By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
High up a mountain in Nabuclod, Floridablanca, Pampanga on the night of March 4, six Aeta men mixed cement to fill the foundation where a slab of hardened lahar would stand.
The wind chilled, and the only light came from a blue-head lamp started up by the ABS-CBN technical crew that was also setting up on this upland eco-tourism park.
The 5-foot tall slab lay beside a shallow pit. Embossed on it: “TV Patrol 25,” followed by rows of commemorative text.
“Good thing it took us till night to bring this up here,” said Mae Purificacion, one of two women from ABS-CBN News’ business group who were supervising the work.
“Otherwise, other people here would be taking shots of it way too early.”
The tech crew had already mobbed the slab with photo-ops after it was brought out from a crew cab. But no posting on Facebook yet, they were warned.
They only hoped the cement would harden by morning.
Such was the subtle flurry of activity in the hours counting down to the celebration of TV Patrol’s 25th birthday.
The tech team prepped for Umagang Kay Ganda, where hosts Andrei Felix and Venus Raj would ride the park’s zip line and cable car live.
In Manila that night, the people at post-production outfit Acid House ran overtime rendering the new opening billboard (OBB) and segment intros for the special March 5 telecast.
Acee Vitangcol, an ABS-CBN digital strategist put the finishing touches on the timeline of TV Patrol’s Facebook page. It would go public at midnight with photos of the show’s past sets, logos, and reporting moments.
The network was pulling out all the stops for this milestone. After all, TV Patrol was one of the driving forces that propelled ABS-CBN back to ratings leadership in 1988.
On its silver anniversary, the groundbreaking newscast was giving back to the public.
The slab in Floridablanca was the first of 25 markers–Balitandaans–to be put up in places around the Philippines where TV Patrol covered the biggest news events during its history.
Floridablanca was among the areas smothered by ash and lahar when Mount Pinatubo woke from its sleep in 1991.
The Aetas living near the park were living reminders of why the first marker was placed there.
Anchorman Noli De Castro recalled that even before July 1991, TV Patrol already visited Pinatubo.
“Talagang ang nakikinabang diyan ang mga kababayan nating Aeta, wala nang iba,” he said. “Saganang-sagana (pa) sila. Kaya lang noong sumabog, nasira ang kanilang kabuhayan.”
The Aetas now benefit from the Nabuclod Eco Park, developed from their ancestral land by a public-private partnership.
Co-anchor Ted Failon bared a personal connection to the tragedy. His family moved from Pampanga to Manila a week before the eruption.
“Praise God ako po’y buhay pa dahil siguro may misyon pa ngayong araw na ito.”
Through TV Patrol, the country was shocked, and the country sent in its help.
The event was a homecoming as well for veteran reporters Charie Villa, Gus Abelgas, and their cameramen like Rolly Marcelo, who formed the Pinatubo team in 1991.
They and ABS-CBN’s new generation of journalists joined Kabayan, Ted and Korina Sanchez as they unveiled the marker.
That was just the kickoff.
In Plaza Miranda, TV Patrol staff brought out a podium, a mic, and a megaphone.
With a camera, they invited passers-by to stop and deliver their own versions of TV Patrol, along with a statement on why they watch the show and a pledge: “Magpa-Patrol Ako!”
Meanwhile, TV Patrol’s Facebook followers waxed nostalgic while browsing the evolution of TV Patrol’s look and faces posted on the new timeline.
The old shots went viral online, especially Pia Hontiveros’ iconic live shot strapped to a pole during Typhoon Rosing.
Actually, the trips down memory lane began way earlier than March 5.
Thanks to ABS-CBN News’ social media team and a persistent online fan, the Twitter hashtag #TVPatrol25 broke out on March 2–TV Patrol’s real birthday.
It started when the current affairs shows accounts first tweeted TVP a “Happy birthday” that morning.
Soon the tweeps followed suit, and flooded Twitter with recollections of Mel Tiangco, Ernie Baron and other TV Patrol moments.
The nostalgia was not lost on Kabayan, Korina, and Ted. And their speeches at the marker-unveiling on March 5 were spiced with flashbacks.
“Ikinararangal kong aminin na ako’y ganoon na katanda,” Korina said. “Apat lang kami noon–Ako, si Vic Lima, si Noli De Castro nasa DZMM pa noon, si Becky Cabral, at Doris Bigornia.”
Kabayan recalled anchoring the 1989 coups, when a production assistant had to bring a telephone to the set so they could interview an official.
“Wala pa tayong mga live live na yan,” he said. “Pero nakaraos din po ang ABS-CBN News at ang TV Patrol.
“At ngayon, hindi ko akalain na 25 taon na ang nadagdag sa edad ko. Pero hindi ko pinagsisisihan ang 25 taon na nagugol sa TV Patrol.”
A production team from current affairs had already been scouring the news archives for memorable scenes from those 25 years.
Still in the works is an anniversary documentary, but viewers would first get a regular taste through the flashbacks on the segment “TV Patrol Rewind.”
TV Patrol’s pioneering foray into citizen journalism also had a face in the 25 Bayan Patrollers who were invited to the event.
Bayan Patroller Maritess Dumagpi giddily expressed her thanks for the rare chance of speaking in front of the TVP anchors and news teams.
“Sabi po 2 minutes lang po, pero sana OK lang na sumobra ako, kasi once in a lifetime lang po ito!”
Online, the first of 25 netizens won a chance to tour the news studios and meet the TVP anchors. Just by answering a trivia question on Twitter.
As it neared 6 p.m., the familiar crescendo of activity began to fill the newsroom. But it was not just from the rush to finish the report packages.
Flags of the silver anniversary logo—“TV Patrol” plus a “25”—were being handed out. Production assistants scouted for employees wearing the red-and-gray anniversary shirts.
The anchors were already on standby to walk the red carpet that was rolled out into Studio 7.
News and current affairs execs and staff lined up the carpet—representing the effort that has made TV Patrol the leader it is today.
Soon primetime came, and Kabayan, Korina, and Ted strolled on to the waving of flags, and the build up of a cheer: “Teeeveeeeeeeeeeeee… Patrol!”
Viewers’ memories also strolled through the past 25 years as the studio rolled the special OBBs. The 30-second time capsules tracked the changes in the segments and hosts until before unveiling their new looks.
The viewers also laughed as Marc Logan bared the Patrol ng Pilipino during their funniest moments.
But as Korina Sanchez mused earlier at the unveiling, the program goes beyond form or personality.
“Palagay ko ang TV Patrol ay higit sa isa, dalawa, tatlo, o apat na tao lamang, o kahit tayong lahat,” she said. “Dahil pagkatapos natin ang TV Patrol ay mananatili ng mahabang-mahabang panahon.”
“TV Patrol is bigger than any of us, and dapat natin ipagmalaki na tayo’y naging bahagi ng kasaysayang ‘yan.”
It’s only the start of TV Patrol’s year-long bash.
(Also published on E-Frequency, ABS-CBN’s intranet newsletter)