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Karol Ilagan: Seeing the world through inquisitive eyes

photo by ANA BARBARA S. SAN DIEGO

THE QUIET halls of the St. Raymund de Peñafort building leave an empty room filled only by a petite and simple individual, a discerning figure with eyes full of wonder and curiosity.

As a journalist who goes beyond reporting the obvious, Karol Ilagan now faces the challenges of the world with a wider perspective, utilizing her skills in investigative journalism. She commits her curious mind to uncover the truth of an issue to contribute to change.

“There are many ways for you to be able to serve the public and help other people. For me, I see journalism as difficult but I think it’s a potent way for me to be of service, to be able to contribute to positive change,” she says.

A nose to the grindstone

Given the challenges of politics, society, and the world, Ilagan believes digging deeper to the problem can help find a way to solve it.

“You   see   a   lot   of   problems.  You   want   to   write   about   those   problems   para maintindihan   ng   tao,” she shares. Her inquisitiveness to piece together missing links of stories soon impelled her to investigative reporting, choosing the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as her bridge.

“Kasi kung investigative reporting, I would go to PCIJ. At the time when I joined, mahaba na rin ‘yung history [niya] so I want to be a part of an organization [that upholds] the same values and principles [that I have]. I found my path [there],” she says.

Reports that matter

Ilagan believes that there is a certain quality that makes PCIJ different from mainstream media, a quality that helped her love investigative reporting more.

“We focus more on issues [that], to us, are most important, of public interest, and maybe even overlooked,” she says. “Other newspapers are covering other things. Kung doon pa kami sasawsaw, sayang ‘yung hindi nako-cover na ibang issues.”

With the public’s decreasing attention span, PCIJ commits itself to a better approach.

The senior content producer believes that PCIJ can help her bring about change in the country. “We are, I think, an important part to make that change. We do more investigative reporting on the most important issues.”

Indisputably, investigative reporting is a difficult and time-consuming work. Ilagan believes that it is what is needed to solve the problems in the society.

“You   want   to   know   how   things work   but   […]   it   is   more   than   that.   Ultimately,   ‘pag   sinabi   mong   investigative   journalism, watchdog ka, may   binabantayan   ka:  government   officials,   businesses,   offices,  [the] Church,   or schools.   May   accountabilities   sila.   Trabaho   mo ang   magche-check   on   that   because that’s   part   of   our   r o l e   naman   talaga,” she says.

Experiential change within

Being part of PCIJ for almost a decade, her experiences gave her a broader perspective of the important issues in the country and the world.

“Mas naging conscious ako,” she says. “At the professional level, it helped me a lot because it opened a lot of opportunities for me. It made me realize the importance of my job and encouraged me to do better.”

For Ilagan, investigative journalism is not merely “detective work.” Her intention to connect the dots and propagate the truth allows her to unearth the deeper aspects of an important situation that affects the public.

“Siyempre, curious   ka.   You   want   to   find   out  ‘Ano   ba   talagang   nangyari   dito?’ I   want   to   know how   these   programs   and   projects,   how   these   decisions   impact   the   lives   of   many   or   the   other   way around,” she says.

Change through action

The Journalism instructor from the Faculty of Arts and Letters believes that the gravity of one’s effort in a profession should never be compromised. Instead, it should be done better.

“Maybe you need to do your job better ngayon in the age of social media, in the age of populist and everything. Baka akala mo ‘yung ginagawa mong enough or malaki na before, you have to do even better [now],” she says.

Mainstream media should never be a hindrance to organizations like PCIJ because they are all propelled to one goal: to uncover the truth.

Ilagan believes that the stories one writes necessitates a desired action, eventually inspiring the public to act on the issues at hand.

“[Kapag] may gusto ka, you’re more driven to write about these things because you know something has to be done,” she reiterates. “Maaaring magisa ka lang pero ‘yun palang ginagawa natin also affects other people.” F SYRAH VIVIEN J. INOCENCIO and LORRAINE B. LAZARO

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