Baby found in Laguna creek can’t be adopted at once

By Anjo Bagaoisan

The abandoned baby when it was taken from the creek in Sta Rosa Laguna still wrapped in a transparent plastic bag (Photo from PNP Sta. Rosa Police Community Relations office)

The baby when it was taken from the creek still wrapped in a transparent plastic bag (Photo from PNP Sta. Rosa Police Community Relations office)

STA. ROSA, LAGUNA— He’s now out of the hospital, but the most recent baby patient of the Sta. Rosa Community Hospital’s emergency room is doing well even without his biological parents.

The doctor and nurses on duty described the child they initially named “Baby Boy X” as “well-born”—healthy and born full-term at 3.3 kilograms and 55 centimeters.

It’s a miracle for them, considering the baby was found inside a plastic bag at a shallow creek in the dark of night.

While on their nightly tricycle rounds of Centro de San Lorenzo, a massive local subdivision, volunteer patrollers Romel, Jesse, and Arjay heard a baby’s cries coming from the creek nearly an hour before midnight on Monday.

The creek was often a hiding spot for thieves and stolen items, they said. They approached the creek with their flashlights.

(L-R) Jesse Custorio, Arjay Pornasdoro, and Romel Ibañez, the community brigade volunteers who found the baby at the creek in Centro de San Lorenzo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(L-R) Jesse Custorio, Arjay Pornasdoro, and Romel Ibañez, the community brigade volunteers who found the baby at the creek in Centro de San Lorenzo in Sta. Rosa. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The three saw a small foot extending from the inside of a transparent plastic bag in the middle of the sluggish waterway. The plastic was similar to those used to pack in fresh meat in supermarkets.

“I mistook it at first for a ‘tiyanak’,” Romel said, referring to the mythical Filipino monster which takes the form of a baby.

It was unlike anything the young men in their mid-20’s had seen in their couple of years as part of the community brigade.

But when they realized it was an actual baby, they jumped onto the water to get it and rushed the baby to the privately owned Sta. Rosa Medical Center within 10 minutes.

The baby was still drenched in its placenta and had on its umbilical cord, evidence that he was newly born

After the staff at the medical center cleaned him up and removed the cord, the baby was moved to the public Community Hospital since he would be under the government‘s custody.

While at the ER, he was fed every two hours with breast milk the hospital regularly collects from the mothers in the OB ward.

Baby found in creek is given breast milk via a dropper by hospital staff in Sta Rosa, Laguna (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Staff had to give him antibiotics for a urinary tract infection he could have gotten from his mother, as well as to thwart any other infection he may have contracted from the creek.

‘Blessing’

The baby captured many hearts there, including hospital workers who expressed interest in adopting him.

“They wanted to adopt because a baby is considered a blessing,” said resident Dr. Michelle De Castro. She said she could not help but feel pity for what happened to him.

“I was irritated on the part of the mother since she created this but could not own up to it. There are many who want to become mothers but can’t.”

Sta. Rosa police are prowling local health center records to find out who the baby’s parents are. They said the parents could face criminal charges but still called on them to come out and take responsibility for the baby.

But for the city social welfare and development office, even if the mother presents herself, she would not immediately get custody of the child.

The baby was moved to the city health office since he could not stay for long inside the community hospital ER because of the risk to his health.

“The mother has to be assessed if she has the means and capability to take care of the child. She would have to undergo tests and interviews,” said Glory Belle Agnabo, the local social welfare officer in charge of adoptions.

Same goes for others wanting to adopt the child.

The baby being given antibiotics at the ER of the Sta Rosa Community Hospital while being filmed by a TV crew. (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

“The baby cannot just be given to anyone expressing their intention to adopt him. We are mandated to refer the baby to a child caring agency. If no one claims the child as theirs in the next 3 months, the child will then be considered as abandoned. We would next need to declare him legally available for adoption,” Agnabo said.

The whole process could take up to 6 months, she said. Prospective parents cannot also choose the child they adopt.

The child caring agency the baby ends up in will look after him during that period. He won’t have a legal name until the family that adopts him gives him one and his birth certificate is finally filed.

For now, to distinguish the child from other foundlings, the social workers decided to call him Baby Lorenzo, after the place where he was found.

Baby Lorenzo, the newborn found abandoned at a creek in Sta Rosa, Laguna, rests at the ER (Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Photo by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Manila Night Prowl #5: Behind a police station’s book shelf

The bookshelf covering the entrance to the so-called secret jail at the Manila Police Station 1 discovered by the Commission on Human Rights on April 27, 2017. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

P/Supt. Robert Domingo is no stranger to media workers packing the premises of Manila’s police station 1 in Raxabago Street, Tondo. He’s previously held press conferences at his office–especially to those of the night beat–baring his team’s latest bust or capture.

The group of reporters and shooters that swarmed his station at dusk of April 27 would have been no different.

This time, though, things were not going the station chief’s way.

“Huwag na tayo magpalusot, pare. Halata naman. Tahimik na lang sana tayo, nagka-ganito pa.”

Atty. Gilbert Boiser, the white-haired, bespectacled director of the Commission on Human Rights’ investigations office was chiding Domingo. While both were nearly the same height, Boiser chose to sit. They were holed up near the door at a corner of the drug enforcement unit’s office at the back of the station. There was hardly room to move.

Their point of contention was at the opposite corner of that office, between them and a mass of people way more than the office can comfortably hold, and hidden behind a wooden bookshelf.

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Juggling homework and sampaguitas: 2 brothers’ nightly routine at an overpass

By Anjo Bagaoisan

Boy Sampaguita vendor Marlon Mendoza sits at a walkway in Quezon City studying while selling (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

For Marlon Mendoza, a walkway over one of Quezon City’s busiest roads is as good a place to study as a table at home.

After his Grade 5 classes at a school in Brgy. San Antonio, the 11-year-old commutes south with his younger brother Melvin, aged 9, and their mother to the area of two big malls in the Q.C. north triangle.

Their “mama” Rochelle, 37, brings a lunch-box-sized cooler. In it are roughly a hundred mini-garlands (up to P2,000 worth) of sampaguita flowers commonly worn on Catholic saints and hung on rearview mirrors.

The three divide the flowers among themselves and part ways. Rochelle usually sits on a sidewalk in North Avenue. The boys–still in their blue school uniforms and wearing plastic rosaries on their necks–climb up different walkways.

Sampaguita vendor family Rochelle and her sons Marlon and Melvin prepare to sell their flowers at an overpass (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

 

Once Marlon sits on the floor of an overpass along EDSA connecting a mall and a call center, he lays out his share of sampaguitas in front of him, opens his bag and brings out one of his books, a notebook and a pen.

Passers-by never fail to glance at the boy finishing his homework while selling his mother’s sampaguitas for his daily allowance.

Sampaguita vendor Marlon Mendoza at an overpass in Quezon City (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)


“Sobrang halaga sa akin ‘yon para makapagtapos ako (It’s really important for me so that I can finish my studies),” Marlon says of both elements of his nightly routine.

He has gained admirers far more than the number of people who pass him by each night, many of whom are rushing to catch their rides home. Few know their names, only as the boys hunched over a book on an overpass whose images have inspired thousands on social media.

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Manila Night Prowl #4: A bloody end for an architect-to-be’s dream

By Anjo Bagaoisan

Drawings by architecture student Nick Russel Oniot are posted at his family's living room (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Horizontal sheets of thick poster-sized paper hang top to bottom on one side of the Oniot family’s rectangular living room like the roll of entries to a poster-making contest.

On them are colorful drawings of buildings both planned and inspired by real life. Brown is the color that stands out, from studies of tropical huts to a grand mosque.

They are the projects, a.k.a. plates, of 3rd year architecture student Nick Russel Oniot.

“He would stay up all night doing these. He was happy while he drew them,” said Nick’s father Renato, a civil engineer who would have been an architect if he drew better, he said.

Of these plates, Nick’s favorites were a series of floor and facade plans for a maternity hospital.

It was the third Oniot sibling’s dream for his older sister, a nurse.

Nick Russel Oniot's design for maternity hospital for his nurse sister (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

 

But Nick will no longer be there to make sure those drawings become buildings.

The plates overlook a coffin on the other end of the living room made narrower by the space it took.

There lies Nick, killed at 18 years old after being robbed and stabbed multiple times on his way home in Barangay Central Signal Village in Taguig City the night of October 14.

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Family of father killed by unidentified gunmen waits beside his body for the arrival of police SOCO in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, August 24 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Manila Night Prowl #3: Dead dad, no motive

By Anjo Bagaoisan

A woman cries upon seeing her father shot by unidentified gunmen in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, August 24 (Shot by Melchor Platero, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Melchor Platero, ABS-CBN News)

Arnaldo Dela Cruz’s eldest daughter cursed and shrieked when she looked at the dead man lying on the road to her house and recognized him as her father.

She was on her way home at 4 a.m. and passed through the line of twine used to mark out the crime scene. With bystanders and media men watching, she wondered aloud who the body beside a fallen motorcycle was.

When she saw the face, she exclaimed: “P*******, si Tatay!”

Shaking and crying, she walked back, this time around the twine on her way to the other side. The rest of her family was already there. They already knew.

She appealed to the police officers: “Ba’t ayaw niyo itakbo sa ospital, kuya? (Why don’t you bring him to the hospital?)

No one replied.

Gloria Dela Cruz talks to her crying daughter outside police line where Gloria's husband lay shot by unidentified gunmen in Batasan Hills, Quezon City, August 24 (Shot by Melchor Platero, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Melchor Platero, ABS-CBN News)

Gloria, her mother, met her with an opened umbrella. It had begun to drizzle. Even she could not calm her.

The daughter told Gloria: “Ma-re-revive pa yan! Kaysa hayaan niyong nakahiga diyan! (He could be revived instead of letting him lie there)”

“Sino’ng bumaril diyan (Who killed him)?” she said after squatting on a garage ramp.

No one knew the answer.

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Collage of various DZMM Radyo Patrol reporters in group poses

There’s something about that Radyo Patrol number

By Anjo Bagaoisan

Radyo Patrol 48 Zandro Ochona and Radyo Patrol 49 Zhander Cayabyab get their DZMM call signs from their boss Radyo Patrol 37 Edwin Sevidal during the DZMM 30th anniversary. ((Shot by Sofia Monica Regalado)

Getting their numbers. (Shot by Sofia Monica Regalado)

Zandro and Zhander were both outside the room when it happened.

It was a party—the 30th anniversary bash of DZMM last October 4 to be exact—and yet Zandro was working the remote TeleRadyo booth outside the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Pasay, interviewing Radyo Patrol veterans for a live broadcast.

“Bigla akong pinabalik ng PA [program associate], sabi kailangan ako sa loob. E hindi naman ako sasayaw! (A PA suddenly called me back to the ballroom, saying I was needed inside. But I wasn’t scheduled to dance!)” he said.

Inside, Zandro saw ABS-CBN Integrated News head Ging Reyes and his boss, DZMM news gathering chief Edwin Sevidal, standing on the stage. Knowing what it meant, he fought tears as he walked towards them.

He and Zhander already had an inkling of this early in the night, but decided not to expect much. They even thought it might not happen since the program was already ending then.

Zhander was taking pictures with work mates then. Someone opened the ballroom door and called out to him: “Hoy pumunta ka ng stage (Hey, go up the stage)!”

“Noong nakita ko na naglalakad si Zandro on stage, alam ko na (When I saw Zandro also going up, I knew).”

Zandro Ochona, Radyo Patrol 48, and Zhander Cayabyab, Radyo Patrol 49, finally got the numbers they’ve been waiting and working for for 5 years.

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Manila Night Prowl #2: That escalated quickly

By Anjo Bagaoisan

Police look on at police line surrounding two dead motorcycle riders killed in encounter on Pasay City. August 12, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A text message arrived past 1 a.m., August 12. We followed it to Don Carlos Village, a strikingly familiar area in Pasay City. Wasn’t someone killed there the week before? (Yes, there was.)

All we knew then was that two were dead. The rest we had to find out onsite or through the policemen there.

When media workers arrive on such a scene, the body is usually untouched and the story often complete–courtesy of the leader of the police operation.

If you’ve followed these stories for days on end since July, the narrative can become familiar. Drug buy-bust gone wrong. Or killed by unidentified gunmen. Or dead body left wrapped up with a note.

Then there are days when reporters still have to piece together what happened in bits and pieces as the details arrive. And unlike the usual stories, the plot suddenly twists and thickens in an hour or two.

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Manila Night Prowl: Shadowing the ‘ronda’

By Anjo Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN crew cab facing Sunrise over Commonwealth Avenue. (Shot by Mike Navallo)

(Shot by Mike Navallo)

The shift starts at 9 p.m. On paper, it ends at 5 a.m. but actually does when the story does. Usually, it’s way beyond 5. 

This is the graveyard shift. It’s more popularly the domain of security guards, call center agents, and resident doctors. In news, it’s the lull between the often more significant events of one day and the next. Here, crime and vehicular accidents take center stage and make the headlines.

In ABS-CBN, we call it the ronda, a.k.a. “Ronda Patrol” to audiences of our primetime newscast. Because in between the adrenaline of shootouts and crashes, the shift is largely time spent staying awake and driving around the metro, looking for something to report.

And where ghosts figuratively tread, so do shadows. It’s as one where my breaking in as a reporter begins.

(Warning: Some pictures here are graphic.)

Police looks at dead tricycle driver shot by unknown killers in Caloocan City, August 22. Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan.

Tricycle driver killed by a group of unidentified men in a convoy of motorcycles. Caloocan City, August 22. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Almost all Philippine reporters, especially on television, cut their teeth in the graveyard. The ronda is a rite of passage that only ends when you’re deemed to have proved yourself, when a new reporter comes in, or when another in the day shift leaves. For some, the period takes years. For the lucky few, a few months to a year.

The ronda is often the source for part of the news content in the mainstream morning shows. It also provides attention-getters during the so-called tabloid newscasts. Some agenda-setting events also strike during the overnight. On lean days, though, there are hardly crimes to report.

Child looks at body of suspected drug pusher killed in police buy-bust op. Binangonan, Rizal. August 3, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Construction worker killed in police buy-bust. Binangonan, Rizal, August 3. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But never has there been a more crucial and interesting time to be a graveyard reporter than now. 

I shifted career gears at the beginning of the Duterte administration. Where our predecessors largely dealt with vehicular accidents, my batch is contending with a nightly reality of deaths—either through police anti-drug operations gone sour or by unidentified killers.

Photographers take pictures of drug suspect killed in police shootout. Tondo, Manila. August 8, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A tip to police leads to alleged shootout. Tondo, Manila, August 8. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

* * *

I didn’t see one on my first night though. 

I piggybacked with reporter Kevin Manalo, who I was assigned to for my entry week beginning August 1. He had just turned a year old as a reporter and had just also been bequeathed a major beat or area of coverage.

New reporters aren’t usually sent to the field on their own at once. Shadowing allows them to get a feel of their new environment and the people they would meet. It also lets them get to know how things work and see a fellow reporter in action.

CCTV video of reporter Kevin Manalo interviewing in Caloocan City August 22, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Kevin Manalo caught interviewing on CCTV. Caloocan City, August 22. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

In police beats like the QCPD, reporters often tip off each other when they get wind of breaking news. With today’s technology, a chat group allows them to do that quickly.

At late night on a Sunday, there wasn’t much happening. Until the reporters learned of a VA, a vehicular accident, past 12:30 a.m.

Emergency rescuers lift man injured in motorcycle crash, Philcoa, Commonwealth, Quezon City, August 1, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Motorcycle crash. Philcoa, Quezon City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

We drove to Philcoa along Commonwealth Avenue and found an injured man stiffly lying on the pavement beside a closed truck. A downed motorcycle lay a few meters ahead.

Our team got off the cab. Kevin approached the pack of people circling the man and took pictures as emergency rescuers hauled him to a stretcher. He then joined other reporters talking to and then interviewing the injured man’s companion, the driver of the truck and his assistants, and the traffic investigator.

In 30 minutes, Kevin gathered a picture of how the incident (we refrain from calling them “accidents” in reports) occured.

Kevin Manalo interviewing truck driver involved in vehicular accident. Philcoa, Quezon City.

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

As a shadow I was also expected to gather the details, join in the interviews and write my own story. Another learning curve of the graveyard shift is the discipline of being accurate with facts and meeting deadlines.

By 3, Kevin voiced his approved report for our main show Umagang Kay Ganda. I was tapped to do phone reports for the Gising Pilipinas newscast on DZMM and for the 5 a.m. news roundup of UKG –a rare instance for a reporter just on his first day.

Only the next night did I see my first dead body since becoming a reporter—the result of a buy-bust operation in a quiet but allegedly drug-infested barangay in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Body of AWOL policeman suspected of dealing drugs and killed in a buy-bust lies below a house in Bulacan. August 2, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

AWOL police officer killed in buy-bust. Bocaue, Bulacan, August 2. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

* * *

Buy-busts-turned-alleged-shootouts were the nightly norm when I shadowed Kevin’s batch mate Miguel Dumaual the following week, this time in Manila. In his one year on the field, he was already shadowed by three newbies before me.

Reporter Miguel Dumaual in an interview with Manila Police station commander Ulsano. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Miguel among pack interviewing a Manila Police station commander. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The Manila PD press corps is a bigger than that in QC, with many print reporters and photographers adding to their broadcast counterparts. The number of those who stay the night at the MPD press corps lounge has also grown since the government escalated its war on drugs. Many of the ops tipped to the media are usually in the capital.

The tips are usually one-liners sent through text and then passed via chat: “DOS (for “dead on the spot”) street so-and-so”. Sometimes, a police officer calls the press corps lounge.

Press and onlookers at a bridge over shanties where a suspected pusher and shooting suspect was killed by police. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Press and onlookers at a bridge over shanties where a suspected pusher and shooting suspect was killed by police. Manila, August 8. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The pack rushes in convoy to the site, hoping to reach the body before the scene of the crime operatives or SOCO arrive and clean up the scene. 

Police are usually the first sources of details. Lower-ranked officers answer the initial questions, but it is the station or precinct commander who allows himself to be interviewed.

Funeral parlor workers carry out bodies of suspected drug users killed in police op from a house in Pasay City. August 9, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Police op kills 2 in run-down apartment. Pasay City, August 9. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The media usually waits until the crime scene is cleaned up before leaving. But on some days, another death turns up in another area of Manila in the middle of a coverage. Those who don’t have a tag team on hand have no choice but to leave.

Filing all of that information for the morning newscasts is all on the reporter. Miguel and his team once covered up to 10 deaths in separate locations in just one night. In the few hours before 4 a.m. he has to quickly process and write up to 2 reports per coverage.

3 deaths, one night. Top: 2 drug suspects killed in buy-bust in Sta. Cruz, Manila. August 10, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Bloodied body found in Baseco. August 10, 2016. (Shots By Anjo Bagaoisan)

3 deaths, one night. Top: 2 drug suspects killed in buy-bust in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Bottom: Bloodied body found in Baseco. August 10. (Shots By Anjo Bagaoisan)

Manning the beat can give a long-term view of seemingly isolated incidents. Like the night police in Tondo connected a buy-bust kill to the hunt for suspects in a shooting incident a week earlier. Miguel had covered the incident and later looked for the family of the victim to get their reaction on the death.

Of course, not all the stories in the graveyard are morbid. But there were hardly any of them during my introduction to the shift.

The ronda supposedly ends when the morning show ends at 8 a.m. There are days, though, when a call or message comes in with an additional assignment before then. 

The night prowl extends to day.

Night shot of Quezon Avenue. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Duterte surrounded by crowd and cellphone cams as he arrives to vote at Daniel Aguinaldo High School in Davao (Shot by Dong Plaza, ABS-CBN News)

Waiting for Digong

Crowd waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to cast his vote in Davao City Daniel Aguinaldo High School (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

DAVAO CITY— The Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School hardly saw a crowd in its grounds like the one that descended outside Precinct 216 on the afternoon of May 9, election day.

It was like a mob waiting for a rock star. Many of them dressed in red and raising fists and cheers at broadcast cameras, people were jockeying alongside media and police for a view.

Precinct 216, a room labeled Aster (after the flower), was one of 14 clustered voting precincts in the school where 90,000 Davaoeños would vote.

As the noontime heat gave way to afternoon shade, fewer voters came to vote in the precinct. Still, the rush of people who wanted to see the precinct’s most famous voter did not end. The rest of the school gradually emptied, except for the area surrounding the bungalow classroom.

Some had arrived since morning, others after they cast their own votes. They were pointing cell phone cameras at the scene, on themselves, or on familiar faces from the national media, hoping their angle would capture the moment they saw him.

Couple waits for Duterte in Davao City precinct before he casts his vote (Shot by Dong Plaza, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Dong Plaza, ABS-CBN News)

The people here were waiting for Rodrigo Duterte, the man they believed would be president. And as the minutes of that fateful day passed, it was not just in Davao.

Everyone across the nation awaited him.

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Why journalists’ jobs continue to matter

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan


“A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”
Don Keefer, HBO’s The Newsroom

ABS-CBN's Jeck Batallones going live for TV Patrol from a market in Taytay Rizal where a truck crashed (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ABS-CBN’s Jeck Batallones (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Near the 10-wheeler truck that rammed a row of stalls in the New Taytay Public Market in Rizal on June 14, one of the sellers who escaped the accident was telling her companion:

“Sabi sa TV, isa lang patay. Pa’no mo paniniwalaan yun e andaming nakabulagta rito kanina?”

(On TV they said only one died. How can you believe that when there were many bodies lying around here earlier?)

It was on Facebook that the first images and details of the noontime crash broke and spread. The accident was in a public place and people with cellphones swarmed the site. The dozen-plus vehicles dented and crumpled by the truck and the bloodied bodies of victims lying on the ground led witnesses to believe the crash was way deadly.

Their hasty conclusions spread fast online. As many as 16 were reportedly killed. Even a popular motoring issues social media account parroted the info (They later corrected the post). Because there were pictures and they were being shared quickly, the shocking details were passed on too without being verified.

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