Chasing my windmills

I am grateful for getting the opportunity to learn from the different people I have met during the internship and to work on stories that have, in some small way at least, sparked conversations

Bea Orante

11:0:0pm October 17, 2015

8:11:38am October 15, 2015

In my last year in university, one of the classes I took was “Great Books II: Middle Period”and part of the syllabus was Don Quixote. The seniors were not able to finish the book in class, but we did get through the first part and we got the general themes in it.

Don Quixote, an old gentleman living off his estate in a small town, spends his days reading books on chivalry, causing him to go mad. He then goes on adventures with his relatively trusty steed and reliable, albeit naïve, squire. On these adventures, his notion of an ideal world oftentimes clashes with reality. 

It was quite ironic to end college with Don Quixote, as though it was a preparation for facing “the real world.” The novel’s ending was almost sobering because, for four years, we were told we could put in place the changes the country needed.

It was this big dream of helping people through telling stories, particularly those that do not receive much attention, that was attractive about joining Rappler even as an intern. I saw my Rappler internship, and especially working under MovePH, as a way of honing my skills while contributing to achieving goals that I felt were worthwhile.

However, like the titular Don, I would come to find that the real world would not be as similar to what I had in mind. More than learning to be a better writer, my internship challenged me to confront the harshness of the real world and strengthen my resolve.

In the space of almost two months, I was able to learn more about myself and my surroundings than I possibly could have doing anything else in that time and the following insights were the two that have struck me most.

1. Change is never unopposed and inspiring a movement can sometimes be slow

When Don Quixote started his journey, he brought with him idealism cultivated during his time reading all his books. He thought he could go into the world, save people, and then win glory and love 

For new graduates, it is difficult to leave without a sense of optimism that our actions could collectively make the world a better place. We have developed this idealistic view by reading writers like Plato or Rizal and hearing professors telling us we are capable of doing great things for the good of all and so we believe that if we fight the good fight, we would eventually win.

When Rappler said interns “had to be prepared for battle.” Even on days that I was in the office, it felt like what I was doing had real world implications; and the work I did on the field, whether it was covering an event or doing research, was like Don Quixote and Sancho’s sallies. 

During my internship, I have gone to Payatas and seen the living conditions of a chunk of our society and was told that children frequently heard abuse from their surroundings. I have listened to scholars worried that Filipinos do not care to reflect on a past of which they should be proud.

I have had to quickly learn that the change I had wanted to help bring about would not come as easily. Just because I want to bring an issue to light, it doesn’t mean those affected would want to hear about it or care to discuss it.

2. 'So long as some people are willing to make a difference, even a little, we cannot give up'

At this point, it would be easy to criticize idealists for pursuing seemingly quixotic dreams or that they know nothing about how the world actually works. Maybe it is also easy to think that idealists are doomed to the same fate as Don Quixote who assumes his former identity and gives up his former illusions before dying quietly. 

However, this does not give the whole story. Although Don Quixote’s vision of a more honorable and chivalrous life was an illusion, it was an illusion that pushed him to want to do good things. 

Facing life’s harshness, it becomes easy to turn cynical or dejected and forget about dreams of making the “better world”the “real world.”Seeing the full scale of the challenge was almost too much, but a former professor reminded me that reality does “suck,”but that should not be a reason for stopping now.

It was in a way a blessing to end my internship with this year’s Social Good Summit because I was able to hear participants talk about how attending the event was inspirational and see groups that are doing their part in making the Sustainable Development Goals work. The experience proved that there are people committed to making a difference and wanting something better can be a practical goal. 

I am grateful for getting the opportunity to learn from the different people I have met during the internship and to work on stories that have, in some small way at least, sparked conversations.

Although Don Quixote, or Alonso Quijano, dies in the end, his actions have changed the lives of people around him. I may be no Don Quixote, but my time at Rappler, though short, and the work that came out of it has hopefully created ripples that lead to change. - Rappler.com

Bea Orante was a Rappler intern. She graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University.