SLIDESHOW: Zambo evacuees a year on

ZAMBO EVAC 25

ZAMBOANGA CITY– For many locals who fled their homes during the height of the clashes between government troops and the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013, this has been their residence for the past 12 months.

The open-air Joaquin F. Enriquez Sports Complex has sprung its own community in that time, with the evacuees there building their daily routines on the makeshift cabins and amenities there.

They are now a fraction of the original 110,000 occupants of the stadium, with new arrivals from tents at the bayside. Those who already left returned to the affected barangays, others to temporary shelters in four areas in the city.

City Hall says the sports complex will be vacated by December, the evacuees to transfer to these so-called “transitional sites”.

For now, they continue to pray, play and survive in a village that’s not theirs. They fear not the specter of another armed siege, but of carrying on life with no permanent means to sustain it.

Read more about the evacuees here.
Many thanks to Chito Concepcion, whose camera was used to take these shots.

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ABS-CBN reaps most trophies at 10th USTv awards

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(This is an updated version of an article first published on ABS-CBNnews.com on Feb. 20, 2014. I was at the UST that night to help mount TV Patrol’s live coverage from the university’s Plaza Mayor, where anchors Korina Sanchez and Noli De Castro came to receive awards. As we finished transmitting live footage of the event, I put together the winners and some quips from the recipients into a story that was e-mailed to base before my tech team left UST.)

"TV Patrol" anchors Korina Sanchez and Noli De Castro received the newscast's "Student's Choice of News Program" award from the 10th USTv Awards. (Grab c/o UST Tomasian Cable)

“TV Patrol” anchors Korina Sanchez and Noli De Castro receive the newscast’s award from USTv. (Grab c/o UST Tomasian Cable)

ABS-CBN took home the most awards at the 10th USTv Students’ Choice Awards held at the University of Santo Tomas on Thursday.

The Kapamilya network was recognized by the Tomasian student leaders as their choice of TV network.

Its public service arm, the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc., was among those picked student leaders’ choice of network foundation.

ABS-CBN flagship newscast “TV Patrol” led the winners in the news and public affairs category as students’ choice of news program.

Anchors Noli De Castro and Korina Sanchez received the award, which “TV Patrol” also won in 2013.

“Sa araw-araw, gabi-gabi, binabalita lang namin ang nangyayari. Ang mga artista po diyan ay kung sino ang involved sa mga balita. Ang kinatutuwa po namin ay pinahahalagahan ninyo ang mga balita,” De Castro said.

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How Boy Abunda interviewed Vhong Navarro

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Also published on ABS-CBNnews.com as “What didn’t air from Boy’s interview with Vhong”)

Boy Abunda interviews Vhong Navarro at his hospital bed (Screen grab from Buzz ng Bayan, ABS-CBN)

Boy Abunda and Vhong Navarro. (Screen grab from ABS-CBN’s “Buzz ng Bayan”)

Vhong Navarro’s televised tell-all interview with TV host Boy Abunda from the actor’s hospital bed on January 26 set off a week-long scandal that hogged the national headlines and dominated Filipinos’ conversations.

At a college forum nearly a week later, Abunda revealed that Navarro’s camp was hesitant about letting the actor speak out until minutes before they began what the host called a “tough” exchange.

“Both (Vhong’s) lawyers were in front of me. They were debating: ‘Ano ba, papayag ba tayo dito?’” Abunda said as he detailed to mass communication students at the University of the Philippines – Diliman how he handled the interview.

He recalled Navarro’s lawyers, Atty. Alma Mallonga and Atty. Dennis Manalo warning the actor: “Kasi, Vhong, ‘pag magsalita ka rito, this is coming out later. Lalabas din ang video. Your life is going to change, you may not be able to come back to your career.”

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Why Boy Abunda won’t enter politics

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(First published on ABS-CBNnews.com on January 31, 2014)

Boy Abunda talks to students at a forum in the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. (Photo by Beata Carolino, UP Journalism Club)

Boy Abunda talks to students at a forum in the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. (Photo by Beata Carolino, UP Journalism Club)

Talk show host Boy Abunda is no longer entertaining thoughts of running for public office anytime soon.

“I am announcing it here: I changed my mind, I’m not going into politics,” he told over 100 students at a forum in the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Mass Communication on Thursday.

Abunda admitted that the pork barrel scam made him think twice about running.

“I was just so disappointed,” he said. “Ayoko na, ayoko na talaga.”

The “Bandila” anchor first revealed in the run-up to the 2013 midterm polls that he was considering a run for the gubernatorial post in his home province of Eastern Samar in 2016.

The pork barrel scam, which disclosed the misuse of legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds, was exposed two months after the election.

Abunda said that while he could find the right time to run, it was not now.

“It’s not a permanent decision, but given the choice, and given the political landscape today, I will continue doing my interviews with politicians and public servants. But to dip my fingers and what is left of my soul into the political arena is not something that I would do in the next few years,” Abunda said.

To laughs, he added: “I will continue to be a pole-dancer.”

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A renewed mission for ‘TV Patrol Tacloban’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Life after Yolanda, Log 5)

TACLOBAN CITY–How do journalists cover the news when they themselves were directly affected by it?

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) did not spare local media outlets in Eastern Visayas. The worst hit were radio stations whose announcers were on the air as the typhoon hit.

For the news team of ABS-CBN’s regional station in Tacloban City, the biggest story they covered cost them their homes and nearly them and their families’ lives.

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Dead Leyte firemen honored as heroes

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

A fire truck carrying a flag-draped casket in honor of five fallen fire service men passes through Rizal Avenue in Tacloban City. (Shot by Jong De Guzman)

(Shot by Jong De Guzman)

TACLOBAN CITY – Sirens wailed through downtown Tacloban as firefighters paid tribute to comrades who died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.

At a motorcade that waded through the city’s main streets under the heat of day, members of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) stood guard over a casket draped with a flag and perched atop a fire truck. It represented not only one, but five fire service officers washed away by flood waters as they rescued relatives and compatriots.

The BFP is still busy with relief, recovery, and restoration efforts, but they halted it on Wednesday to honor the lives of SFO4 Ricardo Raga, SFO3 Marius Andre Sison, FO2 Rolando Cinco, FO1 Felix Miranda, and FO1 Melquiades Baguio.

These fire servicemen, like others, were on red alert during the storm. Their bodies, identified by uniforms, were found days later and buried soon after.

“They responded to the call of duty, I respect them so much,” said S/Supt. Pablito Cordeta, the BFP director for Region VIII. “They’re really heroes.”

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Taclobanons want weapons against looters

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(First published on ABS-CBNnews.com on Dec. 4, 2013)

The few people left in the subdivisions look after homes damaged by the typhoon and whose owners left the town. (Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

TACLOBAN CITY– The worse is not yet over for some natives of typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City.

At the Cristina Heights and Kassel Homes subdivisions, many homes are deserted and locked up, their owners having abandoned them out of fear in the aftermath of super storm Yolanda (Haiyan).

The few people who chose to stay are concerned about incidents of theft by burglars who take advantage of exposed areas like roofs.

Such fears run counter to statements by the police that the peace and order situation in the city is under control.

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Ra(n)ge of reactions at the Coastal Terminal

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal in Coastal Mall, Paranaque (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

We showed peeks of it on live TV. We heard officials hint and warn of the changes it would make. But only when the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal opened at the Coastal Mall in Parañaque did we see its full impact.

The people behind it saw it as another step in solving the metro’s traffic problem so prominently mentioned in the President’s 2013 State of the Nation Address.

For a number of the commuters it affected, it was nothing but another strike in a series of poorly-thought-of and inconsiderate policies that gave more problems than they solved.

On August 6, bus-riders from Cavite and Batangas were surprised to find that their trips to Manila and EDSA now ended at Parañaque. They knew about the week-long ruckus in Manila when City Hall blocked buses from entering the city. But hadn’t some buses been allowed back in so long as they had terminals there?

A woman who boarded a bus in Cavite was told by the conductor that they were now only going so far. She loudly began decrying Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, little knowing that the man behind this new move was also aboard that bus. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino simply smiled as the reporters traveling along turned to see his reaction.

Commuters occupy Roxas Boulevard during first days of the Southwest bus terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

Morning rush at Roxas Blvd. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

The MMDA had long been planning to cut off buses going into Metro Manila from the surrounding provinces, and the Southwest Terminal was its corner for southern buses.

But for the terminal’s first three days, the morning rush saw a mass of ride-less travelers occupy the northbound side of Roxas Boulevard and joust for trips. The connecting rides to the metro they expected were either missing or sparse.

When reporter Pia Gutierrez asked them, their reactions were heated and impatient. Their rides were stunted, their pocket money drained, their appointments delayed.

“Sana matupad ang gusto nila, pero sa amin pahirap ito,” one said.

‘Pahirap’

“Pahirap” was the recurring retort of exasperated interviewees trudging the overpass between Coastal Mall to Roxas Boulevard —from an elderly man hauling a sack of belongings to a diminutive woman with a limp forced to join the procession up and down the stairs.

Commuters react to the implementation of the Southwest Integrated bus terminal (Shots by Nestor Prillo & Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Watch some commuter’s reactions in Pia’s TV Patrol story. (Shots by Nestor Prillo & Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Good thing the weather was dry, some said. Didn’t anyone anticipate what would happen to them during typhoon season?

One man lost his wallet in the tussle for rides and kept repeating to Pia iterations of “Manila’s not safe anymore.”

Even passers-by could not hold off shouting angry asides. Others just saw our camera and volunteered their condemnation.

One interviewee was drenched in sweat after lugging two boxes to the terminal with no idea where to ride next. A bus worker beside him irately urged: “Pare, sabihin mo mas maganda yung sistema dati.”

A sign board at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal showing directions to its facilities (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Clearly, the terminal was still in beta phase. A signboard advertised a food court yet to be built. There was already a prayer room and a waiting area that boasted digital monitors of the buses coming in and out. Many commuters, however, told us there must be a better option than this.

On the first night, commuters trying to go home scrambled to cram into the buses. With the heat, smoke, and rising tempers, some fainted. No one paid heed to MMDA personnel striving to put order to the lines. Later, marshals and cordons were put in.

What would you expect when you put 1000 buses in one place, Tolentino asked reporters. He admitted that they were still ironing out the snags, among them the long turnover of buses.

Commuters going home jostle in an attempt to board a bus at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal on its first night of operation. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Click to watch Jasmin Romero’s report on the first night of the terminal. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

For three days, Tolentino faced commuters who vented out their frustrations on him. The signboards were wrong. They were being dropped too far. Some rides refused to take them.

They also raised suggestions. Maybe senior citizens and disabled persons can have their own lounge. The terminal could use more ventilation. And bigger rest rooms.

The chairman did not escape that even during interviews with the media. But he welcomed it. When 15 people held a protest there, he said he even wanted to meet and thank them.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino talks with a commuter about the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

As buses go out, Tolentino hears out a commuter. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Tolentino, a former mayor of Tagaytay, told reporters he himself rode buses from Cavite before.

But he insisted he was on the right track. “Basta ginawa mo yung tama, kailangan talaga panindigan mo rin.”

To a commuter, he said: “Kung mali ako, hindi ako haharap sa inyo.”

Lacking concern

A man who only introduced himself as Jun walked around the terminal one night looking for Tolentino. He said he was a businessman who returned to the Philippines after 13 years managing workers in Japan.

Jun did not commute to Cavite, but he visited the terminal right after seeing the situation on TV.

“Kung Hapon ang gumawa nito at ganito ang nangyari, nagpakamatay na siguro siya,” Jun said.

For him, it seemed the problem was that policymakers lacked concern or even love for the citizen’s welfare. Thus it was easy for them to implement guidelines without thinking about its consequences for the ordinary person.

Long lines and packed entrances to the buses at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal. (Shots by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

(Shots by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Jun had his own ideas to offer to the MMDA chairman. One was letting one bus company run rides for a week. There was no indication though that the two men met.

Indeed, transportation is one issue aside from commodity prices that makes Filipinos opinionated about how their government is working.

If the loud cacophony of criticism at the terminal was not enough, there were others elsewhere. That week, a petition demanding that officials ride public transportation at least once a week made the rounds online.

Commuters climb the overpass from Coastal Mall to Roxas Boulevard looking for connecting trips to Manila. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

To one opinion writer, government may be focusing too much on fixing traffic rather than improving public transit. That’s considering 80 percent of Filipinos in the metro commute rather than drive privately.

At least the responses were not all flak. Chairman Tolentino was also approached by people happy about the reduced congestion. One gave him a thumbs up. “Sa una talaga may problema,” said another.

How did Tolentino feel getting these little boosts? “Lumalakas ang loob ko,” he said. His assurance, after all, is: “Masasanay din sila.”

But if the long lines there at the end of that first week are any indication, it will take more tweaks and renovations before metro commuters get used to a change in their trip routines—all in the name of discipline.

Provincial commuters are now dropped off a walk's distance from the City Bus Terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

Provincial commuters are now dropped off a walk’s distance from the City Bus Terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

The night Dolphy died

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Sol Aragones breaking news of Dolphy's death on ABS-CBN News Patrol, July 10, 2012 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Sol Aragones breaking Dolphy’s death on ABS-CBN News Patrol. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

I will remember where I was when I learned we lost Dolphy.

The big story that day was the extreme traffic wrought by keeping the Metro Manila buses along one lane of EDSA. Our van was at a concrete island on the turn to Quezon Avenue from EDSA.

After we aired a live report for TV Patrol, the news desk told us to stay put while deciding if we would do another for the 11 p.m. newscast.

It was nearly 9 and raining. A crew mate and I were already settling down from dinner, shut in our crew cab.

The desk editor on duty called. “Who’s on standby at Makati Med?”

I gave the name. “Okay. You get ready too,” he said, and hanged up. I called our guy at Makati Medical Center.

“Nag-tweet na si Ruffa,” he said. “Nag-aabangan na dito.”

We read Ruffa Gutierrez’s post via a workmate’s Blackberry: “R.I.P Ninong Dolphy.”

The Net was already abuzz, but no one was yet confirming it.

Commentators on DZMM radio were still bantering about the traffic, cryptically telling listeners who texted queries, “Please wait. We still don’t know.”

TV monitors at the ABS-CBN Newsroom showing GMA and TV5 coverage of Dolphy's death, July 10, 2012  (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ABS-CBN Newsroom monitoring breaking news on Dolphy's death, July 10, 2012 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan) At the ABS-CBN newsroom: Monitoring TV channels covering Dolphy. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

By then, we were told to pack up, pick up some hardware at the base, and proceed to Makati Med. Another crew watching traffic elsewhere in EDSA was diverted there too.

The TV news break greeted us when we got to ABS-CBN. Dolphy’s partner, Zsa Zsa Padilla, confirmed that Dolphy had indeed passed away.

And just like that, our headlines quickly shifted gears from commuting to the loss of a showbiz great.

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Erap’s big move

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Change of address. More fun in the Philippines. In picture: Joseph Estrada driving his Jeep ni erap

(Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News; c/o morefunmaker.com)

Manga Avenue rarely sees the bustle of the nearby residential areas in Santa Mesa, Manila.

While the buildings along this street are bounded by big gates and high walls, it isn’t part of any subdivision. There are few stores close by, and the traffic it usually gets comes from passing tricycles.

The quiet at Manga Ave. may soon change with the transfer of its newest and likely most illustrious resident.

If the house-move last May 9 gave any hint, hubbub won’t be stranger to this place in the next year. Former President Joseph Estrada has brought the noise of Philippine politics to his new territory.

As early as 4 a.m., the one-lane street was already choked outside the gate marked Number 589. News vans parked a pace away were culprits. Their portable generators injected a steady hum to the silence, as TV crews prepped for advancer live shots in the morning shows.

By mid-morning, around a hundred people in white, orange, and green shirts had gathered, holding up the traffic.

The prints on the shirts gave their aim: “Welcome to Manila Mayor Erap”. Others read “Manila ♥ Erap,” “Erap ♥ Manila.”

By then, Erap had left his Polk Street house in Greenhills and was driving to Santa Mesa in his pimped out “Jeep ni Erap.”

Impending showdown

This day would answer if Estrada would follow through on his next reported conquest—this time for the top seat of the City of Manila.

Riding beside him was Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who with other members of the city council had transferred allegiance to Estrada from his former ally, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Estrada had hinted recently of challenging Lim in the 2013 midterm elections. The only deterrent to his qualification for running was his registered address, famously in San Juan.

The transfer convoy, which included three trucks laden with wood cabinets and hard-plastic containers, all timed to the year before the polls.

Erap poster and brass band outside Estrada house in Santa Mesa Manila May 9, 2012 (Shots Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At Manga Avenue, a brass band, complete with dancing girls, had marched in to perk up the welcoming throng. Ice cream and corn vendors had also stopped by.

Placards were passed around. Their messages ranged from the familiar slogans–“Erap para sa mahirap”–to the shout-outs–“Bawal ang Dirty sa Maynila”. “Dirty” an aside against Mayor Lim, nicknamed “Dirty Harry” for his hard-line stance against crime in the 1990s.

Erap had his own action star moniker: Asiong Salonga, after the mid-20th century local gang leader he portrayed on the silver screen.

The impending showdown in Manila has now been lent ready references to action movies.

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