If Comfort was a person: things I’ve learned from Ms. Ada
Whenever I write personality profiles, I usually look for something that strikes me most about the person. In the case of Ada Marie Sibayan-Bédard, it was her general warmth as a person. There’s something about watching someone whose name you’ve heard and whose face you’ve seen countless times on television speak animatedly to you.
Back when I was in elementary school, I would always hear her extro spiel, “Ada Sibayan, ABS-CBN News,” whenever my mother was watching the television. I also used to watch her in the morning news before leaving for school. At that time, I never would have thought that now I’m in college, I’d be speaking to her via Google Meet and that she’d be narrating her experiences to me and my groupmates.
Before the interview, I was more nervous than I usually am. I didn’t know how I would act. I wanted to be formal. After all, she’s someone I wanted to be like, back when I was a child until now. But then, when she joined the call, I was taken off-guard. I didn’t expect that she would be in what I thought was her comfortable pyjamas, sitting on (I think) the floor of her room. I suddenly felt overdressed. It didn’t take long, however, before her warmth seemed to radiate from the screen and into me. Before I noticed, I was immersed in the beauty of how she let us know her.
The story of why she was in the BA Communication program was a classic. Countless people chose their programs on the day of the enrollment itself, and I love hearing stories like that. However, when it came from her, there was a tinge of fondness in her memory — how her friend encouraged her, and how uncertain she was of what program to choose — the naivety and innocence of being a fresh high school graduate. Nevertheless, she knew that she took the right path. It was evident during a series of periods of times in her life. That story in itself was an assurance to me. If she believed that she made the right choice, even if it was something of a snap decision, then maybe I did too, since I dreamed of being in this program since fifth grade.
When we asked her whether what she learned in college was enough to prepare her for the real world, I was surprised to hear her say that it wasn’t. “You get, like, little grains of reality, but in the end, I have to tell you that that was not enough.” This was followed by her telling us to be patient and to make an effort. For her, being immersed in the field, having experience, and mastering her skill was the compensation that she needed. At this point, I noticed that she has a positive approach towards the events in her life. In the way she tells her story, she narrates it from the point of view of someone who knew that things would be okay — that she can make things okay.
Another thing that I noticed when she was recounting one of the times she felt she was on the right path — she’s as human and genuine as the people she described; she said that the people we see on camera are normal people and that she felt like she belonged with those people. As she said that, I truly agreed with her belongingness. She was, as someone who used to be a journalist and always on camera, as normal as we all are off camera. The way she described people on camera is how I would describe her as well. I can see why she felt like she belonged.
Her stories weren’t all the Live, Laugh, Love type, though. We asked her if there was something she wished she knew before working on the field, and she said, “I wish I had known that… there are people existing in this world who will be mean to you, who will be very harsh to you, and who will threaten your life.” This was one of the rare times in the interview when we weren’t all smiling the whole time. She said that she wasn’t mentally and psychologically prepared for those kinds of people. She warned us that we will meet those people, and it will be out of our control. There will be those who will be mad at us even when we’re doing the right thing. Honestly, I didn’t expect that she would respond that way, but it gave me a glimpse of one of her experiences that shaped the strength of her personality.
This strength was evident in the way she told us to be real. She further explained that to be genuine means to be realistic: to consider our realities and abilities when we go out in the field one day. “You have to train yourself and tell yourself that ‘Okay, maybe I don’t have to do that today… maybe I should take it slow.’” It was a reminder not only to be real, but also one to take care of ourselves when we work, because we may reason that we can always do everything every time. She also added that in the industry, “You have to be authentic. You have to be yourself.” Being fake If we’re not true to ourselves, it will give us fake results. To me, this was a sign of her strength. It takes so much for someone to be themselves in a world where everyone is masked.
And then, another beautiful trait she has manifested. I noticed that Ms. Ada has an appreciation for people, for workers specifically. When we asked her where she would be if she wasn’t in her current career, she said she’d be in the countryside, living the “probinsyana” life. Afterwards, she said something about farmers that warmed my whole being: “Farmers are good people, they feed you.” It was a simple thing to say, really. But as someone who comes from a family of farmers, what she said meant a lot to me. She also explained how hard it is to be an Overseas Filipino Worker, as that’s what she is right now. She emphasized that OFWs are not “bank accounts”; that working abroad does not mean that you have instant money. “The world is so unfair. There’s the rich, and the poor, and the people in between.”
Additionally, not only is she appreciative of the working class, but also very empathetic and sympathetic towards them. We were unable to ask for her opinion about the closure of ABS-CBN, where she used to work, and it took me by surprise that she was the one who brought it up. She could hardly think about the owners and those in the higher positions in the company. Her heart went to the people working in the news and current affairs. “They had this connection and we fostered really good relationships. We were like family. And people outside the company would not understand that.” Even from a foreign country, where she was not directly affected by what happened, Ms. Ada was with those who lost their jobs, with those who worked for their families, and with those whose lives were lived working at ABS-CBN.
By the end of the interview, I was able to grasp the general personality of Ms. Ada. She’s a people person: in the way she cares about the people she meets, and lives her life surrounded by people she loves. I was a bit sad when we finished the interview. Not only was it very assuring and enlightening to talk to her, but it was also very comforting. I feel as though if comfort was a person and not an abstract idea, it would be in the person of Ms. Ada. Her parting words to us were, “It’s going to be a rough journey… if ever along the way you feel frustrated or disappointed, it’s not because you did something bad, it’s not because you’re bad… you have to just go on. Just let go of the negative things and if there are challenges, I think you just have to brace yourself and… always take it slow. Like, step back, think about it, be aware. Self-awareness is very important.”
At present, Ada Marie Sibayan-Bédard is happily married in Montreal, Canada, and works as a Senior Digital Specialist at Fednav Limited. You can visit her Instagram account here, and her professional profile here.