speaking the language, being Filipino is something that will be forever part of me.

In the beginning, I reacted indifferent to the situation even though I knew something had to at least be done to help the people. There was just no “if’s,” “and’s,” or “why” to question because it was my social duty as a Filipino and my moral duty as a human. People had lost their homes and been left stranded without clean water and so on. When professors approached me and asked me if I was all right, I said I was fine because I wasn’t affected at all about it. Not a single tear or anything like that. I had spent months of building up the wall that would become the surface of my professionalism so that I would be desensitized to disasters that struck the world and be able to report on them without feeling emotionally affected. I felt that such a thing would only deter me from being able to report anything.

Just weeks after the typhoon struck, my professor was preparing us for our final assignment and also the voiceover clip that would come before it. No matter how much I knew about what was going on, I didn’t want to use the typhoon story as the focus of my assignment and turned to a self-defence class that was supposed to be held on-campus that month. It seemed like fate had a different plan and the class had been cancelled ahead of time due to a lack of interest. My professor suggested that I do the story about the typhoon, even though there were other people doing it.

So I pitched and took on the assignment, e-mailed potential contacts for fundraiser events they were holding and signed out equipment to attend these events. I had met people who had family in the areas hit by Haiyaan, and seen a room full of people were only a small amount said they were from those areas. The amount of support that came from the government as I heard Mississauga-Streetsville MPP Bob Delaney speak before the audience at the fundraiser about the typhoon blew me away. Each performer that stood on stage was singing songs that rang full of hope and prayer that I busied myself with writing my script rather than listening because I could feel my eyes get wet that Sunday evening.

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PHOTO BY DONNA MARIE SEVILLA
The first day of editing all of the fundraiser footage.

I had been in the editing room on and off for three days during that same week, but nothing seemed to work well for me when I sat there. Nothing was getting done. My voiceovers sounded like my voice was cracking. Watching even ten seconds of the performances led me to breaking down in the editing room every time. No matter how many hours I had booked it for, it was never enough. I called my professor continuously for help. I wasn’t sure if what I was doing was even right anymore, and what was wrong. Do I report the statements that sound more humane or the more political ones? Am I still missing this or that? I have 56 plus gigabytes of footage, but I didn’t use all of it. Should I take this out and use this instead?

I felt that this story needed to be perfect. This was about my home.

Within the week it took me to film and edit, that wall came crashing down. I cried every time in that booth to the point that I had to rewrite my script and start from scratch on the Friday before the deadline. I couldn’t afford handing in something that was horrible and it was something so close to home for me. I did my best. I pushed it right down to the last minute and was late for class.

And then I saw it on the big screen. The sound levels were perfect. But knowing that all of the words being spoken and sung, and what was showing to my classmates, why it was there… I cared. I cared for my home. I didn’t care for what my peers would have thought about it.

I sat there as the clip rolled and tears streamed down my cheeks. I sat there and I cried for the whole two minutes.

A story is only as good as you make it to be. It can also be better if you care for it even more, because you want to do your best to make sure that it’s the best thing you’ve created. You want to honour the people that went through all this work to give you all of the interviews and clips that you’ve compiled. Even if it means breaking down that wall.

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