Adjusting to a New Presidency

It’s simply par for the course

By Mia M. Gonzalez

A few weeks before former President Joseph Estrada took his oath as Chief Executive in 1998, Palace reporters at the old press working area in Malacañang’s Kalayaan Hall exchanged mostly comedic scenarios of media coverage under the incoming administration.

One reporter joked that because of the lifestyle of Estrada-–who has never kept secret his love for liquor, women, and the joys of nightlife–-the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) might as well prepare for a vampire’s schedule for the next six years. Press conferences would be held around midnight til the wee hours of the morning, over rounds of hard liquor and platters of assorted pulutan (hors d’oeuvres).

Another reporter, struggling to suppress laughter, said that the song to be played whenever the Chief Executive arrived at a public engagement would be “Roll Out the Barrel.” And that there would be a “midnight” Cabinet for sure, since meetings would start at the witching hour.

I was among those who snickered at these scenarios, thinking–and hoping–they wouldn’t happen, since I was going to be retained in the beat despite the change in administration. Having just survived three and a half years of covering the indefatigable President Fidel Ramos who, by his sheer energy, seemed much younger than the members of his press corps, I thought I didn’t have to make any significant adjustments.

When I covered the Ramos administration, I had to learn how to warp my body clock and submit my fate to destiny. At least twice a week, the Malacañang Press Corps would take pre-dawn flights to the Visayas or Mindanao, or long land trips to Luzon. We always rode on those military airplanes fondly called “flying coffins.”

Once, I thought the aircraft we were using would live up to its grim moniker.

2 responses to “Adjusting to a New Presidency”

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