Saturday, September 22, 2018

Writing for TV: An Interview with Augie Rivera

Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’s (KMJS) episode on Child Pornography begins with a story written by Augie Rivera. It is for me, a new form of telling a true story as it shifts to actual reports and documentary on online sexual exploitation of children. Televised last September 9, 2018, you can watch the episode by clicking this link to Niña Inocente.

This week, dear readers of the blog, Augie Rivera affords us an interview about the issue on child pornography, human trafficking and online sexual exploitation, and writing for TV.

How did Nina came to be and what was your approach in writing a theme or a true life story on online sexual exploitation of children?


I was commissioned by KMJS Program Manager LJ Castel to write a children’s story tackling child porn to supplement their special documentary on the subject. I think it’s a fantastic concept— to present a very heavy and sensitive subject matter and intersperse it with light, colorful, whimsical take that will make the whole presentation more compelling/interesting to a wider audience market. More importantly, iwill help attract the younger age group whom we also want to target and enlighten about the sad plight of these children of cyberporn. (after airing: it worked! A lot of twitter fans took note that the concept of mixing the ‘heavy/serious and light/colorful made it more accessible to the audiences, even to young children. I read a comment that his 6-yr old was engrossed watching, and asking questions that were not clear to her, which was good!)


While I was reading through the voluminous research materials sent to me by the program, I came across this interview of an eighteen year old recounting the harrowing experiences she went through when she fell victim to cyberporn at the tender age of eight. She said: ‘hindi ko po alam na mali pala ginagawa ko… na nabibiktima na pala ako… ang alam ko lang, kumikita ako ng pera, nakakatulong ako sa amin.”This became my inspiration for ‘Nina Inocente.’


How did you conduct research for this project?


I have already written quite a number of children’s books tackling sensitive topics and children in difficult circumstances like: “Ang Lihim ni Lea” (on incest/child sexual abuse), ‘Mantsa’ (on verbal abuse), ‘Isang Harding Papel’ (on Martial Law), ‘Xilef’ (on dyslexia), ‘Batang Historyador series (historical fiction set during different historical periods) and others. And always, research plays an important part of pre-writing stage. Aside from all the research materials and interviews provided to me, I also brushed up on a lot of online articles and books on child porn, psychology, therapy, etc., as well as on other reported cases. I also consulted some Cebuano-speaking writer-friends on some of the Cebuano terms that I intended to use in the story.

Art by Juno Abreu

This is not your first story on a sensitive issue regarding children. What metaphors came up that formed Nina and characters in the story?


In tackling such sensitive topics, the challenge is always to come up with a story that young audience can easily relate to, with a character that’s compelling and memorable. Nina is not your typical pa-sweet, goody two-shoes little girl— she’s boyish, makulit, rough, techie-mahilig sa computer, active imagination, but also loves to play with dolls. Many kids love playing RPG or role-playing games on the computer, so I made use of that. The ironic thing is it was also the device used by the computer shop ownerAte Guwapa, who was like a wicked Pied Piper who lured her unsuspecting victims into the vicious web of cyberporn. The recurring image of the Sto. Nino in the story was utilized not for religious but for symbolic purposes— like a ‘silent witness’ to the ongoing abuses and exploitation of ‘niños inocentes’ or innocent children.


What is the purpose of this kind of storytelling, where fictional charcaters are meshed with real people and events? Will it solve issues and problems, particulalry the exploitation of children?


A simple story cannot claim to ‘help address (or even solve) this problem on child pornography.’ But it serves a two-pronged purpose: 

a) to empower and give hope to children who are going through similar situations first-hand; 

b) and to teach empathy to children who are lucky enough not to be in such difficult circumstances.


Nagbibigay ng lakas ng loob kapag nakita ng mga batang biktima na hindi sila nag-iisa, at may iba ring mga batang may parehong pinagdadaanan; kung kinaya ng bidang ma-overcome, kaya rin nila. 


Kapag ine-expose natin ang mga bata sa iba’t ibang karanasan, na kakaiba sa kanilang mga sariling karansan, pinalalawak natin ang kanilang pagtanggap at pag-unawa; sa vicarious experience, natuturuan silang mag-isip, maging kritikal, magtanong tungkol sa mga complex issues; at ine-empower din natin sila para alam nila ang mga dapat gawin kung sakaling malagay sila sa parehong sitwasyon.


Augie Rivera will give a talk on Using Children’s Literature for Learning About History at the Benitez Hall, UP Diliman on September 29, 2018, 1-4PM. 

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