By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
It was a small switch—just a handful of words. But it made some people do a double take on their TV sets. At first, they thought that a story for another show might have wandered into the May 19 line-up of “TV Patrol”.
Then in report after report, they heard it again. The tag line “Patrol ng Pilipino” with which ABS-CBN reporters closed their stories for almost a decade was now taking a rest.
And it was not just on “TV Patrol.” Later that night, viewers heard the same new extro on “News Plus” in Channel 23 and on “Bandila”: the reporter’s name, followed by “ABS-CBN News”. Come “Umagang KayGanda” the next morning, it was clear this was no slip or experiment.
It was a small switch that reflected big, gradual changes in the news organization.
Recent years saw it formally consolidating its regional, radio, cable, and online platforms with its Manila TV arm. This integration has resulted in, among others, its TV journalists filing reports for DZMM, and later on, Radyo Patrol reporters going on cam for “TV Patrol”.
Lately, the news and current affairs group has also reintroduced itself on the air as simply “ABS-CBN News”.
But ABS-CBN Integrated News Head Ging Reyes clarifies that integration merely helped speed up the change of extro. The intent behind the “symbolic” switch is a bigger identity going beyond individual news programs.
“It is more (of) strengthening the identity of the ABS-CBN journalist, so that whenever he or she goes out, he or she knows he is representing ABS-CBN,” she says.
“We want our people to think, to feel, to believe that what we are doing is for the entire news organization, and not just for Patrol or Bandila. We want our journalists, production staff, everybody involved in production and newsgathering to carry the name of ABS-CBN like a badge of honor,” she says.
Yet in television news, where loyal viewers expect the stories and headlines to be the only constant “new” thing, a switch in long-familiar delivery can take some getting used to.
At the voiceover or VO room of the ABS-CBN newsroom, a sheet of paper reminds reporters of the new standard way to end their pieces. The notice replaced older ones that carried previous extros like “Para sa Umagang Balita” and “Nagbabandila”.
The absence of “Patrol ng Pilipino” is the most striking to those used to hearing the sign-off during primetime. After all, since 2004, ABS-CBN’s news division solidified its branding around that of its flagship program.
In December of that year, “TV Patrol” morphed into “TV Patrol World,” partly in response to lagging ratings and as a vehicle that banked on the network’s global newsgathering reach.
The reformat gave birth to “Patrol ng Pilipino”. Luis Alejandro, ABS-CBN president at the time, called it an “equity statement” evoking ABS-CBN’s motto, “In the service of the Filipino”. For then-current affairs head Luchi Cruz-Valdes, that equity included “going beyond journalism and into public service.”
And for the next decade, the tag line served that purpose.
(The opening to ‘TV Patrol World’ in December 2004)
It was the sign-off that accompanied budding TV journos like Jorge Cariño, Sol Aragones, Niko Baua, Jenny Reyes, Jeff Canoy, Chiara Zambrano, Atom Araullo, and others as they braved floods, covered crises and demolitions, and exposed controversies.
A generation of Pinoy TV reporters and reporter-wannabes saw “Patrol ng Pilipino” as their dream extro. Newbie reporters knew that they had entered the big leagues once they delivered those three words.
Inevitably, “Patrol ng Pilipino” grew synonymous with ABS-CBN journalists, whether in Manila, the regions, or abroad. It spawned its own newsmagazine show. More so, it boosted the value of “TV Patrol” in time for its silver anniversary as the longest-running Filipino language newscast.
“TV Patrol World” also began the trend of ABS-CBN’s news programs distinguishing their reports. Future newscasts like “Bandila”, “Umagang Kayganda”, and “Iba-Balita” added in their titles to their extros. Until May, only the English-language reports for the ABS-CBN News Channel or ANC remained affixed with “ABS-CBN News”.
It won’t be easy for ABS-CBN reporters who got their spurs in the latter Arroyo years to let go of their first sign-off. But old timers will remind them that they are not really adopting something new. Long before “Patrol ng Pilipino”, it has always been “ABS-CBN News”.
Through journalists like Boo Chanco and cameramen like Bert Salonga, it was ABS-CBN News that reported live the collapse of the Ruby Tower in the 1960s and the Plaza Miranda bombing in the 1970s. After EDSA 1, a new generation of newsers like Charie Villa, Pia Hontiveros, and Ces Drilon again brandished ABS-CBN News as they charged into coups, quakes, and eruptions. Even then, the small but vibrant newsrooms did news for both TV and radio.
The extro “ABS-CBN News” is but a return to roots and a nod to global practice. Branding programs by their extros, after all, did not start in ABS-CBN.
The switch also coincides with ABS-CBN Corporation’s renewed company-wide branding effort that extends from redesigned logos to refined brand associations. For the network’s brand gurus, the image of the news arm is synonymous to ABS-CBN’s.
“The name of ABS-CBN is so vast. And it inspires trust; it evokes service,” Ging Reyes adds. “And that’s what I want to focus on more than per program. Iba yung, ‘Galing ako from News.’ And now is the time for us to take pride in the institution we are in.”
There are also practical pros to the common, simpler extro. No longer does the reporter need to tape multiple spiels with different extros. If a package does not air on one newscast, the standard extro allows it to be used in the next.
But is “Patrol ng Pilipino” really retiring? The identification will always be there, says Reyes, each time the anchors say “Nagpapatrol.” And who knows, the current affairs show of the same name might find a second life in another ABS-CBN News platform.
It’s a small switch–while without fuss or fanfare–that’s no gimmick. With no unique extros, it is a bigger challenge for newscasts to distinguish themselves with content and storytelling. In the end, the sign-off serves as a signature to stories that should be accurate, heartfelt, and powerful.
*Below: A behind-the-scenes video of the ABS-CBN News team 10 years ago.