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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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Core Evolution: Journey of an undaunted core

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The JFCM Youth Camp core and staff, 2012-2016

As part of the tag of the revived JFCM general youth camps, the phrase “our camp” holds a more personal meaning for those of us who have lived and breathed it way beyond the three days and two nights.

From thinking about what theme to pursue and what name to call it, up to which portions of the program need to be bumped off or will wake-up call be moved, we’ve seen it all, zoomed in and zoomed out.

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Duterte-Cayetano wall mural in Davao City (Shot c/o Melchor Zarate)

Countdown to the end game in Duterte-land

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Davao City private billboard supporting mayor Rodrigo Duterte's presidential bid

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

DAVAO CITY— In the city of pomelos and durians, it’s business as usual under the scorching sun.

The streets bustle only with the rush-hour jams of vehicles driving under the mandatory 30-kph speed limit. Pedestrians shy away from the elements at high noon, except for the occasional street hawker peddling beads.

If not for the campaign posters that sparsely dot this city, you would hardly notice that it’s election season.

It still qualifies as quiet here, much as it was in the days that led to an election that has elevated Davao City and its most famous resident to national and international prominence.

Common poster area at Davao City for 2016 elections

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The quiet is also characteristic. This city has gained a reputation as a blueprint for where 16 million Filipinos think the Philippines should be.

But the tranquility masks the mix of anxiety and excitement here, as it did during the countdown to the May 9 vote.

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‘Harapan Na!’ A primer to the PiliPinas town hall debate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

PiliPinas Debates 2016 logo (courtesy ABS-CBN)

DAGUPAN CITY, PANGASINAN–For one last day, all roads in the 2016 race for Malacañang will converge here.

At a basketball-court-sized covered quadrangle in the center of the Phinma University of Pangasinan, lights, columns, speakers and streamers have risen over the stage that will bring together Jejomar Binay, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe and Mar Roxas for a final appeal to voters.

ABS-CBN technicians and set assembly crews were the first at the campus early Thursday, selecting and securing spots for their set-ups in Sunday’s big event.

Students at the U-Pang continued on with their classes, occasionally sneaking glances at the court and casually passing through the piles of equipment as if no hauling was going on.

Venue of the PiliPinas 2016 Town Hall debate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The venue. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Still absent are the touches of politics that will pervade this area during the weekend. No colors, posters or supporters.

But the school residents know all eyes will be on their school when all these arrive, more so the objects of all this support.

At a stairway, one student watches snippets of the last Comelec-sponsored debate on his phone. A duo of communication majors go around the school’s food court asking people they could interview their expectations on how the presidential candidates will perform.

Much indeed hangs on the April 24 debate hosted by ABS-CBN and the Manila Bulletin.

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‘A newsman’s newsman’: Colleagues pay tribute to Rod T. Reyes

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Former ABS-CBN News chief Rod T. Reyes (Grab from TV Patrol)

Rod T. Reyes (Grab from TV Patrol)

Down-to-earth. Cool-headed. Simple. Soft-spoken. A coach. Role model. Inspiration. A newsman’s newsman.

These were how journalists and former co-workers saluted veteran reporter, editor, news director and press secretary Rodolfo “Rod” T. Reyes, who died on April 14 at the age of 80.

People who knew him in various capacities throughout a five-decade career that spanned print, broadcast and public media honored his impact as a daring investigative journalist.

But more so, they reminisced about Reyes’s unassuming and laid-back qualities in a relentless and tough profession.

Coach leadership

At ABS-CBN, where Rod Reyes headed its news and public affairs division both before and after Martial Law, his former employees recalled how “RTR” (their monicker for him based on his initials) embodied the news organization’s slogan “malasakit”.

“Here was a small man with a soft voice who told us, ‘Good morning guys, I’m your new coach!’ I won’t forget that because it embodied RTR’s style of leadership,” recalled current ABS-CBN News chief Ging Reyes of their first time meeting her predecessor when he took over the reins of the  back in 1990.

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The 3 stages of falling in love with your job according to Charo Santos

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

My moment with the execs. (Shot by Joseph Jacob)

My moment with the execs. (Shot by Joseph Jacob)

In the time of “walang forever”, staying in the same company or line of work for more than 5 years is already a prize.

It may be due to the scarcity of tenured posts, the allure of shifting workplaces for better offers or simply the impatience often ascribed to today’s Millennials.

Whatever the reason, loyalty to a job or an organization these days remains the unheeded advice from the older generation. Many of them grew up seeing ascent in the corporate ladder as the main evidence of success.

But there are professions like journalism and media whose hold on their practitioners is for more than bread and butter. And there are companies whose opportunities can span a spectrum of careers one could explore without leaving their backyard.

Getting to last long in these places is encouraged and in some, rewarded.

At ABS-CBN, they call it the “Kapamilya Awards”, a gala to recognize employees who reached 5-year milestones in their service with the company. They are treated to dinner, performances by ABS-CBN artists and receive a personalized token along with a moment with the executives.
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