If what Ondoy/Ketsana had wrought were captured by a defining shot, it would be this scene taken at the San Mateo Bridge during the rainfall:
A family stood on or held on to what was left of their house’s roof as it speedily surfed the waves of an over-pouring river, in a collision course with the bridge.
Onlookers there threw ropes, hoping to catch anyone. The floating mass rammed into the bridge, none grasping the ropes. Those there rushed to the opposite end, only to none survived the blow. One later turned up in far-off Cainta, losing the rest of his family.
The picture summed it all: the extreme rains, the high flooding, the damage to property, and the human cost. And courtesy, of course, of ABS-CBN News, it depicted the tragedy to the world.
That’s what TV does best–convey depth and emotion in images. During calamities the best of them compel people to compassion and action.
What you, who have seen them over and over this week, would not know is that they almost did not reach the air.
The camera soon gave out under the rain, says Bernie Mallari, who recorded it all. Only five hours later–and after patient repair–did it eject the tape.
Had his cam kept on rolling, it would have captured more, he says. The aftermath of the drama. And bodies of children floating in the flood.
Bernie’s ENG van team, and their producer, Donald Martinez, hurried to the area when this storm turned to be no ordinary one.
At first he was reluctant to approach the railings with the bridge wobbling. It took their audioman, Don Alvero to go out and drag him there.
The van was not safe there, so they had to park farther, leaving Bernie. Only when the van reached higher and drier ground could it transmit the shots back.
Other ABS-CBN camera crews drove elsewhere to tape the floods and the residents salvaging their homes and belongings.
Then, rushing back to Quezon City, they had to walk the high water then surrounding ABS-CBN. All just to deliver the tapes and make sure they air in our homes, fresh and still powerful.
They are the media heroes of each calamity, sacrificing safety to deliver the images that mark them in our minds.