At a very young age of seven, he started working as a takatak vendor in the streets of Cubao. When he turned 18, he tried his luck overseas and served as a fast food attendant for two years.
Now he is a renowned film maker and broadcast journalist. Having landed these two high profile jobs was an accident for Cesar Apolinario.
Back in high school, Cesar liked Mathematics. For him, “it is the most honest subject.”
“I hated speech and drama. I hated journalism. I was good in Math,” he said. “You can debate any issue on every subject but not with Math.”
He thought of becoming an accountant or a civil engineer back then. After working in Bahrain as a contractual employee, he took BS Accountancy for a year in the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA). However, everything changed when his English professor commended his work.
“My teacher approached me and said hindi daw ako bagay sa accountancy. Marunong daw ako magsulat pero I hated writing then,” Cesar said.
Though he was still doubting his writing skills, he transferred to the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He took a degree in Communication Arts and realized that he belonged there.
“Minsan pala ang magdidikta sa atin hindi kung ano yung gusto mong gawin. Minsan may nakikita ang ibang tao na hindi mo nakikita sa sarili mo.”
Apolinario started his stint in GMA Network as a cameraman for the documentary show I-Witness. After only six months, he became the person in front of the camera.
His first story entitled “Hubad na Bawang” was about a group of people who used soap and gasoline to peel garlic which was sold to fast food chains.
“Yung unang istorya ko gave me the idea that nose for news literally really works. Naamoy ko kasi yung bawang at hinanap kung saan siya,” he said.
The film maker-reporter considers enterprising stories as worth watching. “I like stories close to my heart, close to the masses, close to my mind, heart and stomach. These are stories that will inspire people.”
“There is something about small stories that motivate me to work on it. It pushes me to work hard and research some more. Gusto ko ng challenge,” he added.
From straight news reporting, viewers see a different side of him as one of the hosts of the news feature program I Juander.
Apolinario decided to do the show to help promote the Filipino culture. “You have to be proud of yourself and your culture. Hindi mo kailangang sabihin na napakayaman ng bansa natin, dahil hindi naman. Pero we have a rich culture na kailangang ipagmalaki,” he said.
According to him, despite its small budget, I Juander has won several local and international awards and continues to have a strong following.
“Hindi namin kailangang maghanap ng pinakamahirap na Pilipino sa bansa, o ng pinakamatinding sakit para paiyakin ang tao. Yung kultura natin ay hindi tungkol sa poverty, sa award, sa pagmamalaki. It is about the Filipinos.”
“There is no big story basta enterprising ang mga tao,” he added.
Aside from being a reporter and documentarist, he is also a film director. In 2007, he was hailed as the best director in the annual Metro Manila Film Festival for his film “Banal”.
While studying in UST, Apolinario also took filmmaking subjects in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
In his third year in college, he got the chance to work as a production assistant for Peque Gallaga.
Cesar commits himself in every story he does. “I always put my heart, my mind, and soul in every story that I do, including the images.”
Being a film director helps him deliver his stories as a journalist. “Images speak a thousand words. Kahit simpleng istorya lang ‘yan, para sa akin hindi, dahil napa-proccess ko siya. Pero you cannot manipulate news. Nagagamit ko rin yung dos and don’ts.”
Conversely, being a reporter also helps him in filmmaking. “When I’m directing I make sure that my story is real and it is really happening… that it will inspire us Filipinos.”
Despite working in the film industry and broadcast media at the same time, he manages to balance the demands of both fields.
“Film making is evolving as well as broadcast media and writing. There is a really big disparity between the old and the new. It is up to you how you would mix both worlds,” Cesar said. “I’m proud to say that tamang timpla lang ang ginagawa ko.”
“Banal” was followed by “Puntod” which earned him the Best Digital Movie Director award from Star Awards. His most recent movie project was the “Dance of the Steel Bars.”
Listening to joys and miseries
He admitted that his work in media is tiring and that meeting new people is the best part of his job.
“Pwede kong kausapin ang president, pinaka mahirap na Pilipino sa bansa, at pati si Pope. The magic is I love my job. Meeting these people is knowledge itself.”
“Kung sino man ang haharap sa akin, kahit pinakamahirap na tao sa mundo, that interview would say a lot something about myself kasi may matututunan ako,” he added.
As a media practitioner, he confessed that there are things that the media need to improve on.
“Sometimes we forget to listen and I think that is the job of a reporter,” he said. “When I say listen, I mean being with them and listening to their joys, miseries, and challenges.”
“Life is a two way traffic, ganun din ang media. When you listen to people’s misery you have to report it unbiased. Be truthful about your story,” Cesar added.
He also considers the importance of social media in doing the action.
“Importante siya dahil we hear the voices of the unheard. Netizens now are journalists themselves,” he said. “It actually helps in shaping the nation. Para siyang linya ng telepono na dating wala, pero ngayon na-bridge niya yung gap.”