Unlike most Pinoy kids my age, my first memories of television were state-run foreign TV, reruns, and CNN.
I spent my childhood in 1990s Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a few years before The Filipino Channel invaded the desert with programming from the homeland.
My brother and I would wait till 1 p.m. on class-less days for the government’s English-channel 2 to sign on.
Then my father got a satellite dish.
In pre-Internet Saudi, this was the closest glimpse to the outside world. Aim the dish right, plug in a decoder, and the Middle East–plus a little of Europe–was available at the flick of a button.
Yet aside from the occasional subtitled movies and ’80s Disney toons, all else needed translation.
Later, satellite began receiving more European TV. Some Arab media began offering all-Hollywood movie channels, still subtitled. And religious shows from the likes of Trinity hit the heart of the Muslim world.
CNN still was our channel of choice. Its special reports and hourly wraps soon fed a growing interest for world history, geography, and current affairs in this elementary school kid.
I grew to know the names of foreign leaders and capitals. And with them an appreciation for news production–from graphics to anchor setups to live reports to the hustle-bustle of the control room.
Dad also recorded to VHS major global events as seen on the network.
You name it, our tape library likely had it: the United Nations’ 50th anniversary, Princess Diana’s funeral, President Clinton’s impeachment and Iraq campaign, the millennium celebrations, and 9/11.
As such I did better at world current events quizzes in school than with Philippine current events.
When news broke back home, chances were Maria Ressa told it for CNN.
She told her stories with an American accent that came from growing up abroad. Only her name and look hinted at her Filipino heritage.
Watching her made me think I could make a name and difference for my country by pursuing news.
On CNN’s 30th year, I’ve since gone to study and then join the media this network has permanently redefined with the concept of 24/7 news.
I follow shows on round-the-clock local channels ANC and DZMM Teleradyo. I browse updates from news sites on the Internet, and get real-time pseudo-headlines on Twitter–concepts never imagined when CNN and I were born.
All of them form competition in the field this network pioneered.
Plus, I now work in the news group for which Maria Ressa left CNN to manage.
Maybe it was no coincidence that I share the same birth month as the network that inspired me to become a journalist.