Second from right

Our computer's monitor is quite unreliable. Perhaps it's because I've gotten used to LCD screens in Internet caf├ęs, or other screens just look better, but despite being in its brightest setting, anything that I see is inherently darker than what it really is. So, that night when I first emailed the photos I took earlier to Miss Rica - the ones she needed as soon as possible - I was frustrated. Sure, camera phones don't really work wonders in low light settings, but the monitor's operating circumstances made the choice harder to make.

If only I knew. That afternoon, while intently watching whatever was being projected, Jason tapped me on the shoulder and showed his mobile. Miss Rica was asking me to take photos of the talk, as if I haven't started doing so. I shrugged. Oh well, I thought. Better take this seriously.

That day ended with Marcia, Loui and I somehow getting assigned to bring filmmaker Dominic Morissette, along with a representative of the Canadian embassy, to their car. Initially mistaken for bringing them to the South Gate - apparently the car wasn't there - we ended up at the gate near the Yuchengco lobby. The two girls wanted a photo with Dominic, and we ended up with a photo of the four of us, with the guy from the embassy being nice enough to do the photography.

Since it was taken in good daylight - the sun hasn't set, but isn't harsh - I sent that photo with the ones actually done during the talk, just as a fail safe. They can crop us out, anyway, and I was expecting that.

Miss Rica only got the photos the following Sunday, when she set me a deadline. She apparently didn't get anything - a testament to my email's woes at the time - and I ended up sending text messages to her, as well as to Kat and Jason, as another fail safe. She finally confirmed receiving the photos that afternoon, and that was it.

I knew what she was doing. I've seen her articles for the Philippine Daily Inquirer - short write-ups about films, filmmakers and anything else related - and felt slightly proud of the idea that the photos I took will see print. It's perhaps the closest to being an actual journalist, I guess. Jason even told me that I might appear in the newspaper with the article, probably as a way to entice me to taking photos; something futile, I guess, since I was into it already. I was actually thinking about a byline - a credit somewhere along the sides of whatever photograph they decide to use. Henrik Batallones in obscurely small type, maybe wrongly spelled. And then I forgot about it.

"Good morning!" Sam texted me, five weeks later. "I saw your face in the newspaper..."

I was easing myself into the car seat as the family took off to Laguna. Cramped in between two grown siblings and baggage that didn't make the trunk, I could only reply so much.

"Hah? Where, which, why?"

"Your avatar in YM... sa may Inquirer... buti na lang binasa ko yung diyaryo habang naghihintay ng sundo..."

And then it occurred to me. We brought today's copy of the Inquirer in the car, to have something to read while waiting somewhere. Buried under depressing news of a terrible bank heist where we're headed - "Nine shot dead in the head" - I went through the other sections, flipped through one entertainment section, and there it was. Loui, me, Dominic and Marcia, in all our cheesy smiles and student get-ups, almost uncropped.

The article was short, as usual, but unlike most of Miss Rica's articles, it was accompanied by two photos. One of the "bad" photos during the talk was still dominant - it was blurry to the point of the camera's shortcomings showing through - but bordering off the article was the four of us. "Morissette (second from right) loves the energy and curiosity of Filipino viewers," the caption said. And there we were.

"Pagkita ko dun sa pic, sabi ko, 'oh, si biter Niko!'" Sam continued.

I told Marcia and Loui when we got to one of the many private pools dotting Pansol. Both were in disbelief, either about Miss Rica acquiring a copy of the photos that they thought were only uploaded on my Multiply site, or about the existence of the article itself. Later, they waited for their copies, but Loui can't seem to hide her semi-confused excited state. "Wow, sikat na tayo!" she said. "Inquirer!"

Back when I was in elementary school, I was somewhat close with a classmate, Anna. She's since permanently flown to the United States - to the point of her being the subject of one of my exercises for film writing class - but she's been there before, and she's been telling me of her experiences. Apparently, her photo's been published in the local newspaper, too, accompanying something about school. A far-out possibility, I thought back then, but plausible. I never really dreamed of getting my face published, though - more so when I started growing up and discovered blogging - but things always happen when you least expect it. All I thought possible was a byline; all I got was my face in the newspaper. You get some, but not all.

The world wouldn't probably notice that there was this kid who gave sixteen paragraphs - so far - to himself getting published in the newspaper. It'd be so obscure, perhaps; I myself see the event as something scary by nature, to the point that I only read the article online, because the photos aren't there. People might think this'll get them places, and I obviously don't think that way, but there's something with Dominic Morissette's last words in the article that somehow hit home. "You never know what happens next," he told Miss Rica about what makes documentaries so special. "So you have to be open!"

That section of the newspaper, though, remains closed - perhaps until I get to show it to Loui and Marcia, if they haven't yet. Or perhaps when I decide to have it framed and posted on my bedroom wall. At least it's clearer than my computer monitor, warranting an upgrade.

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