REMEMBERING: Celebrating Noralyn Mustafa

 

(Raz de la Torre wrote this piece on March 31, 2021, a day after receiving news that Noralyn Mustafa had passed away. “I would like to take a moment to celebrate her,”  says Raz)

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews / 04 April) –  I wasn’t close to Noralyn. I met her through Carolyn O. Arguillas when I was still a graduating senior in UP doing a documentary on the media coverage of war and terrorism in Mindanao.

I wasn’t close to Noralyn. I met her through Carolyn O. Arguillas when I was still a graduating senior in UP doing a documentary on the media coverage of war and terrorism in Mindanao.

Most of what I knew of Noralyn was from her articles in her PDI column “Kris-Crossing Mindanao.” Because of my thesis, hers was among the few columns I followed in PDI until I stopped my subscription to printed newspapers altogether.

Aside from sending her a copy of our documentary, I didn’t really keep in touch with her.

However brief my encounter with Noralyn was, this photo with her, her daughter Selena, and this little kid named Karkar whom we met during our three-day stay in Jolo remains one of my most treasured photos from college. I still have it framed here in my home.

Framed photo. L to R: Selena Baling, Noralyn Mustafa, thesis partner Joni Mosatalla with Karkar and Raz de la Torre in early 2001. Photo courtesy of Raz de la Torre

To me, Noralyn represented the best of Mindanao – passion and generosity. It didn’t matter that my thesis partner and I were two clueless kids who were only starting to understand what true journalism was about. She treated us with respect – like equals. None of my questions were stupid. She welcomed us into her home, eager to make us understand the issues that her people and her colleagues faced, not minding that our investigation was a simple student documentary with no captured audiences in mind. My thesis partner and I WERE the audience. And we were enough.

That affected me profoundly. I felt how important it was for her to tell their stories, and I realized how important it was for her that I listened with my heart.

That student documentary has always been a source of pride. Every opportunity I get, I share it with people for them to watch. Not only because of the hard work that went into its production, but firstly because of the precious stories we were able to gather and capture on tape. I wanted people to watch it because I owed it to the people of Mindanao. The storytellers of Mindanao. People like Noralyn.

It is only now that I am beginning to realize that my time with Noralyn and all those people I met in Mindanao influenced the kind of storyteller that I have become. Someone who aspires to listen without prejudice. Someone who tells the story for its intrinsic value, not just for the audiences who could hear them.

L to R: Selena Baling, Noralyn Mustafa, thesis partner Joni Mosatalla with Karkar and Raz de la Torre in early 2001. Photo courtesy of Raz de la Torre

Noralyn was opinionated – but also funny, articulate, and unfiltered. She matched all that with a kindness and generosity that made me feel like Mindanao was home. And I still do whenever I visit.

I hope we never forget what a great journalist and storyteller Noralyn was. I hope she knew she made an impact on people like me.  

(Raz de la Torre has been a professional storyteller in film and television for almost 20 years, and a passionate educator for half as long. Raz earned his Masters Degree with Distinction in Filmmaking at the London Film School. He penned films like ‘A Very Special Love’ and directed the award-winning, critically acclaimed primetime shows ‘A Soldier’s Heart,’ ‘The Killer Bride,’ and MMK, all recognized by Asian Creative Academy Awards. He is also the Executive Producer of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts’ Dayaw on ANC and teaches Broadcast Media Arts & Studies at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. Raz posted this piece on his FB page on March 31, 2021. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this)

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