A renewed mission for ‘TV Patrol Tacloban’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Life after Yolanda, Log 5)

TACLOBAN CITY–How do journalists cover the news when they themselves were directly affected by it?

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) did not spare local media outlets in Eastern Visayas. The worst hit were radio stations whose announcers were on the air as the typhoon hit.

For the news team of ABS-CBN’s regional station in Tacloban City, the biggest story they covered cost them their homes and nearly them and their families’ lives.

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Christmas duty in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, MISAMIS ORIENTAL–Hours before midnight of December 25, some guests at a high-end local hotel dropped by the bar to mark the holiday.

For most, the night out was a long-awaited respite from the circumstances that faced them that week in this typhoon-hit city.

A combo of two was there singing a repertoire of Standard tunes, mostly English and the occasional Latin.

On the keyboard was a lanky man wearing a luau polo. A virtual all-in-one band, he alternated piano and trumpet leads to the customized beats from his synthesizer.

Dodong, the pianist, alternated and harmonized tunes with his partner Rose, who was in a party dress.

The guests were impressed and called for encores. One of them approached the duo and said he wanted to sing.

Dodong said yes. “But first, I need a volunteer to play these.” And he pointed to the unused bongo drums nearby.

The clock struck 12 as the guest belted out another song.

Dec 24 Cagayan De Oro hotel bar singers by Rodrigo Tapales

(Shot by Rodrigo Tapales)

Fireworks could be seen from the window overlooking the city. Various areas of CDO answered each other in colorful outbursts of light.

The guests watched, some wondering if the calendar had already turned, and some marveling that one of the cities ravaged by the Philippines’ deadliest typhoon in over 10 years found cause to celebrate.

Seated near the piano was a middle-aged woman browsing a laptop while taking sips at a cocktail and glances at the performers.

“My wife,” Dodong said later as he introduced her. “She’s my manager too.”

As they packed up the microphones and turned off the amps, Rose, the singer said, “We’ll be returning to our flooded houses.”

One of the CDO villages ravaged by Sendong. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

One of the affected CDO villages. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Dodong resided at a higher area of CDO. But the house his children lived in was not spared from the high waters of typhoon Sendong (a.k.a. Washi).

“All my instruments there were ruined–two guitars, my keyboard, my amplifiers. Even my studio,” he said.

“I think God is reminding us with tragedies like this to remember and return to Him.”

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Mina’s mixed signals

(Shot by Jeffrey Agustin, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

(Shot by Jeffrey Agustin, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

TUGUEGARAO CITY, CAGAYAN–When you set out to welcome a storm, it either shows up elsewhere or merely sneaks a peek.

That’s a running joke among our field teams. When the wrath of storms do tread (Milenyo, Ondoy, Pepeng, and so on), they’ve often met no welcoming committee.

Still, it has always been better to be there and prepared than scooped and sorry.

The instinct for anticipation, prized all too well in coverage, thus extends to the unpredictable arena of rains and tempests.

Riding two pickups and a truck, we drove north for eight hours to meet Mina, the first storm weeks after a succession of others pummeled southern Luzon.

It’s a welcome break from weeks of covering a dengue outbreak and Senate hearings galore.

We would work with our regional news teams in Isabela. On the road, I asked TV Patrol Cagayan Valley anchor Darlene Gemino how things were.

“Parang ‘ala naman bagyo (It seems like there’s no typhoon),” she texted. “No rains, normal lang situation dito.”

Prepping for the storm in Isabela. (Shot by Joni Teneza, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

(Shot by Joni Teneza, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

All the way to Ilagan City, the winds blew strongly here and gently there. No sight of rain at first, and then it drizzled as we neared.

Manila called when we arrived. “It doesn’t look like a signal number 2,” I told our news desk head.

“Really?” she said. “But PAGASA says it’s already signal number 3 there.”

Deploying teams to cover nature’s fury is entirely played by ear, unlike for events shaped by people.

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