My earlier unsympathetic impressions were ready to be cast off this Saturday, June 23, 2011 at the staging of yet another feast at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Mabuhay Festival led by PIDC and co-sponsored by Kapamilya of TFC.
It's hard to say it's a community event unless the Kapamilya subscribers - meaning those who pay to watch the endless stream of soap operas and the usual singing, shrieking and dancing on TV - are the community.The more accurate way to say it is that PIDC-Kapamilya is just a fraction of a bigger community.
An event of greater significance to me was the huge picnic, also on Saturday, by the Bicolanos at Earl Bales Park, which I missed, unfortunately, because of another commitment. Between PIDC's extravaganza and this picnic, I prefer the latter simply because one finds true hospitality and real friendship there, not the fancy smiles of false teeth and the pretense of warm greetings PIDC is quite famous for.
I had intended to come at my usual time, which is at least 15 minutes before the event. On Saturday it was impossible to do that, for, again, the PIDC festival conflicted with the launching of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines - Canada. I had no second thoughts going to the latter.
The reason is that PIDC's entertainment fare was nothing new and could be accessed anytime on TV. Besides, the PIDC officials I had eagerly wanted to interview would surely become so busy again, chatting and eating, or simply hiding from the prying eyes of the press.
On the other hand, it's quite rare to break bread with colleagues in the working press for their time is as valuable as mine. Therefore, one need not belabor it, just go to NUJP, which was what I did.
When the NUJP event ended in mid-afternoon, I decided to go with friends to the PIDC festival. In the car with journalists Tenny Soriano and Butch Galicia, my mind was wandering. Would I be able to get somebody from PIDC to talk about Mabuhay Festival, its latest money-making venture? The PIDC is one fat cow again, I mused, but is it a milking cow?
Then I remember my experience a month ago at the PIDC picnic at Earl Bales Park where one monstrous gaffe after another came in torrents. My mind also thought about the miscues at the PIDC flag-raising at Queen's Park on June 12 and the gala event preceding that that saw an agitated Consul General Pedro Chan silently protesting the shabby treatment he got from PIDC partygoers who seemed enamored with Premier Dalton McGuinty.
After almost an hour snaking through the maze of side streets from High Park, we finally reached Metro Toronto Convention Centre in downtown. Tenny Soriano had repeatedly assured me that he had included my name in a list of reporters submitted to PIDC for accreditation to cover the festival.
Well, I thought that it was unncessary because PIDC officials knew who the real journalists are from card-collecting pretenders who are supposedly reporters, writers, photographers, etc. of some local newspapers. By face, if not by name, they could tell who's who. But PIDC had to be in control and the requirement made the organization look powerful.
While waiting at the lounge, I decided to take a quick look at the festival at one of the centre's function rooms in the basement. I wore my press credentials and brought out my camera. Then I walked into the cavernous hall, unchallenged by volunteers, aides and security guards.
Inside, I took videos and pictures and even had a brief interview with some business people while the PA system blared so loud the sound, perhaps amplified a thousand times, could shatter one's eardrums and let loose a spoonful of earwax. A face-to-face conversation was impossible to conduct.
I walked around the length and breadth of the whole area trying to compare a similar event by the Philippine Canadian Charity Foundation-Kapuso a month earlier in the same building.
It's no longer a question of which attracted the most number of people, rather, it was a question of which had the big splash. PCCF-Kapuso was huge, in fact, it was the biggest fiesta by Filipinos. PIDC-Kapamilya was also sizable, the magnitude of its bulk could be measured in the way they jammed the hall with ear-splitting noise and the choreographed shrieks of fans.
I could not stand the noise level. If I had wanted good entertainment, the place to go was not this PIDC event. But I was working, so I lingered for another five minutes, then happily walked out of the hall. At the lounge area on the ground floor, Butch Galicia was narrating his bad encounter with PIDC officials at the media booth.
"Sayang wala ka doon," he greeted me as I approached him. Why, what happened, I asked.
He got his accreditation, which was not an ID card or anything, but a red ribbon the media volunteers attached to his wrist. He said he tore it after he was asked to sign a waiver.
Nobody in his right mind would, so Butch firmly refused, and gave back the piece of paper. "It was an infringement on press freedom," he said.
Curious about the incident I went down to see if the volunteers would do the same thing to me. I had entered the hall earlier without anybody checking my press credentials and did not tell anyone in the media booth until later.
I told the volunteers my name, showed my IDs and asked to be given the accreditation. The man and woman volunteers searched for my name in their list and it wasn't there. The woman asked for my name again and my media outfit. Instead of answering her, I showed my press cards with my name, picture and media entities I represent.
She looked up the list again. There was no name like my name. Then the other woman repeated, for the third time, the question of what newspaper I write for. To make it understandable, she mentioned names of newspapers she's most familiar with.
I replied that I already gave her my answer - that I don't have a newspaper! I said everything you wanted to know about me can be found in my press cards. "Hmmm, Digital Journal, what's that?" I almost lost my temper. But I held on, realizing now that the people at the media booth are a bunch of misinformed if not ignorant volunteers.
One of the volunteers called a PIDC official, Imie Belanger, who recognized me and motioned the volunteers to give me a red ribbon. Before they would put it on my wrist, they asked me to sign the waiver.
I asked what it was, and the man said in Tagalog: "don't worry, it's not something that would land you in jail". I examined the piece of paper and took photographs of it. Butch Galicia was right and I agree with him. This is simply censorship by PIDC.
After taking pictures of the waiver, I told Imie Belanger and her volunteers that I really didn't need the red ribbon. Neither do I want to cover the event in exchange for signing the waiver.
As a matter of fact, I already got in there just to test the system, and did interviews, took videos and pictures. I had no interest going back. With that said, I gave back the red ribbon and the waiver.
Coming out of the convention centre, I realize that my initial impression about PIDC was correct. This Saturday, PIDC has just gone from bad to worse.