MNP Q&A: Claire Delfin, Correspondent for GMA News

By Media Newser Philippines | Tuesday, May 06, 2014

As the world of Philippine television news evolves, there will always be a special place for real journalists like Claire Delfin.

Now in her mid-30s, Delfin has covered a wide variety of stories for GMA News, most notably, her stories which delved on social social justice issues. "I can easily relate to women and children's issues. When I look at other children, I think of my own children. When I look at other women, I think of my own life as a woman. And that is where I see the connection. Its depth provides a mine of stories worthy of telling," she said.

With her passion in writing and storytelling, Delfin has won numerous international awards including one from the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) for the article she wrote called "Palengskwela: Bringing the school to the market." Locally, she was hailed as "The Most Loved Journalist for TV" by Psoriasis Philippines.

Media Newser Philippines caught up with one of TV's #tunaynajourno and dig deeper to her life and career as a journalist, why social justice issues have an impact on her, and many others.

Be sure to be part of the discussion on Twitter by tweeting us @medianewserphil or posting your comments on our Facebook page.

Name: Melclaire Sy Delfin
Birthdate: Feb. 13, 1978
Occupation: Journalist
Education: MA Journalism, Ateneo de Manila University
Bachelor in Mass Communication, Silliman University
Guiding Principle: Find your passion and use it for a greater good
Media Idols: Howie Severino, Malou Mangahas, Cheche Lazaro
News Sources: GMA News (TV and Online), Inquirer, Rappler, CNN, BBC, Time Magazine, Washington Post
Twitter Handle: @claire_delfin

Hello Claire! Let's start with a little introduction. Who is Claire Delfin on-cam and off-cam?
On-cam, I am a Senior Correspondent of GMA Network. I have been with GMA for 9 years now, in the industry, 14 years.

Off-cam, I am a wife and a mother, preferring to stay at home with my family whenever I am not at work. I love nature and any place quiet. I love to indulge in free-flowing conversations over coffee with my husband, siblings and friends.

Let's reflect on your humble beginnings. What was your first job after graduating from College?
I moved to Manila right after graduating from college. It marked among the hardest in my life. Used to a slow-paced life in the province, I had the biggest culture shock when I set foot in Metro Manila. I had no money. I relied heavily on the graciousness of my relatives. Job hunting was a real tough job too.  Despite my academic credentials, I would have to munch rejections for lunch. Then I got my first job in Makati a typical 9 AM-5 PM corporate office work. My friend later invited me to join him as an online news reporter. I gladly heeded. I spent the next five years as an online news writer before moving on to TV as correspondent.

Did you always plan on pursuing a career in journalism?
As early as high school, I already saw myself becoming a journalist. I was an editor of our school paper. I felt my skills set is cut for that.

2014: With her award from the  
Department of Health for her 
piece published on GMA News Online.
What and who inspired you to join this business?
I am not sure if there was anyone who drove me to it. But to my memory, I enrolled in journalism because I was convinced that it was what I wanted.

What is journalism for you? I am sure for a journo like you, it's more than just a profession, right?
Yes, it is more than that. It is a calling. You need to have the heart for public service, be ready to sacrifice so much in search for stories, for truth that people should know.

In one of your interviews, you said: "Hindi pa-cute ang maging journalist. It’s the passion. It’s the sense of public service. Pag wala ka no’n, kung gusto mo lang sumikat, forget it, ang daming frustrations pag ka ganon. There are just a few who could get that. It’s not for everybody." I have to agree with you on that one. This is actually rampant in most of the local networks. I appreciate that you have the guts to say that. So, what's your definition of a real journalist?
To become famous wasn't and isn't my dream. Fame was never my motivation in doing my job. And it's sad that there are some who enjoy the glitz and glamour of TV so much, they forget they are first and foremost journalists. You see them when you watch their reports and you get to have the feel that they are the center of their stories.

I know of broadcasters who are really famous but when you ask about them in the industry, you'd gather that they are not exactly regarded highly by peers. I dont want to belong to that block. I would rather be a nobody on the street, my face unrecognizable by many, but my colleagues see me as one who is doing my job and delivering stories as they are, no more, no less.

What’s the best and worst part of working in the industry?
The worst part has always been sacrificing time with family. The best is the respect you get from people. They know they can't fool you. And you know you are not fooling them.

You've been rewarded with a slew of international awards and those are no small feat, Claire. Locally, you've been called "the most loved journalist for TV." How would you respond to that?
I am very honored by these awards and these always get me to reflect on things about my job. For one, when the Psoriasis Philippines emailed me to tell me that the organization had chosen to name me as the "Most Loved Journalist for TV," I thought it was a joke.

I recalled having covered the group only once. I didn't feel I deserve the recognition. So I asked them, why me? And they responded that of the many reporters who come to cover them, I was the only TV reporter (that time, I guess) who showed interest and the sincerity to understand their issue. I can't speak for other reporters, but yes, the first time I covered the psoriasis patients, I didn't know so much about psoriasis and the degree of discrimination they face. So I spent more time lounging with them, asking more questions, even when all other reporters have left.

2011: Winning the 2010 SEAMEO-
Australia Press Award 
for her piece "Palengskwela."
Definitely, I didn't expect an award. But when I reflected on it, it made me realize that it's good that you don't pretend to know a lot, that it's also good that you haven't covered every issue on the planet. Only then, you'd become hungry for more information. And only then that you can truly lend your ears to voices yearning to be heard.

And what has driven you all these years?
My family is my prime source of inspiration. They keep me driven. My husband's unwavering support tells me that I am capable of achieving my fullest potential. I am still not there though. But I am pushing myself day by day, discovering and seizing new opportunities to make myself better - professionally and personally.

My children serve as my constant reminder that I am doing all these for them. And I need to keep things in proper balance. When times, however, are crucial and I need to choose between the call of duty and them, they know that I am a mother first. My children will always be my topmost priority.

You have a passion in stories concerning social justice issues and much of it focuses on women and children. Does it have a personal impact on you?
I can easily relate to women and children's issues. When I look at other children, I think of my own children. When I look at other women, I think of my own life as a woman. And that is where I see the connection. Its depth provides a mine of stories worthy of telling.

Your investigative background is sort of limited online. Would you want to do more of that on TV?
TV, unfortunately, has limited airtime. Fact is, there are many reporters who came way ahead of me. They deserve their breaks. I need to wait for my time to come. But, fortunately, there is the internet. It's infinite universe has given me the chance to do investigative reports anytime. I'm thankful to Howie Severino and his entire GMA News Online team. I get the sense that they are always happy to accept my submissions. I couldn't be more grateful.

In your years of being a journalist, what story that you covered took you most by surprise? Could you tell us something about that.
Children's sexual behaviors. I wrote it at a time when sex was not really seen as a public issue. It was confined to the privacy of one's bedroom, and that children have nothing to do with it.

That story gave me my first international award. But more than the award, the story caught me by total surprise. It shocked me, I felt the rush to write it at once so parents may know that their children know more than what they thought so.

And what story are you most proud of in your career?
My investigative report on child porn is one. I intend to write a book about it. I'm not proud, of course, of the story itself. It's a sad story. In the multimillion-dollar global industry that is child porn, more and more Filipino children fall prey.

Can you describe your daily routine as a GMA News correspondent?
At work at 9 AM (it can go as early as 4 AM), I get final assignment from the news desk, schedules the day's interviews, calls sources/interviewees, covers the story (from rallies on the street to a presscon in a cozy hotel),  does live reports in between, writes scripts, supervises video editing for evening newscasts. Usually, at home at 8 PM. But again, when stories are rough, it can go as late as 1 AM or even 4 AM, making it a 24-hour, round-the-clock job.

Who among the people you have met/interviewed had the biggest impact on you both personally and professionally and why?
I met Fil-Am billionaire Loida Nicolas-Lewis. She is a woman for others. Her philanthropy is inspiring.

What do you think is lacking in the local networks' news programming?
Many things. But these are the same things that are left wanting too in the media networks of more established democracies like in the West. The key is a conscientious effort to practice journalism to its highest standards possible. And that is what we always strive to do at GMA Network despite the many odds that reality itself has long set before us.

You are among the famous alums of Siliman University along with ABS-CBN's Ina Reformina. How has the institution shaped your view as a journalist and as a Filipino?
Our motto in Silliman is Via, Veritas, Vita or The Way, The Truth, The Life. Silliman has successfully inculcated this motto in my head that I believe it has become part of my character as a journalist, as a Filipino and as a person.

How do juggle time as a journalist and as a wife and mother of three kids?
What I can't do in quantity, I make it up in quality. Quality time with hubby and kids is key.

Any hints of future writers/journo in your family?
My eldest son, Jag, is a good writer. At a very young age, he was already showing a great deal of interest in the world of letters. He started reading at age 2, writing journals at 5, and got hooked to Hardy Boys detective novels at 7. Now, at 12, he explores Dan Brown titles for his leisure reading and the Time Magazine for his news source. In Ateneo, he belongs to the class of ten that receives advanced Communication Arts lessons under the school's Gifted Intervention Scheme. He is also in the same Ateneo program for advanced Mathematics. He loves playing with numbers and competes in math contests.

His brother Jorge who is in Xavier School is also a math lover. He looks at a math problem like an exciting game of puzzle blocks. My third is still a baby. I am just as excited to see what her interests would be.

But if I were to have my way, I would want them to concentrate more in Math. Math is the language of science, of technology, of engineering. These are what our country needs to build industries at par with that of South Korea and Singapore. We Filipinos are too conscious about English grammar but put little premium on science and math. We have to change this mindset. But then again, I am just my children's mother. I am not their own person. I give my children the liberty to find their passion and the happiness to pursue it.

What do our MNP readers and TV viewers should know more about you?
I am one proud 'Bisdak' or 'Bisayang Dako.' I wish that all Filipinos will learn to recognize and respect the various languages and dialects that make us one people.

If you could be given a chance, what do you want to do next?
There are many things I want to do. I'm constantly praying for God's guidance. Until it happens, I feel I am not yet ready to talk openly about any of these.

What's the best advice you can give to aspiring journalists out there? Any useful tips you can share especially to the graduates of 2014?
Journalism is tough. You have to know what you want before you take a dive. If you want to be rich, find another job. If you dream to be famous, join showbiz. Journalism is an often thankless profession. It requires so much of you but rewards you with so little. Like priests, only those who have the 'calling' can get it through. Also, don get fooled by fame. It's not the exact barometer of a journalist's integrity.

This interview was conducted weeks before Howie Severino made his departure as editor in chief of GMA News Online.