So How DO You Make a Living doing ‘Communication for Social Change’?: Notes on DevCom for the Uninitiated or Confused (Part 1)

RE de Leon resigned as an Assistant Professor of Development Communication at UP Los Baños four years ago.  To “find himself.”  This series is put together material from some of his personal notes during that time. He hopes readers of Words from the Land of Juan will find it at least informative, or if the reader is a young development communicator perhaps able to offer some practical help. This article is the first of three parts. RE de Leon can be reached at

So. How do you make your living as a “development communicator”?

Ask a development communicator that question and watch him/her squirm.

Radyo DZLB Transmitter, Los Banos Laguna

(Wikimedia Image: The transmitter of Radyo DZLB (1116 AM), "Ang Tinig ng Kaunlaran" in Los Baños, Laguna, owned and operated by the University of the Philippines Los Baños - College of Development Communication.)

If you ask what a Development Communicator does, there’s a quick answer: “We use communication to create positive social change.

Followed by a quick example, that answer will usually satisfy the inquirer’s curiousity.  Either that, or s/he gets scared of asking further lest s/he get a lecture for her efforts.  (And unfortunately, that’s usually what happens.)

On occasion, however, someone will ask a Development Communicator a follow up question like.“Wow, communication for social change sounds heavy. How do you make a living out of that?”

To be a DevCom graduate is to take pride in being able to explain things succinctly, so development communicators often find themselves tearing their hair off in search of a quick, simple answer.


But that’s because it ISN’T simple.

DevCom is a very wide field with several different, sometimes conflicting approaches to the practice.

If you understand those approaches, explaining “how you can make a living by doing “communication for social change” becomes much simpler.


The confusion stems from the fact that people tend to organize their understanding of Development Communication in terms of media, rather than professional philosophy.


Mass Communication, the communication course people think of when they hear “communication,” organizes its majors in terms of Print, Broadcast, and AudioVisual media because that course focuses on giving its graduates a technical proficiency in those specific communication tools.

And people tend to think of DevCom as similar to MassComm, so it makes sense that when people try to grasp the concept, they try to organize it along similar lines.

But Development Communication is supposed to be focused on how you can use communication (including, but not exclusive to media) to help make development happen.

MassComm is focused on tools, DevCom is focused on applications.


It doesn’t help that the the various institutions that teach DevCom in the Philippines have majors that are set up that way… Not that I’m blaming the schools. Academic fields are difficult to organize, the process takes time, and can be very contentious. Perhaps in a later I’ll talk about DevCom curricula, but on a different more DevCom-specific blog, since thelandofjuan caters to a much broader audience.


Whether you’re starting off your career in DevCom, trying to reevaluate your place in the field, or curious about the profession for some reason, it would be helpful to understand the broad approaches or work philosophies of the field

I’m looking forward to a career shift myself, so I’m spending some time reexamining these different philosophies  and thought I’d share.

For a moment, let’s forget the tools (Media), and let’s identify the ways communication is most often applied to the challenges of development:

1. Strategic communication in Development Programs (Strategic Communication)

2. Communication applied to Science (Science Communication)

3. Communication applied to Education (Educational Communiation)

4. Communication used to promote cultural awareness (“Cultural Work”)

5. Empowering Communities through Communication (Community Communication)

Each of these can take you to vastly different career experiences.  For example, strategic communication especially tends to present more lucrative options with grater stability.  Community communication tends to be much less lucrative, but often offers its practitioners a great deal more independence.


I have to break off here, but tomorrow I’m going to follow this post up soon with a brief look at each of these different approaches. And then hopefully I can close the series up with a historical look at how the profession became what it is today.

I also want to talk about Typhoon Juan, so I’ve got a lot of writing ahead of me. Call it penance for not having posted for so long.

See you tomorrow!



When tennis meets poetry

Ilia Uy is currently a Media Studies (Film) graduate student at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Tennis is her third love, after Christ and reading/writing.

Who would’ve thought that hitting a yellow ball within an “imaginary” box had anything to do with writing? I may have written about the connection I saw personally as a writer and a tennis fan on this blog before but this year’s Wimbledon solidified that unlikely bond by hiring a poet to write all throughout the tournament. Matt Harvey, a performance poet, holds a very official sounding job for a fortnight: Official Poet in Residence for the 2010 Championships.

I can’t think of any other tournament who would be as brazen as to assume that its tennis-loving audience would be interested in reading (and hearing) poetry for two weeks. (And what do you know — tennis fans are poets too! Some have submitted their own poems to the site.) But then again, this is the Grand Slam that still demands the players to wear “predominantly white” outfits.

It makes sense, actually. Wimbledon, arguably the Mecca of tennis, holds tight to traditions and still exhibits that elitist air that tennis as as sport has always been accused of.  It was the last of the Grand Slams to agree to equal pay for both men and women players — and to this day, Wimbledon often schedules just one women’s match and two men’s match on Centre Court. It is also during Wimbledon that spectators expect to see more of the “dying” art of serving and volleying. Wimbledon’s on-court snack and beverage? Pimm’s and champagne with strawberries and cream.

In the same way, poetry has been historically regarded as the highest form of literature. (Granted, there have been movements to lower poetry from its pedestal and strip it of its “snobbery.”) It’s a craft that demands more discipline, expects a more profound sensibility, and feeds more on the writer’s spirit and emotions. It has been studied that poets, more than any other kind of writers, die earlier.

It isn’t really that surprising a move for Wimbledon to make poetry a part of the tournament. And whatever the reason for its inclusion and no matter if it implies how traditional (to a fault) Wimbledon is, I am happy that two of my loves occupy the same space at least for two weeks. I mean, this definitely beats the vuvuzuela (which, by the way, Wimbledon banned. Haha!). (more…)

Published in: on July 3, 2010 at 4:06 AM  Comments (2)  
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Father’s Day Special: Sometimes you get lucky in the parent draw

Ilia Uy is currently a Media Studies (Film) graduate student at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. And because she has no background whatsoever in her chosen program, she is taking undergrad units with teenagers, mostly sophomores. She just realized how weird it is to be the “old classmate.”

When Michael Giacchino won the Oscar this year for Best Score for his work in the Disney-Pixar animated film “Up,” he gave the most inspiring — and yet the simplest — acceptance speech. Here’s an excerpt:

“When I was nine I asked my dad, “Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8mm camera that was in your drawer?” And he goes, “Sure, take it.” And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, “What you’re doing is a waste of time.” Never.”

This rings very true in my life. And I know how lucky I am. It’s not c0mmon  for creative people, especially writers, to have supportive, much less understanding, parents. Perhaps because the arts isn’t a conventionally profitable field and no parent wants their kid to starve (or to live in their basement forever).

The author and her dad in 2007. (Oh my gulay, my hair is horrible!)

Today is Father’s Day and I take this opportunity to give tribute to my dad and my mom for being awesome parents in this aspect.

First of all, I am amazingly blessed with parents who are readers. There are literally books all over our home. I was raised on the written word — not on toys or video games. By age two, I had memorized a Strawberry Shortcake book because my parents read it to me every night (or so they say :D). When I was five years old, my dad taught me to read for the first time using “The Little Red Hen.” Almost every month since I entered grade school, we’d go to National Bookstore and my dad would let us pick out a book to buy.


My childhood heroes weren’t TV characters. Yes, I watched Batibot, Sesame Street, and the popular anime shows of that time but my heroes were Anne of Green Gables, Bilbo Baggins, the four Pevensies, Wilbur the pig, and Charlotte the spider — all thanks to the love for reading my parents passed on to me. (more…)

12 for our 112th: Twelve Films for the long Independence Day Weekend

Until recently, RE de Leon was an Assistant Professor of Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He has since resigned to pursue new creative directions and is now a freelance writer based in Agoo, La Union. He can be reached via email at

With the long weekend coming up, I had a decision to make: what’s was the best way to celebrate the 112th Philippine independence day?

As I often tend to do, I followed up on a bad pun and decided I’d spend the day watching Filipino independent Films. Which led me to this idea for post on thelandofjuan.  Why not take 12 notable Filipino films and take advantage of the long weekend to promote Philippine filmmakers?

Twelve Filipino Films for the long 112th Philippine Independence Day Weekend

The author's pick of Twelve Filipino Films for the long 112th Philippine Independence Day Weekend:Mangatyanan, Bayaning 3rd World, Imelda, La Visa Loca, Gatas Sa DibDib ng Kaaway, Himala, 100, Namets, Endo, Mumbaki, Dekada 70, and Kubrador

I’ve only been a fan of Philippine cinema for a few years myself,  with Raymund Red’s Palm d’Or winning short film “Anino” opening my eyes to the incredible talent of our Filipino filmmakers.  So I’ve made this list for the Filipino film newbie – to those who have yet to discover or are only beginning to discover how good Filipino films can be, and I’ve tried to come up with a brief description of why I thought they were great.

These films – Mangatyanan, Bayaning 3rd World,  Imelda, La Visa Loca, Gatas Sa DibDib ng Kaaway, Himala, 100, Namets, Endo, Mumbaki, Dekada 70, and Kubrador range from comedy to  period drama to romantic comedy to documentary, so I hope there’s a little something there for everyone.  I’ve  tried to pick films that can be watched by barkadas together,  or, if the children are ready for somewhat mature fare in some of the films, by families.

So here they are.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.


Jerrold Tarog's "Mangatyanan," starring Che Ramos

1) Mangatyanan

This article begins with Mangatyanan because Mangatyanan got this entire idea rolling. I caught a short film (less than 10 minutes long) on Facebook one day called “Faculty” which was directed by Jerrold Tarog and starred Che Ramos.  When a search of both names revealed that they had both worked on a film called Mangatyanan, I remembered that I had it on my “rainy day viewing” DVD collection. Long story short, I took it out, watched it, and was completely blown away. Before the end of that day, I had seen the movie thrice (there are two commentary tracks on the DVD),  gone through the behind the scenes documentary and the comedy reel (both on the DVD), and written the previously nonexistent Wikipedia page for the movie… and oh, I instantly turned into a huge fan of Che Ramos.

So what’s the movie about? The “Mangatyanan” is a [fictional] ritual performed by the [fictional] Labwanan tribe which writer-director-editor-composer Tarog came up with as an allegory for the Filipino journey. The story of film revolves about travel photographer Himalaya Marquez (Che Ramos) who has been assigned to document the ritual. Laya gets a first hand look at the contradictions and hypocrisies lived out the dying out Labwanan, and begins to see parallels in her own life. In the Labwanan language, the “Mangatyanan” literally means “the blood trail.” Will Labwanan survive their Mangatyanan? Will Laya?

If you get a chance to watch the film, I hope you see why Ramos and Tarog transformed me in the space of two hours from a so-so supporter of the Filipino Independent Film industry into a true “you-have-to-go-watch-this” fan.

2) Bayaning 3rd World

“Hindi pampelikula ang buhay ni Rizal,” argues one of the main characters in this 2000 film. And if the many films out there about Rizal are any indication, they’re probably right.

Bayaning Third World

Mike de Leon's "Bayaning Third World"

A downside of the fact that Rizal wrote so much is that we know so much about him — too much, in fact, to digest properly into two or even three hours of film. Rizal the nationalist, the novelist, the doctor, the poet-orator, the womanizer, the good son, the champion fencer, even Rizal the lousy singer – all of them have to be crammed in there somewhere. While biopics by definition reduce their subjects to caricatures of themselves, the Filipino filmviewer knows Rizal too well to accept an oversimplification. And of course, since answers all too often lead only to more questions, our familiarity with Rizal results in controversy, posturing, and conspiracy theories. So the folks who made Bayaning third world came up with an obvious solution. They didn’t make a movie about Rizal. They made a movie about two filmmakers trying to make a movie about Rizal. The metanarrative structure allows them to explore Rizal with a depth no other Rizal film has achieved so far.

Bayaning 3rd World is humorously irreverent and yet respectful of the subject, skillful in its exploration both of the man and the legend.

In a way, it’s accurate to say the makers of Bayaning Third World cheated. They didn’t make a film about Jose Rizal. They made a film about us, living a hundred years later, trying to make sense of this Bayani, third world or not.

Ramona S. Diaz' "Imelda"

Ramona S. Diaz' "Imelda"

3) Imelda

Another documentary about another enigmatic figure in Philippine history – this time one still very much alive.

Filmmaker Ramona S. Diaz got permission to film former first lady Imelda Marcos up close for this film, but when it was finally released in 2003, she balked, saying that it made her appear like a “cheap flirt” and an “airhead, like a frivolous, wanton, extravagant woman at the expense of the poor”. Claiming that she gave permission for the film to be released only as an educational project, rather than a commercial release, she took Diaz and Co. all the way to the Makati Regional Trial court. Imeldific eventually allowed the film to be shown on the condition that it not be released with the word “documentary.”

Was Diaz’ film biased? Did it present an accurate picture of Imelda Romualdez Marcos? Grab a copy at your nearest DVD store or rental, and Decide for yourself. At the very least, you will have gained a closer look at Apo Macoy’s widow than most of us will ever have.


Confession from a Verbose Writer

Today’s post will be short. I got it off one of my Facebook posts:

Post: I apparently do not think in simple sentences. It’s almost as if the clauses can’t help but make an appearance. In college I solved this by writing everything thrice, simplifying more in every stage. That, unfortunately, is not a process well suited to Facebook. :S

Comment 1: It seems I can’t write simple sentences. I can’t help but add clauses to them all. In college I used to solve this by writing everything thrice, simplifying in stages. Unfortunately, that process isn’t Facebook friendly. :S

Comment 2: My sentences are too complicated. I can’t seem to help it. In college I had the time to simplify them during rewrites. But that’s hard to do on Facebook. :S

Until recently, RE de Leon was an Assistant Professor of Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He has since resigned to pursue new creative directions and is now a freelance writer based in Agoo, La Union. He can be reached via email


Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 10:55 PM  Comments (1)