On further learning and finishing my masters

Today, I just submitted my final requirement for my masters — and just like that, this quest for further learning has come to an end. Cliche as it goes, time does go fast. Almost one year ago, I left the Philippines in pursuit of a masters degree in Media and International Development at the University of East Anglia. I have been a media and communications practitioner in the non-profit sector for seven years, but felt like I didn’t have a strong foundation to stand on. I wanted a theory to my praxis, to better understand the world around me.

The decision to take the course was pushed by two things: 1.) the growing distrust on Philippine media, fake news, and social media influence in our democratic processes and 2.) the need for better science communications, especially on disasters and climate change (remember when we had 10,000 deaths because LGU’s said they didn’t understand what ‘strom surge’ meant?). In my one year of study, I have learned so many things, and in the process questioned if what I have been doing was right all along.

Many times I’ve become cynical: that journalism in the Philippines will always be bound to advertisers or private institutions and will never be just for public service; that communications in the charity/humanitarian sector will only either perpetuate poverty pornography or just be concerned about branding, or worse, adhere to the capitalist system by selling products and trying to “sexify” advocacies. And then there’s the issue of participatory communications and Freire’s the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which is excellent in theory but which I’ve always questioned if possible in practice. Oh, and maybe using personalities for advocacies is actually questionable? See, these are things I’ve been doing and suddenly I’m left thinking I’ve been doing it wrong all along.

But that’s what further learning is for — to re-assess and question what we thought we knew, to be critical of our own work, to be uncomfortable with ourselves. This is when learning happens. When we are always comfortable, when we never question ourselves, that’s when we stop learning. There is always room to grow, but only if we allow ourselves to be stripped naked of the knowledge and beliefs we hold.

I think I have more questions now than ever before, but I know that I will now continue my work with a better understanding of how media and communications intertwine with development work. There is so much work to do, and I hope I can do my part well.