Stranded in Cainta

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Sept 20 Crossing Cainta by Anjo

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our strides were slow, taking care not to slosh the water in large ripples. The rain had stopped past midnight, but the water in the dimly lit highway rose further up our limbs as we walked on. The occasional ten-wheeler drove by, making waves and raising howls from people who like us were wading through the flood in a single file.

“I can’t remember the last time I walked this deep in water,” said anchorwoman Ces Drilon.

She had been reporting live for Bandila from an upslope part of the Ortigas Avenue Extension in Cainta, Rizal. It was our broadcast point the whole afternoon and evening, trapped between two impassable pools of water caused by monsoon rains strengthened by Tropical Storm Mario.

Ces and her staff’s only hope of returning home lay in a Ford 4×4 Ranger sporting a snorkel. The Ranger also carried food and water for our Electronic News Gathering (ENG) van team, which expected to stay for the night.

Noel Padernal often hauls plastic and metal junk on his pedicab. The rains did not stop him from finding a means to earn. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Noel Padernal drives a pedicab through the flood. He usually hauls plastic and metal junk with it. The rains did not stop him from finding a means to earn. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But the Ranger could no longer park. The pileup of stranded trucks at the upslope already extended to the water. The driver could not risk stopping his crew cab in the flood to wait. Before long, he turned and drove back to dry road at the Ever Gotesco mall a kilometer away.

Ces had no extra boots, only sneakers. Then again, donning boots would not keep the thigh-deep water out of her jogging pants. With time ticking and no dry options in sight, Ces, her producer Ferdie and researchers Irish and Niño shrugged and stepped into the water.

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SLIDESHOW: Zambo evacuees a year on

ZAMBO EVAC 25

ZAMBOANGA CITY– For many locals who fled their homes during the height of the clashes between government troops and the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013, this has been their residence for the past 12 months.

The open-air Joaquin F. Enriquez Sports Complex has sprung its own community in that time, with the evacuees there building their daily routines on the makeshift cabins and amenities there.

They are now a fraction of the original 110,000 occupants of the stadium, with new arrivals from tents at the bayside. Those who already left returned to the affected barangays, others to temporary shelters in four areas in the city.

City Hall says the sports complex will be vacated by December, the evacuees to transfer to these so-called “transitional sites”.

For now, they continue to pray, play and survive in a village that’s not theirs. They fear not the specter of another armed siege, but of carrying on life with no permanent means to sustain it.

Read more about the evacuees here.
Many thanks to Chito Concepcion, whose camera was used to take these shots.

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Waiting for a permanent address

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Muslim refugees pray at a makeshift mosque at the Joaquin F Enriquez Sports Complex in Zamboanga City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ZAMBOANGA CITY–The midday call to Muslim prayers blares from a megaphone atop a tent of donated canvas.

Inside on plastic matting, no more than ten men stand, sit, and bow, doing the positions of the salah. Their muddied slippers and sandals wait outside. One man hurries to wash his head, upper body, and limbs with water from a soft drink bottle—the ritualistic cleanse before going in to pray.

The makeshift masjid or mosque stands unnoticeably amid more tents and shanties at the grounds of the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, just a walk near the bay.

It’s the city’s main stadium, but for the tens of thousands of locals here, this has been their house, playground, workplace, and village for the past year.

They once lived in barangays like Rio Hondo, Santa Catalina, and Santa Barbara. But a three-week-long firefight between soldiers and rebels that began exactly 12 months ago razed their communities, left hundreds dead, and forced them from their homes and livelihood.

Here at the grandstand, the year that passed hosted an endless cycle of status quos and struggles for survival. For some, it’s only gotten worse, with no end in sight.
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When a train speeds off-track

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The news day of August 13 was already slowing down and winding up. At 3 p.m., the lineup for that night’s TV Patrol was already set, and there were hardly any big stories.

The so-called “Butcher”, Jovito Palparan, years at large, was quietly under NBI custody. Food costs were rising again, and I was getting ready to leave the office for a live price watch at the Commonwealth wet market.

Then at 4, my boss said, “Cancel that. You’re going to EDSA Taft.”

People in the newsroom were now standing up, clumped around desktop PCs, and hurrying about. They were saying a carriage of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) plying EDSA had derailed.

Was it true? Everyone looked for proof on social media.

They soon found one, a picture posted by a Twitter user, @ryandgreat. The shot was greeted with gasps. It seemed like the movie “Speed” come to life–minus an explosion. The train had run off in a barrage of debris past the EDSA-Pasay Taft station and onto the asphalt of the Pasay Rotonda.


Writers at the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) scrambled to break the incident in their ongoing newscast with the shot, while crews from the network hadn’t arrived. The pic was being re-tweeted by other news orgs. But a breaking news producer shouted, “Huwag gamitin si @ryandgreat! Taga-TV5 siya!

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To Saudi with ‘Love’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Andy and Mabel in Polaroid

In Polaroid.

It was a crazy idea. She was already an up-and-coming manager in a Makati-based firm. Her husband was an architect abroad. They already had a house, a car, and two rowdy toddlers. And now he wanted them to live with him in a country she’d never been to?

Her hubby–they called each other ‘Love’–wasn’t away for too long anyways. He regularly flew home–but not for long. Like many wives in similar situations, she also earned her share in the family budget, took care of the kids, and eagerly waited for each letter, photo, or cassette tape that came in the mail.

She was already used to the state of things. Leaving that and practically starting a new leaf just didn’t seem right.

And yet in 1994, barely six years after getting married to Andy Bagaoisan, Mabel and her sons Anjo, 5, and Nico, 3, boarded a direct flight to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Alone in Las Pinas: Mabel, Nico, Anjo

Alone in Las Pinas: Mabel, Nico, Anjo

At the back of her mind, Mabel could not yet shake off her uneasiness. It was summed up in one question: What would she do there? Her parents had asked her the same. Her boss did too, as he tried everything just so a company asset wouldn’t leave. In Saudi, she knew, she would go from career woman to housewife. Was she ready for it?

Then again, this was her chance to live out married life with Andy full-time. He had flown to Saudi just months after they became an item, and came home 2 years later to get married. Since then, he only visited Manila a handful of times. It paid off: he was now in a stable post designing for a major developer in the capital, Riyadh.

Mabel was unsure where this new chapter would bring her family, but she trusted Andy and his plans.

Life in Riyadh was hot, boring, and restrictive, especially for women. Mabel had to get used to not being able to go out just any time, and whenever she could, going out wearing the black abaya, not getting to drive, and more so, not having maids around.

At least there, families enjoyed more benefits and preferential treatment than single expats. Mabel grew at home with her new routine. She and Andy learned to split and alternate housework with kid-caring duties. And she soon became pregnant with their first daughter.

First family pic in Riyadh.

1995: First family pic in Riyadh.

But in religiously conservative Saudi, Mabel and Andy found the biggest, most unlikely change–a deeper, renewed faith.

It came to Andy first–through other Filipinos who invited him to gatherings held clandestinely under the radar of the mutawa or religious police. These meetings in houses or in the desert focused on studying and living out the Bible and stressed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. With it he found a new direction and a new community of brothers and sisters.

At first, Mabel resisted Andy’s efforts to share with her what he had found. Again, it seemed crazy, and went against all she was long used to.

But love won out. He was faithful and patient despite their momentary differences. She gradually saw the bigger Love behind his actions for her. Soon, she decided that as she went where her husband went, she would love God as he had come to love Him. Their family became part of a spiritual family–a church.

What once were four now grew to six. Two more A’s added to the mix: Andrebelle and Andric Mark. As the older boys entered grade school, Mabel gradually got to work again–first as a pre-school teacher and later as an accountant. Between engaging their school’s PTA and a few Filipino community groups, the family’s life revolved around that of their church.

2000: From four to six.

2000: From four to six.

The 12 years that followed my dad and mom’s decision to live together in the land of sand and camels were not perfect or smooth, but they were surely the most memorable.

For my siblings and me, it was a coming of age, a steady growth in our awareness of life. It was also a chance to witness how our parents loved and respected each other and their decisions. If they had disagreements, they spared us from seeing that. We saw how faith led them in guiding how they managed our family.

My mother would look back on her uneasiness in going to Saudi with a smile. She’d long realized that she had followed a plan greater than my father’s. They learned to love each other more, and to bring one important person into their relationship–God.

Call it a crazy idea, but it was a trip worth taking the risk.

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Shot in 2000.

———-

This is the long-overdue follow-up to the love story of my parents, which I first wrote for their 25th wedding anniversary last year. Read about how they first met here.

Special thanks go to Sushmita Chim, Anna Marie Pagtabunan, Aljan Quilates, and Hiyas Villanueva, communication graduates of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) who found my blog and thought my parents’ story a fitting profile for their thesis on lives touched by the Light Rail Transit. I used a part of their interview with my parents as a source for this post.

The 2014 SONA in HD

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pres. Benigno Aquino III delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (Courtesy: Radio TV Malacanang)

(Courtesy: Radio Television Malacanang)

Only tech-versed viewers who habitually flip channels might have noticed. The fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno Aquino III also goes down as the first to be shot in high definition (HD).

There’s little fanfare for the Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM), which bags the credit for this long-overdue upgrade. They’ve always handled the SONA pool feed, being charged after all with documenting the chief executive’s speeches and activities.

At these events, the SOP for network live news crews is to hook up with RTVM’s feed since they have more camera angles, and more importantly, prime access to the president. However, the RTVM feed was at times of lower quality than that of the networks’ own cameras and fell prey to technical glitches that made it risky to air.

RTVM stayed in the technical cellar for years, as the privately-owned networks bulked up on the latest equipment. Moves to update their tech capabilities went gradually, going only as far as the government’s budget could allow.

Then in 2012, the Philippines was picked to host the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia.

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‘Patrol ng Pilipino’ no more?

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN News reporter Adrian Ayalin preparing for a live report at the Ombudsman (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ABS-CBN News reporter Adrian Ayalin preparing for a live report at the Ombudsman (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

It was a small switch—just a handful of words. But it made some people do a double take on their TV sets. At first, they thought that a story for another show might have wandered into the May 19 line-up of “TV Patrol”.

Then in report after report, they heard it again. The tag line “Patrol ng Pilipino” with which ABS-CBN reporters closed their stories for almost a decade was now taking a rest.

And it was not just on “TV Patrol.” Later that night, viewers heard the same new extro on “News Plus” in Channel 23 and on “Bandila”: the reporter’s name, followed by “ABS-CBN News”. Come “Umagang KayGanda” the next morning, it was clear this was no slip or experiment.

It was a small switch that reflected big, gradual changes in the news organization.

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10 events that made headlines on a weekend

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

TV Patrol Weekend's first and current logos 2004 & 2014

TV Patrol Weekend’s first and current logos

Before “TV Patrol Linggo” debuted on the air on May 9, 2004, TV news on weekends was usually relegated to short, late-night rundowns of the day’s events or the week’s top stories.

Today, the weekend newscast is a mainstay in a 24/7 news environment. While manned by smaller teams, aired on tighter time slots, and watched by lesser viewers, they provide a needed avenue for public service–especially when the breaking event strikes.

Watch the opening to TVP Linggo’s first newscast here:

As TV Patrol’s weekend edition marks its 10th year, here are 10 of the country’s biggest stories that broke under its watch, proving that patrolling the news never stops:

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When Filipinos last saw Pope John Paul II

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pope John Paul II waves a final goodbye to Filipinos in Manila during his 1995 visit before boarding his plane. (Screengrab courtesy of ABS-CBN / TV Patrol)

Pope John Paul II waves a final goodbye to Manila during his 1995 visit. (Screen grab courtesy of ABS-CBN / TV Patrol)

Rare are the saints of the Catholic church who have been seen, encountered, or heard by so many people. And on April 27, Pope Francis canonized the man who could be the most-met saint yet.

Filipino Catholics count two countrymen among the church’s thousands of saints. But many of them will probably relate more to St. John Paul II, who led the church for more than half a century, visiting almost every country and being exposed to the most media coverage.

It is the former pope’s two visits to Manila that stand out in Filipinos’ memories. He first came here in 1981–three years after becoming pope–during the waning days of strongman Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. Pope John Paul II’s trip was soon followed by Marcos’s purported lifting of martial law.

The 10th World Youth Day in January 1995 became the pontiff’s last trip to the Philippines and his most remembered.

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A little bookshop by the train

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Outer view of Juleric Bookshop selling used books in Guadalupe Commercial Building in Makati

(Shot by Chito Concepcion)

Palengkes and open spaces are hardly the place to look for books. Nowadays, they are found in big-name bookstores or second-hand shops inside malls. But just off the MRT Guadalupe Station in Makati is a house of used books that’s out of place yet not out of patrons.

The shop is nestled between closed stalls at a commercial building facing EDSA. Nearby stands sell packed snacks, fruit, rice, and household essentials. Unlike them, this shop has no name, but the stacks of magazines and paperbacks out front make it stand out to any passersby.

Inside, a small lady in her 40’s browses the rows of thin romance novels that sell for 10 bucks apiece. A teenage boy picks out a book in front and starts reading. Outside, a man sits on a plastic mono-block leafing through a hardbound Bible. Other people just mosey in, scan the titles, and zoom in on a few for a closer look.

At the seller’s station, a bespectacled man with ruffled salt-and-pepper hair  wraps books and tapes torn covers and pages. Behind him a three-foot pile of unsorted books awaits a fix or a place in the packed shelves.

His mouth is busy as much as his hands. He’s struck a conversation with a male customer who asked about a book in the shelf of 65-peso titles above the pile. Later, the topic moves to Hukbalahaps and Philippine communists.

The seller interrupts the chat by calling out to curious drop-ins.

“That row of books is 40 pesos each. But you can get three for P100.” He doesn’t mind saying it, even if handwritten signs scream it all around the shop.

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