Beneath Lando’s clouds

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

PinoyJourn’s 2015 year-end series, Log 1

Landfall of Typhoon Lando as seen from the town landmark of Baler, Aurora (Shot by Brian Pimentel, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Brian Pimentel, ABS-CBN News)

(Note: In a succession of stories, this blog revisits major events and trends witnessed by this writer, all of which made 2015 a year for the books.)

BALER, AURORA–We were prepared for the worst.

Our news team in Baler had met the night before. Everyone had to know what we expected from the typhoon and from each other in those crucial first hours, and what to do if the unfortunate happened.

But what caught us all by surprise was the arrival of Typhoon Lando (internationally Koppu) 7 hours before the time weather bureau PAGASA first predicted it would reach land.

Our 3 news gathering teams would take their posts in different vantage points around Baler before the supposed landfall time of 8 a.m. We had agreed to be up as early as 3 a.m. that Sunday morning to give them time to leave our hotel.

Our technical team would stay the fort at our lodgings and make sure our means of broadcasting the aftermath to the world would survive the typhoon’s onslaught.

We heard the town would switch off power as early as 10:30 p.m., but most of us had already gone to sleep when the lights did go out past 1 a.m.

It would be shorter sleep than expected for most of us.

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The 2014 SONA in HD

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pres. Benigno Aquino III delivering his fifth State of the Nation Address (Courtesy: Radio TV Malacanang)

(Courtesy: Radio Television Malacanang)

Only tech-versed viewers who habitually flip channels might have noticed. The fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Pres. Benigno Aquino III also goes down as the first to be shot in high definition (HD).

There’s little fanfare for the Presidential Broadcast Staff – Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM), which bags the credit for this long-overdue upgrade. They’ve always handled the SONA pool feed, being charged after all with documenting the chief executive’s speeches and activities.

At these events, the SOP for network live news crews is to hook up with RTVM’s feed since they have more camera angles, and more importantly, prime access to the president. However, the RTVM feed was at times of lower quality than that of the networks’ own cameras and fell prey to technical glitches that made it risky to air.

RTVM stayed in the technical cellar for years, as the privately-owned networks bulked up on the latest equipment. Moves to update their tech capabilities went gradually, going only as far as the government’s budget could allow.

Then in 2012, the Philippines was picked to host the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia.

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Late-night landing at Villamor

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Volunteers waiting for Typhoon Yolanda survivors at Villamor Airbase (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At the point where the tarmac meets the driveway, dozens of volunteers stood in wait like an army bracing for the enemy’s charge.

Their eyes were on the C130 plane taxiing the runway. It landed just before 11 p.m., an hour after another C130 came in, dropped its load, took in a different load, and flew out again.

The volunteers were huddled against an invisible line straddling that point. Their arms and hands full: on some, piles of fast food meals, on others, small bottles of mineral water. Some grasped folded shirts with both hands.

As they looked on, a woman’s voice boomed on a loudspeaker: “Volunteer drivers, please stand by.”

Then, the C130’s cargo unloaded. People stepped down the ramp into a curved line to where the volunteers waited. Most walked. A few were pushed in wheel chairs. The worst were carried in stretchers.

C130 plane from Tacloban City arrives at Villamor Airbase (Shot by Nestor Conato, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Nestor Conato, ABS-CBN News)

As the walkers approached, the arms and hands sprang to action. The arrivals were handed food, water, and clothes. All that as a cheer and applause rose from the volunteers welcoming them. The volunteers were not greeting an enemy, but compatriots in distress.

The scene happens nearly every hour at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, which is the entry point of those who survived super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). To some, Villamor is a gateway to respite from the chaos. For others, to a new life far from the devastation.

As relief is brought in droves to Eastern Visayas and kind hearts spend money and time for efforts being sent there, others are helping out closer to home by meeting the exodus of survivors to Luzon.

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All eyes on Janet Napoles (no more)

ABS-CBN cameraman shooting the facade of the Philippine Senate on the wait for Janet Lim Napoles (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

On guard in front of the Senate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

None of us caught a glimpse of Janet Lim-Napoles when she arrived at the Senate on November 7. That, despite the best-laid coverage plans and the most pervasive camera placements in and around the compound.

That morning, media vehicles trailed a convoy that sped away from Napoles’s detention cell in Fort Sto. Domingo, Laguna. Some had lenses trained on it the whole ride, airing live via mobile transmitters.

Our broadcast facilities at the Senate were all set up the night before, fired up since 4 a.m., and waiting. Up to the last minute, news bosses talked with the Senate media bureau, haggling set-up spaces and running lists of personnel for accreditation.

The last time the Senate saw something this big was during the impeachment trialof former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Channels devoting special coverage again put up remote studios in allocated halls. Stages for live stand-ups were erected at the parking lot. Big news orgs like ABS-CBN fielded at least 6 reporter crews to the place. Robotic CCTV-style cameras were hung above the Senate session hall.

ABS-CBN reporter Ron Gagalac preparing to report on ANC from the Senate on Janet Napoles at the Pork Barrel Scam hearing (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Ron Gagalac on ANC. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But the convoy from Laguna didn’t go straight to the Senate basement where VIPs of previous famous hearings usually headed. Instead, it stopped near the gate, beside a restricted side entrance for employees. Cameramen rushed there too late to see anyone important.

With no confirmation if Napoles had indeed arrived, we assumed the convoy was a decoy and waited a little more. One of our producers said he had sources saying Napoles was not yet here.

But a few minutes later, Janet Napoles entered the Senate plenary hall from a holding area reserved for senators. She wore a police-issued bulletproof vest—her same getup when we last saw her being rushed to a jailhouse in Makati.

Face-to-face

Napoles sat on one side of the rectangular arrangement of desks, directly opposite the senators. Beside her were two public attorneys, hired by the Senate to fill in for Napoles’s private counsel, who resigned. The whistleblowers, also in bulletproof vests, faced her from the right.

Monitors on ABS-CBN OB van show Janet Lim Napoles (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Split screens and Janet Napoles from the robotic camera. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At our OB van, the technical director readied a split-screen template set against a graphic designed for this coverage. The producers wanted to see the reactions of Napoles, the whistleblowers, and the senators to each question and answer, so their shots had to be shown side-by-side.

Some of the Senate cleaning staff took a break to watch the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on TV screens. Even the session hall had to extend seating capacity to 300. Among the restrictions inside—wearing shirts with political statements. Outside, militant groups came to protest.

Everyone wanted to hear what Napoles would say. None perhaps more than Sen. Miriam Santiago. Santiago had tweeted that she would get up from her “sick bed” just to grill Napoles.

Miriam’s turn to interrogate Janet was riveting, even entertaining. But after appealing to conscience, warning against possible death, employing reverse psychology, dispensing legal advise, and even name-dropping suspects, it grew frustrating.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago holds a press conference after interrogating Janet Napoles  (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

After the interrogation, a presser for Senator Miriam. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The other senators rephrased their questions and asked in stages, but they got nothing.

Napoles would say variations of these:

  1. “Hindi ko po alam”;
  2. “May kaso na po kami sa korte, BIR, Ombudsman, etc.”;
  3. “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”

Someone took count–19 times for “I don’t know”, and 22 for “I invoke”. Filipinos have seen too many Senate hearings not to find those answers oddly familiar. Some waited for the usual final card to be played: the appeal to health.

The hearing looked futile–its bird would not sing. But Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Sen. TG Guingona saw it differently. He had previously fought to summon Napoles to the Senate floor.

Contrasts

Guingona said the contrast between Napoles’s “general denials” and the whistleblowers’ “positive assertions” was clear to those watching. For him, the hearing allowed the public to scrutinize Napoles’s credibility.

Whistleblowers Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Benhur Luy and ,  Gertrudes Luy face Janet Napoles at the Senate (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Allan Pingol, ABS-CBN News)

Janet Napoles surrounded by lawyers from the Public Attorney's Office (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Angel Valderrama, ABS-CBN News) Beside Napoles, public lawyers she first met on this day. Facing her, her accusers. (Shots by Angel Valderrama & Allan Pingol, ABS-CBN News)

Santiago, meanwhile, suspected that Napoles was torn between protecting her alleged godfathers in government and saving her self. Santiago insisted though that there were bigger fish in the alleged pork barrel scam than Napoles.

The entire time, our lead anchor Lynda Jumilla sat in the Senate studio listening and typing notes. When the session called a break–like when Napoles asked to eat–the ABS-CBN News Channel would ask Lynda to fill in with a report. Occasionally, Channel 2 would also air Lynda’s updates.

Aided by a producer and two coordinators, Lynda invited senators and Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to talk with her live. And while there, she still managed to get first the sides of senators who were absent.

Lynda was sent a picture of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada watching ANC’s coverage in the United States. Then, after Senator Santiago unleashed diatribes against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III, Enrile texted Lynda a reaction. Osmeña even went down from his office to be interviewed live.

Lynda Jumilla interviews Sen. Francis Chiz Escudero the day Janet Napoles faced the Senate. (Shot Nov 7, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

On ANC: Lynda Jumilla interviews Chiz Escudero. Click the pic to watch. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

As stealthily as Napoles came in, so did she leave. Few looked for her once the hearing ended. No media convoys followed her back to Fort Sto. Domingo. Reporters were busy getting reactions and filing stories.

Napoles was bumped off the top story during the primetime newscasts, when President Aquino came on TV pleading with Filipinos in the Visayas to evacuate their homes from nearing super storm Yolanda (Haiyan). His live speech cut into Ron Gagalac’s wrap-up report of the hearing.

The typhoon was in the minds of half the country that night, and the tragedy that followed took their attentions entirely off Napoles and the pork barrel scam.

But it did not stop some from reminding everyone what could have been avoided had not the nation’s taxes been tampered. Actress Angel Locsin asked that Napoles be shown TV coverage of the typhoon in her cell, hoping that she might feel remorse over what she allegedly did.

Napoles’s first face-to-face with the Senate was already set late due to an earthquake, an election, and a holiday. They said this was not the last. But after Yolanda, who knows when the next will be.

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Lessons from ABS-CBN’s ‘Kapitan’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Cover of "Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the Making of ABS-CBN" by Raul Rodrigo

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

I loaned “Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the Making of ABS-CBN” from the company library for research. But only when I had to return it did I start reading the coffee-table book cover to cover. It took two days, one of which took an entire afternoon.
ABS-CBN 60 years of Philippine Television logo

The book’s subject matter is daunting. It squeezes 55 years of Philippine television—not just ABS-CBN—into 450 pages. Eugenio Lopez, Jr., who did not start the network but steered it to dominance, actually figures in only less than three-fourths of its pages.

The late author Raul Rodrigo begins not with the birth of Lopez, but with the conception of Bolinao Electronics Corporation (ABS-CBN’s corporate predecessor) in 1946. Likewise, Rodrigo’s flash-forward mentions go way beyond Lopez’s death on June 29, 1999.

The influence of “Kapitan” (an honorific christened him by employees) nonetheless comes up in each turn of the page, especially in anecdotes that have grown part of company lore.

In marking 60 years of television in the Philippines and the 14th anniversary of Geny Lopez’s death, here are some notes on his personal philosophy and management style:

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Philippine TV trends of 2012 (Part 3)

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Last of three parts. Read Part 1 / Part 2)

2. HASHTAG FEVER

While a world of its own, the Twitterverse has also become a second home for television—the Philippines included. Viewers take to social media to comment on shows they are watching, a number to support or bash the personalities starring in them.

Netizens use the # or hash sign to mark names, topics, or phrases dominating the online conversation.

Twitter hashtags in the Philippines for 2012: #salamatDolphy #itsmorefuninthePhilippines #TVPatrol25 #CJonTrial #GGV #KMJS #Amalayer #MissPHILIPPINESforMissUniverse2012 #PartyPilipinas #MYRVESMonopolizesDAVAO #XFactorPH #RatedK #rescuePH #ASAPRocks #Angelito2 #PrincessandI #MalingMali #PBBTeens #PinoyTrueStories #ProtegeShock #WalangPasok

At first these “hashtags” emerged during live TV events, such as the finales of reality shows like “Pinoy Big Brother”. The hashtags gain consensus among Twitter users before making the site’s “Trending Topics” list.

TV networks and shows soon put up Twitter handles of their own, opening a line of feedback to the public.

Since tweets with specific hashtags could be monitored, news organizations have used them for special coverages too. For instance, the #Harapan#Halalan and #Eleksyon2010 tags in 2010. In 2012, news orgs followed the Corona impeachment trial with hashtags like #CJonTrial. And newscast TV Patrol welcomed its 25th year in 2012 with #TVPatrol25.

By picking a particular hashtag, TV shows can track all tweets directed at them and gain exposure (and more viewers) when the hashtag trends.

2012 saw pre-recorded shows like soap operas, sitcoms and documentaries also jump on the hashtag bandwagon.

Some programs merely flashed the hashtag at the beginning or end of each segment. Others like live productions constantly showed their hashtags onscreen during the entire telecast. Shows like “Party Pilipinas” and “The X-Factor Philippines” even made distinct ones based on the themes of their weekly episodes.

But even as TV shows tried to direct the tweets, viewers still dictated what would trend. The best example for the year are the weekly trending topics based on the guests of the late-night comedy talk show “Gandang Gabi Vice”.

1. MEETING THE THIRST FOR NEWS

Viewers gained much in the way of news and information in 2012. TV news met reenergized content and new players, all in time for Filipinos to face the big events of the year.

Philippine Primetime weather anchors: Kim Atienza of TV Patrol; Nathaniel Cruz of 24 Oras; Lourd de Veyra of Aksyon; and Mai Rodriguez of Solar Network News

Primetime weather anchors: Kim Atienza of TV Patrol; Nathaniel Cruz of 24 Oras; Lourd de Veyra of Aksyon; and Mai Rodriguez of Solar Network News

The newscasts increased emphasis on weather reporting by acquiring advanced forecasting tools, updating their visuals, and even hiring meteorologists.

With services like Metra and Weather Central, weather reporters went beyond general temperatures to predict the likelihood of rain, the amount of rainfall, and specific conditions at different times of day.

The new tools came in handy as the country braved calamities like the Hagupit ng Habagat and Typhoon Pablo.

2012 was also the year of news channels, which stood out during the Corona impeachment trial.

The trial became the premiere for the new kid on the block—Solar News Channel. Free-to-air and all-English, Solar took off from its wall-to-wall coverage of the trial and slowly introduced newscasts into previous channel TalkTV.

In October, TalkTV rebranded into SNC and unveiled a slew of local news talk shows to complement its lineup of imported current affairs programs.

Jing Magsaysay and Pia Hontiveros at the Solar remote studio in the Senate during the Corona trial. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Magsaysay and Hontiveros at the Solar remote studio in the Senate during the Corona trial.

Solar News Channel is billed as a news service highlighting “news you can use” over the crime-and-entertainment offerings of other TV news organizations. It is helmed by veteran reporters Jing Magsaysay and Pia Hontiveros, both formerly with the ABS-CBN News Channel or ANC.

ANC lost other talents like Mai Rodriguez and Twink Macaraig to Solar and other networks last year. Macaraig moved to TV5, which is expected to put out its own English news channel.

Macaraig left ANC’s afternoon shift, which the channel replaced with a new block of newscasts with specific focuses. “News Now” covers breaking national stories at 2 p.m. and business stories at 3 p.m. “The Bureau” reports world news, while “@ANCalerts” reports the latest in technology and social media.

Even government-owned People’s Television Network (PTV 4) was revitalized with revamped programs, a new logo, and a bold slogan—“Telebisyon ng Bayan”.

Aiming to lessen its image as the administration propaganda arm, PTV still airs infomercials in the afternoon. But an ongoing congressional review of its charter promises the public channel less restrictions on its sources of funding, and an opportunity of going against the commercial channels.

Logos of Philippine TV news channels: ANC, Aksyon TV, DZMM Teleradyo, GNN, GMA News TV, RH TV, PTV 4, Solar News Channel

The Philippines’ news channels as of 2012

GMA News TV continues its streak as the most-watched news channel, while introducing entertainment programs such as classic movies to its lineup.

TV5’s Aksyon TV channel stepped up production of current affairs shows last year, after many of those airing on the main channel were replaced by a daily newsmagazine, “Reaksyon”.

As the networks focus on separate news channels, among the casualties are midday newscasts “Balitaang Tapat” of TV5 and “Iba-Balita Ngayon” of Studio 23, which went off the air this year.

But clearly media companies are recognizing that Filipinos are not only hooked to variety shows and teleseryes, and that there aren’t enough sources of news on TV.

*Read PART 1 & PART 2.

(Do you agree with this list or have your own idea of 2012’s top TV trends? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section.)

——————

Related 2012 Yearenders online:

PinoyJournalist blog thumbnail 
  This blog’s Most-visited posts for 2012
 
 
ABS-CBN News.com logo 
  ABS-CBNnews.com’s Top stories for 2012
 
 
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility logo 
CMFR’s “The year that was in the news media” 
New players in the media landscape
 
 
Media newser Philippines logo The big news in TV news for 2012, according to MediaNewser Philippines.

Meet the Robredos

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Naga Students line up to see Jesse Robredo's casket (Shot August 23, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

“Salamat, Jesse Robredo” coverage log 2

NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR– For a week, this city became, in the words of Sec. Manuel Quezon III, the capital of the country.

The top stories centered here, just after Manila and its neighbors closed their ordeal with the Habagat floods.

While the stories focused on the man, the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, the spotlight also turned to the city and to the lives most connected to him.

They long lived in Robredo’s shadow. But the secretary’s life and death bagged Naga and his family a greater appreciation from many who met them by this tragedy.

The casket was no longer opened. Still, hundreds continued to come.

The casket soon had to be moved from a cramped corner of the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace to the wider covered driveway outside.

There and later at the Basilica Minore, many noticed how orderly the Nagueños lined up and occupied the place.

ABS-CBN reporter Jorge Cariño reports from near the casket of Jesse Robredo in Naga (Shot August 23, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A couple visits the coffin of Jesse Robredo (Shot August 24, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan) (Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Local businesses kept sending in food and drinks, to the point that organizers asked them to stop for the meantime.

Even for packed meals the locals quietly lined up for their share.

Reporters and anchors repeatedly hailed Naga’s rise from municipality to first-class city as a legacy of its former mayor.

More remarkable than that though is the discipline of the Nagueños formed not from fear or force, but from example.

Aika

Like his stint as mayor, Jesse Robredo worked below the radar as DILG secretary. He didn’t even bring his family to Manila.

Only during Robredo’s search and wake did the public and the media begin to get acquainted with his wife and three daughters.

Our news teams were assigned to get and prepare for a guest on the night Sec Jesse’s casket arrived at Naga.

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#CJonTrial: Last full show at the Senate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN News live setup outside Senate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The excitement over Day 44 of the trial deciding the fate of Chief Justice Renato Corona, as expected, spilled way past the Senate grounds.

Outside the gate, the long line of prospective watchers was up for a final effort. As before, only 40 green passes to the Session Hall would be given out.

And no ticket more, this last full show already full. Not even for actor Pen Medina, who showed up with a “Convict Corona” shirt. He took it off to comply with regulations, yet still missed the cut.

Farther off at the Senate security checkpoint beside the Manila Film Center, three news vans were parked near a barricade and a throng of anti-riot police.

This spot was the closest any groups wanting to amass in protest or support could get to the Senate.

Close to noon, nearly 50 members of a health workers’ group arrived with “Guilty!” signs. They brought out effigies of Corona, his benefactor Gloria Arroyo, and of President Aquino.

They wanted a Corona conviction, but hoped the alternative was not a Supreme Court controlled by the President. They left after 30 minutes.

Akbayan members brandish "Convict Corona" signs outside Senate during impeachment verdict (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A group of the same number, this time from Akbayan, a party allied with Aquino, later came with yellow placards that all repeated “Convict” and “Guilty”.

Unlike before, only one side came out that day. Many of those praying for an acquittal for Corona remained at the Supreme Court to watch the Senate verdict via an LCD projector.

The Akbayan assembly stayed on to monitor the votes cast by the 23 senator-judges through a radio piped into their mobile speakers.

ABS-CBN’s cameras were trained on both spots for live reactions to the moment of decision.

At ABS’s Senate OB van control, it was business as usual, yet spiced with the excitement of a final sprint.

The crews manning the facilities that broadcast the trial sessions and live reports for Channel 2, ANC, and DZMM had been at it since January. And except for infrequent session lulls, their work routines for four months have been 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., all to and from the Senate.

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