Surviving Casiguran’s worst storm yet

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan


(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

CASIGURAN, AURORA–The black sky gradually breaks into a swirl of orange and purple.

Pockets of smoke rise in the distance, from wood– debris or fallen branches –being burnt in piles throughout town.

All is awake–a new day for Aurora’s northern town of Casiguran, still reeling from the super typhoon it first welcomed to the Philippines early this week.

The days are now dry, the run-up to sundown again climbing to stinging hot–evidence of the upside-down turn of climate.

It’s a far cry from the hours of what the locals say was their worst and longest ordeal under a storm since they could remember.


(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

They haven’t gone past the after-effects of it–eating breakfast in candlelight, settling for the radio during lunch instead of the usual noontime TV habit, and rushing home before darkness once again envelopes their power-less town.

But they’re thankful to have at least survived Lando.

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New shows, new look to mark ANC relaunch on October 26

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan


ANC 2010 and 2015 logos

A better look, new faces, same quality broadcast journalism.

A new programming lineup and a new overall broadcast design will greet viewers of ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, as it relaunches on Monday, October 26.

In the run-up to its 20th year of operation, the 24/7 news channel calls the move a means to “solidify its leadership” among the country’s growing number of news channels and to “better serve its viewers with top of the hour news and in-depth analysis of issues,” for which ANC has made its name.

Leading the rebrand is the relaunch of ANC’s flagship morning show, “Mornings@ANC”, the inclusion of area-focused shows in the channel’s retooled AM grid and a joint design and color scheme to go with all of ANC’s news shows.

“What viewers will see is a newer and stronger ANC with a more robust and relevant lineup of programs covering politics, business, economy, lifestyle and entertainment,” said ABS-CBN Integrated News chief and ANC managing director Ging Reyes in a statement. “These shows will be more visually attractive as well–better form and better substance.”

ANC’s signature rhombus logo will now feature “refreshed” colors which the channel said will “highlight ANC’s expertise in presenting stories with context amid an ever growing deluge of media information.” 

The channel’s title cards and designs will also prominently display a red-and-blue scheme that promises a “cleaner, unified” look to represent a holistic news experience for ANC viewers. 

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The eve of Lando’s landfall

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Shot by Rommel Zarate, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Rommel Zarate, ABS-CBN News)

BALER, AURORA– At the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Philippine shore, tourists tease and play with the waves, making the most of fading daylight.

The waves have been climbing as the hours pass, the tide teeming closer to the fences that separate the sand from the row of resort-hotels in this surfing hotspot.

It’s a last-ditch attempt to enjoy the remainder of what was previously surf-friendly weather.

The resort hotel they had checked into was also hosting a surfing event for the whole weekend. But even that had to be ended a day before schedule as reports of the approaching typhoon Lando (internationally Koppu) grew dire and direr. Beach activities, including surfing, have been banned.

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#Halalan2016 starts here

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Live from Comelec Main, Day 1 of COC Filing 
209 days before Halalan 2016

Media flock the Comelec main office on the first day of COC filings for elections 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

This week officially begins election season in the Philippines. It’s also the general elections–that time every six years where all posts from councilor to president of the republic are up for grabs.

It’s part-celebration, part-chaos, all-challenge.

The best preview of the atmosphere and the stakes is seen here at the Comelec main office in Intramuros, which opened its doors this week to people filing their certificates of candidacy (COCs) for national posts.

Despite efforts to put a sense of order, the road to 2016 still opened with drum bangs, hyped crowds, unruly shooters and comic cameos.

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THROWBACK: The fall of Camp Abubakar

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The MILF flag is brought down after the seizure of Camp Abubakar. (Grab from ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol)

The MILF flag is brought down after the seizure of Camp Abubakar. (Grab from ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol)

[UPDATED] Camp Abubakar, a place firmly associated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the long-winded struggle for peace in Mindanao, no longer evokes the immense respect, fear or awareness it once did almost two decades ago.

Until the late 1990s, the camp was not just the stronghold of the rebel group but also its largest settlement and seat of its Shariah-based government.

Its territory stretched to tens of thousands of hectares (initial figures were 2,000, later stretching from 10,000-15,000; in some accounts, up to 32,000), covering the Maguindanao towns of Barira, Buldon, Matanog and Parang. Forests and bodies of water acted as natural barriers around the camp, augmented by trenches and tunnels dug by the MILF.

The group’s leaders—founder and chairman Salamat Hashim and then-military chief Al Haj Murad Ibrahim—lived and held office there. Abubakar contained a school, a training academy, a hospital, businesses, farms and markets, providing for the needs of its fighters and civilian residents.

The camp meant security for those claiming allegiance to the Bangsa Moro, but caution for the Christian locals and armed forces surrounding it. None dared approach or pass through.

All that changed on July 9, 2000 when Camp Abubakar fell into the hands of the Philippine military at the end of a two-month offensive. More than 20,000 residents were affected by the clash. Continue reading

No longer playtime: Why Pinoy sailors trained with ‘toy guns’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN—Ridiculous. Disturbing. Humiliating.

These were among the intense reactions to an image of U.S. and Philippine navy officers handling visually distinct rifles at a training exercise aboard combat ship USS Fort Worth docked outside Puerto Princesa City.

The beige-clad U.S. servicemen brandished jet-black high-powered weapons, while their Filipino counterparts in blue coveralls held brick-colored plastic rifles lent by their trainors.

The contrast in the shot was telling: clearly, one was the real deal and the other a synthetic replica for training purposes. The meaning, unsettling for some who saw it: Why didn’t all the sailors just use similar weapons?

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How 2015 USTV intro’d TV show winners

USTV Orchestra at the 11th USTV Awards 2015 (Grab courtesy of the USTV Awards)

(Grab courtesy of the USTV Awards)

The past USTV Awards often played a recording of the theme music of winning TV shows as they were announced. This 2015 the organizers went a step further and had them performed live–with an orchestra to boot!

For any staff or on-cam talent of these shows, hearing familiar tunes played by a band surely makes receiving the awards extra special. One of them even remarked, “Nakakaiyak naman iyong intro.”

It will end up a little-noticed detail of the 11th USTV Awards, which gave awards of excellence to 4 shows from ABS-CBN and 3 from GMA 7 for winning the student body’s award 5 or more times.

Still, live musical intros are something we have yet to see in local TV awards shows. And this from a school-based award-giving body!

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When no news is good news

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

PDRRMC press con in Ilagan City after Chedeng (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

PDRRMC press con in Ilagan (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ILAGAN CITY, ISABELA–“Sorry, guys, wala kayong maireport…”

It wasn’t pity or something sinister. No one lost a scoop nor was anything swept under the rug.

Jessie James Geronimo, information officer of Isabela province, was actually in good spirits giving this aside to national reporters at the briefing of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and local officials in the capitol.

Geronimo’s reason for saying so: “…Because we did our job.”

Everyone at the briefing shared a laugh.

After all, there was a grain of truth to it. The reporters had nothing much to report—except that the province survived the onslaught of Typhoon Chedeng (a.k.a. Maysak) a day earlier without a single casualty.

Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, in town for the meeting, smiled, exclaiming off mic: “Good news! Good news!”

In a country too used to rising death tolls after natural disasters, Chedeng left all with a sigh of relief.

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The view from Makati City Hall’s 21st floor

 By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Makati City Hall facade (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

It’s a sight familiar to many CEOs in Makati, yet also one any local government executive elsewhere would envy: The skyline of the city, as seen from the top office of the highest city hall in Metro Manila.

The coast stretches out on the far right. Low-rises fill the foreground, towered by the skyscrapers that have long given identity to the Philippines’ main business district.

The elements of the first represent the history and people of this 345-year-old town: churches, trees and decades-old apartment blocks.

The structures of the latter capture the progress this city has reached in the past half-century, with more office spaces and condominium units under construction.

This is the view that daily meets Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, more known as Junjun, at his desk in the city hall’s 21st floor.

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Left behind at Mamasapano

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Remnants of the fight at the Mamasapano site (Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News)

Remnants of the fight at the Mamasapano site (Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News)

MAGUINDANAO—The fallout of the bloody clash of police and armed groups has long since extended beyond Barangay Tuka na Lipao, this now-infamous hamlet of one of the country’s poorest provinces.

The much-depicted wooden stilt bridge and the open cornfields it connects are again quiet. About a 15-minutes’ walk from the nearest highway, the scorching sun bears down on the scene, much as it did when shots peppered the place on the morning of Jan. 25 and ended the lives of 44 elite police commandos and at least 18 Muslim fighters and 5 civilians.

The fire, smoke and ammunitions continue, this time figuratively and turned loose in Manila. There, two congressional investigations continue to uncover how a top-secret police operation went haywire and whose decisions were to blame.

Beyond Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo the incident has spun a political crisis, altered the legacy of a popular president, rewritten the fate of contenders in the next elections and stopped in its tracks a piece of legislation that would affect more than 3 million Filipinos.

The "Fallen 44" being flown from Cotabato City. (Shot by Bernie Mallari, ABS-CBN News)

The “Fallen 44” being flown from Cotabato City. (Shot by Bernie Mallari, ABS-CBN News)

Yet down south, a town, province and region’s residents continue to reel from the impact of a shattered ceasefire and now live under the specter of a full-scale conflict that could again wreck their way of life. Continue reading