I will never forget my first day on the job as a 'newspaper reporter' exactly 16 months ago. It was the second day of my two-weeks training and I was feeling very nervous. Trying to overcome the feeling of apprehension, I resolutely marched to the nearest police precinct and had my first look at what a police station looked like inside.
The desk officer was not very helpful when I introduced myself and told him what I wanted. He directed me to ask permission from the precinct commander and for that, my fear doubled.
As a kid, I have always marked policemen with a black "X" in my kiddie vocabulary. The word has always been associated with unpleasant connotations such that I vowed to be a good citizen so I will never have to do anything with policemen or anyone in uniform. (Remember how your mothers and elder siblings used to scare you policemen are coming when you refused to obey them?)
I waited for a few minutes, hoping with all my heart that the precinct commander would not report for work so I could postpone my mission but I was not fortunate for there strode the precinct chief, a burly strict-faced man, towards his office and I was left speechless, staring only at his broad retreating back.
(I was to know later that the chief was never media-friendly and our reporter covering the police beat never went there because she had gotten into a snag with the same man and had been thorougly 'soaped' over a mixed-up report.
With heartbeats racing, I stood up and braced myself to follow him but before I did so, a red-colored van came to a screeching halt outside the precinct and out spilled six ladies and two gentlemen, everyone apparently in distraught moods.
I sat back at the far corner of the long bench as a silent witness to the commotion that followed.
One girl went straight to the desk officer, her clothes obviously drenched in some black-colored liquid as the rest of troop trailed behind her.
Apparently, a dispute erupted between two groups of well-to-do students from two different schools having meals at one of the fast food outlets in a department store in the city and one girl from the other group spilled coke on the complainant's uniform.
The desk officer sat with his pen suspended in mid-air, the confused expression on his face a clear indication that he was unable to sew the whole story together as everyone tried to butt in.
The next moment the precinct commander motioned for all everybody to go to his office. Having no involvement in the incident, I remained where I was but the precinct commander motioned to me.
"Hwag ka nang magmatigas dyan, pasok dito!" he bellowed and the sound of his voice tripled the fear I was engulfed in.
At his office, the precinct chief fished out the whole story and everyone was given a chance to tell his or her version.
When everyone except me had spoken, the precinct commander turned to me and said, "O ikaw, bakit mo ginawa yon?"
I swear my jaw practically dropped at his question.
Stammering, I mumbled that I didn't have a part in the incident and explained what I was there for. For a few seconds, there was silence and then the chief ordered me to go out of the office. I was only too glad to obey him.
As I came out, another plush car arrived and out went the alleged offending girl and her entourage, accompanied by a very obviously-rich father.
With a haughty air, the party trooped towards the precinct commander's office. I didn't wait to see what happened next but immediately went out of the precinct and tried my luck in another precict.
By the way I didn't have to worry about meeting the precinct commander again because I was transferred to another beat.