By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
For most Filipinos, it is TV Patrol that has been their window to recent history for the longest time.
It has chronicled the ups and downs of the Fifth Republic, some of them coinciding with its own. Its headlines have shown scandals in the halls of power and brawls in obscure barangay corners. And its subjects have ranged from the ordinary to the influential.
The past 12 months were no exception to big news.
TV Patrol’s crews, reporters, and anchors took their cameras to the farthest and the worst, to the best and the most awe-striking. They were at the fringes of two border disputes and at the crossfire of a downtown skirmish. They uncovered schemes of greed and deceit and covered the outrage that followed.
They saw white smoke signal change in a centuries’ old institution, welcomed another countryman to the pantheon of saints, and celebrated the victories of other Pinoys in the global community.
They braved an earthquake, monsoons, and typhoons, including the deadliest where some of them barely escaped with their lives. And they carried the worldwide call for help and helped bring it there.
If 2013 was any indication, it’s that there are always new experiences for an old-timer, especially in news.
Twenty-seven hardly looks like a milestone, unlike 10, 25, or 30. But for the relatively young babies of post-EDSA television, TV Patrol is among the older brothers. Above it, only four TV shows (another newscast, a travelogue, a variety show, and a public service program) have been around longer.
The TV Patrol of 2014 has come a long way from its birth on March 2, 1987. What started with one is now 18 local TV Patrol versions that inform Filipinos about events and issues closer to home. Its first production assistants and reporters now lead the ABS-CBN News division. It has collected Star Awards, reached the hall of fame at the Catholic Mass Media Awards, landed as a finalist in the New York Festivals, and snagged a medal at the International Emmys.
And unlike in the Cory Aquino years when TV Patrol was sole appointment news viewing, news channels, mobile phones, and the Internet have brought it competition in the era of Cory’s son Noynoy.
It is no stranger to competition, which has prompted many turning points in its 27-year career. A Mexican telenovela helped bring out Noli De Castro’s clout as a solo anchor. A rival newscast that thrived on a dip in ABS-CBN News’s trust ratings prompted a reassessment of what TV Patrol stood for and how it did the news. Most of all, the onset of new media gained TV Patrol a substantial online following as a news brand of its own.
That’s not to say that TV Patrol is all perfect or set in monument granite. The experience of 27 years also shows that there will always be bungles, bloopers, and blunders–some grave, some unchecked lapses, some brought by hard-driven pursuit of the big story.
But taken as lessons, they have also helped the show grow, being more careful in avoiding repeats and more conscious of what it puts on air.
Along with that growth is an audience that has become more active, opinionated, more mature in its standards and has come to expect a lot more from their bringers of news. It often knows when it is being given less service than what it should get or when it is taken for a ride, and its reactions have taught the news media a lot.
That audience too will be the judge if those lessons were learned well.
Still, at 27, TV Patrol thrives where it has first made its name—in delivering eyewitness reports from the forefront of events and allowing Filipinos a front-row seat to them. Now, along with the live reports are lengthier and more in-depth takes on issues.
Twenty-seven has brought its simple gifts: a renovated home and, after 10 years, a resurgence in the Mega Manila ratings. If the newscast will still be around 27 years later, doing the same things, boasting the same anchor team, or not will just be seen day to day.
One could say that the fortune of this show has allowed it to stay as long as it has. Unlike other programs that could be cancelled at the slightest dip in viewers, TV Patrol’s devotion to the news has only given it chances to try doing better.
What that has resulted in is an identity of grit and guts that mirrors the story of this nation and the real stars of it—the Filipino people.