“Anjo, nagkakagulo raw diyan. Puntahan nyo. Ili-live natin yan.”
Our afternoon deployments usually land us in Mendiola, that Manila landmark suggestive of white uniforms and red banners. The traffic can get heavy, and the parking tight, but we set up at this university area when needed.
Mendiola is the closest our ENG vans usually get to Malacanang, the nation’s center of power. It is also the quickest way our crews covering the President send video back to the station in Quezon City.
Depending on the day’s flow of stories, Mendiola becomes a hub for our late-running stories in the Manila area.
Palace reporter Willard Cheng’s cameraman or driver would drop by the van to drop off CF cards (before, tapes) from their coverage for feeding. On heavier days we would edit packages or set up for live.
It’s a different story from the the other end of the street.
We were only expecting a feed one Friday afternoon. As we struggled to secure parking for a Ford van, a Nissan Frontier and a huge generator-toting truck near the Malacanang gate, base called.
Move closer to the Mendiola peace arch, they said. A rally apparently went haywire.
Students had walked out of their classes. They said President Aquino had cut the budget for state universities and colleges (S UCs) like UP in an amount bigger than under Gloria. Familiar lines from familiar faces.
Our UP Journ block head emceed the program. Another block mate said UP planned to jack up tuition again.
I found Ryan Chua and two cameramen there. Ryan now rarely covered outside the air-conditioned Senate, his current beat. No sessions on Fridays, he reminded me.
Earlier, the students burned an image of the President then broke through barbed-wire barriers set by police. Cameras caught protesters assaulting an anti-riot officer until their comrades stopped them.
The issue was surely public concern. But the clash and burn made it potential TV Patrol live.
Ryan and I agreed to maximize the megaphone shouts and banging metal of the trouble that brewed. And highlight the burned effigy–PNoy’s first.
The initial live silent was changed to a live voiceover 30 minutes before Patrol and moved to top story.
We fed an hour-long Malacanang press briefing as Ryan phoned people at the budget department. To be fair, he said. The bureau’s press release countered that the SUCs budget actually increased employees’ salaries.
We packed up after a photo-finish Take 2. The extended standby of the police and protesters ended.
A similar call stopped us two weeks later as we were already pulling out of Mendiola.
Police had whacked demonstrators marking PNoy’s 100 days as they pushed them back to Legarda Street. Cops complained of a rock thrown at them.
The protesters went elsewhere, but we had to air the clash on Patrol–again upping the natural sound. While reporter Chiara Zambrano wrote, I edited the footage, and our crew set up lights, cables, and camera for the news break.
The live silent aired smoothly, but not exactly as intended, and with less video than what I wanted shown in a report that rolled half a minute.
Mendiola students passing by seem to have accepted the inevitability of rallies in their locale. Only this place is laden with history and proximity. I still overhear some commenting how repetitively futile these actions are.
Yet demonstrations are staged as a break from normality to raise consciousness. Precisely that disruption makes them newsworthy.
But not all events and not all rallies get into the news. They make good video and photos, but are usually gauged by the number or prominence of the protesters, the issues raised, their timing, and the action that ensues.
Around a hundred Hacienda Luisita farmers and militant groups held vigil again the morning after Chiara’s live.
Network reporters like ABS-CBN’s Niko Baua had already filed stories by 5 p.m. detailing the farmers’ grievances as they burned a tarp of the President’s photos.
At 6 p.m., they were still there, and prepped to face off with police.
As the headlines of the primetime newscasts rolled, riot shields immediately confronted anti-PNoy banners. Both sides shoved and hoses spouted jets until the cops pushed the rallyists onto Legarda.
Live shots of the tumult were quickly cut into the broadcasts, and the commotion briefly stole the thunder from the President’s hundred-days report.