“Mas grabe yung mararamdaman mo,” Cheryl Cosim points out. “You can experience bleeding gums and ears. Now I’m more careful on field. I’m more paranoid. It was really a wake-up call for me. I [was] so passionate with work dati na sige lang, kahit saan pumunta.”
Recently stricken with dengue, she recovered without knowing she’d been infected by the virus that causes the ominously-termed Breakbone Fever. Cheryl had all the symptoms: fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a mild skin rash—but she kept on working, mistaking it for the flu, albeit a vicious case thereof.
“I believe I got the virus during one of my out-of-town shoots,” she continues. “When I found out, I was actually already at the recovery stage. I didn’t even take a sick leave … I felt strong enough to go to work.” She shakes her head, thinking how dangerous things could have become while she was still on field, trying to help people, doing the journo thing.
This is Cheryl in disbelief at the resilience of her immune system despite being thankful for it. “I said: Mamamatay na lang ako, nagtratrabaho pa ako!”
Loving her vocation
She’s flourished since her move to the TV5 network in the summer of 2010, where she hosts a number of shows. She wakes up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to the live broadcast of Good Morning Club, then shoots weekend health and public service program Alagang Kapatid or other public service activities with the Alagang Kapatid Foundation. By 4:00 p.m., she’s back at the studio for her Aksyon newscast at 6:00 to 6:30 p.m.
While so many of her other broadcaster colleagues have relished how the public fetes news anchors just as well as movie stars, Cheryl displays a charming hesitation to embrace the stardust that’s enveloped many other colleagues. She begs the photographer to take it easy on her inexperienced self, that she’s usually the one behind the lens, not posing for its viewfinder.
You may have seen Cheryl on a former network, where she started from the ranks. Eventually she progressed to hosting programs and doing hourly news updates on TV, and a radio show. For around eight years she labored with nary a break on her seven-day work week. Her laid-back charm, abetted by her college-sweetheart beauty, has helped her become one of the most recognizable faces of local news TV—made more palatable by Cheryl’s succinct, soothing and classy anchoring style.
Now, she’s a full-fledged, card-carrying, scars-bearing journalist who’s paid her dues and earned her stripes more than a decade on. She’s also the Program Ambassador for PLAN International, a humanitarian, child-centered development organization working in 66 countries.
Cheryl joins that elite level of broadcasters who, beyond their skills at reportage and the newsroom battle, have parlayed their screen time and become associated with specialties. Just like Cheche Lazaro and Howie Severino are synonymous with the crossroads of culture and investigative journalism, or fellow TV5 host Lourd de Veyra for gonzo commentary on politics and Pinoy peculiarities—Cheryl joins this club as an expert in health and humanitarian service. Like them, she has become a brand.
Truth is, her brand is mercy, rescue and succor. Cheryl is the Mother Teresa equivalent of local TV. Her presence comforts those who see her on her medical missions, on assignment for her health show or on PLAN International work. Parents weep in relief, children are delivered from suffering. She finds financial help for specific health programs, and diverts funding from rich corporations and agencies with a social responsibility agenda to those who are in most need of it.
“When I do relief operations, medical missions, I think it’s really the public service aspect of it that gets me recognized more than being a personality,” she narrates. “It actually helps and comforts them, your presence at these very trying events, I think. Just you being there.” She confesses, “I sometimes get deeply affected by our case studies, and it is frustrating at times when I realize that I cannot be of bigger help to them. … I'm a social worker at heart. With my 16 years in the business, muwang ako sa realidad ng buhay. Araw-araw may humihingi ng tulong. It breaks my heart kapag wala akong magawa. Because of this, I get even more inspired to do public service.”
For someone who only thought about challenging herself when she auditioned for a broadcast job, the power of the profession to turn the spotlight on the kind of stories she wants to tell has fit her, bones to spirit.
How does such a busy person find the time for a fitness regimen? With the help of technology and a deep work-out plan, it seems. An app on her iPad efficiently puts her through an intense 30-minute workout. “I get to do this twice a week,” she says, “And if my schedule permits, I go to the gym for a dance class or time on the treadmill for extra cardiovascular exercise. I try to do new things when I have time. It’s a good thing I have a friend who encourages me to try different sports and workouts, so I’ve tried wall climbing with her, as well as badminton, Bikram Yoga and scuba diving. Our next project is to try Anti-Gravity Yoga, which looks a bit scary but fun.”
Downtime with the family
Cheryl married her beau, John Francis Alvarez, a banker and businessman, in a low-key wedding in the U.S. sometime 2008. “He knows the pressure [of working in media] and the crazy schedule,” she gestures with fluttering hands. “When we were still dating he already knew about my crazy schedule. There was a time on our first date, it was Valentine’s Day, we were having dinner and we never got to finish it. I had to go back to the office because of that Valentine’s Day bombing. Buti na lang we were just around the area!”
When Cheryl moved to TV5, she asked management to let her have weekends off. What does she do? “Sometimes I have movie or TV series marathons with my husband at home,” she sighs happily. “Just being with him also relaxes me.”
She and her husband would like to be blessed with their first child. “I’m 38 so I’m hoping that it’ll be soon, I really do,” she says.