A rainy week of ‘diverts’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Rosario, Cavite - ABS-CBN's ENG 2 wades through the floods (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Rosario, Cavite – ABS-CBN’s ENG 2 wades through the floods (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The requirements start early in the morning and end near midnight. Two to three hours of sleep—in a bed if you’re lucky—and it’s back to the setup for another cycle of live shots upon live shots. All the while you’re stuck in the middle of rising and pouring water. There is little leeway to move around and take a break. And every so often, a call comes instructing you and your team to move to another location.

There is hardly time to digest the extent of the calamities in each stop. All you can do is take the requirements as they come, knowing that airing them can pave the way for responses and solutions.

The week was supposed to begin with follow-ups to two big news coverages. First was the pork barrel funds scandal and the yet-unfruitful hunt for its suspected culprit, Janet Lim-Napoles. The second was miles south in Cebu, where rescue teams scoured for passengers cast to sea by a collision of ships.

An unrelenting torrent of rains the weekend before that changed the tone of the entire week.

Las Piñas City - The stretch of the Alabang-Zapote road leading to Coastal is waist-deep in habagat floods. Cars are submerged. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Las Piñas City – The stretch of the Alabang-Zapote road leading to Coastal waist-deep in floods. Cars were left stranded. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our news field operations team had been keeping vigil at the offices of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the week before in case Napoles & Co. were caught. In Cebu, a satellite team prepared to air TV Patrol’s live reports of the sea tragedy with anchor Noli De Castro and newsgathering crews from ABS-CBN Manila and Cebu.

That and a few live features for morning show Umagang Kayganda (UKG) made up our initial location assignments for Monday, August 19.

But as the day progressed, waters rose throughout Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces. Classes were already suspended the night before. Residents in the worst-hit scrambled to the roofs of their homes. Others trickled to evacuation centers. Cars were stranded in submerged expressways.

EDSA -- Francis Faulve and crew drive through the floods (Shot c/o Francis Faulve)

EDSA — Francis Faulve and crew drive through the floods (Shot c/o Francis Faulve)

Typhoon Maring lounged way up north but was too far to directly cause havoc. It became clear that the growing story was the comeback of the southwest monsoon that inundated Luzon last year. Now, Maring had made Habagat stronger.

ENG vans on standby at the DOJ and NBI were moved to flooded spots in Laguna and Bataan. A team that aired a feature for UKG in Quezon City was supposed to transfer to the Maritime Industry Authority office for updates on the Cebu collision. Instead it proceeded southward to Kawit, Cavite, where the strong currents already reached chests.

Kawit, Cavite - Chest deep floods passable by boat (Shot by William Natividad, ABS-CBN News)

Kawit, Cavite – Chest deep floods passable by boat as seen in Atom Araullo’s TVP report. Click to watch. (Shot by William Natividad, ABS-CBN News)

A team from TV Patrol’s production staff followed there. Already less some of its staff due to Noli De Castro’s anchoring duties in Cebu, TV Patrol dispatched another team bringing audio, lights, and a teleprompter. From Cavite, Korina Sanchez would lead-in the newscast’s live and taped reports on the Habagat.

The floods slowly receded that Monday night, but the rains repeatedly turned on and off. By then, the news desk in Quezon City decided to fix the deployed teams for the night in their locations. Hardly any of the crews would be relieved.

They were advised to look for lodging. Some however, like those in Dinalupihan, Bataan, could find none that was open. Getting food was another thing—many ended up eating takeout.

Kawit, Cavite - A makeshift  breakfast area for the ENG team amid the floods. The meal--rice and sardines. (Shot c/o Chito Concepcion)

Kawit, Cavite – A makeshift breakfast area for the ENG team amid the floods. The meal: rice and sardines, all donated. (Shot c/o Chito Concepcion)

At 3 a.m. Tuesday, our team staying at a hotel in Biñan, Laguna was told to move to Noveleta, Cavite. The flooded town could finally be reached by vehicles, and the news crew that got there first found strewn garbage and mud all over.

‘Diverts’, as we called them, were the order of the next few days. One team started the day with a live feature in the FPJ Studios for Fernando Poe Jr.’s birthday. By lunchtime they were airing shots of a flooded Araneta Avenue. But for TV Patrol, they moved to the Marikina River banks for Niña Corpuz’s live report on the river level.

Noveleta, Cavite--An SUV parked by the subsided floods. Garbage surrounds it. (Shot by Filemon Rocamora)

Noveleta, Cavite–An SUV parked by the subsided floods. Garbage surrounds it. (Shot by Filemon Rocamora)

The Noveleta team found themselves rushing back to San Pedro, Laguna to air President Benigno Aquino III’s quick visit to an evacuation center there. The next day, they returned to Cavite for another P-Noy stop.

TV Patrol continued its remote anchoring. Korina Sanchez and team next visited Bataan. And after two more days in Cebu, Noli De Castro waded the floods of Pampanga and Bulacan.

Malolos, Bulacan--Noli De Castro anchors TV Patrol from MacArthur Highway. Click to watch his report. (Shot c/o Bert Apostol)

Malolos, Bulacan–Noli De Castro anchors TV Patrol from MacArthur Highway. Click to watch his report. (Shot c/o Bert Apostol)

The key to a live anchoring or reporter standup in the floods is finding a dry, elevated spot for the ENG van or satellite truck safely nearby. Once the crucial electronics are secured, the camera and the anchor can approach the water.

As the week drew to a close, the videos of destruction gradually gave way to residents huddling in evacuation centers and others trying to return home. A cameraman transmitting by broadband was sent to Manila to cover the siphoning of water from the submerged Lagusnilad underpass.

Sto. Tomas, Pampanga-- Karen Davila and ABS-CBN Pampanga's Jayvie Dizon report live. (Shot by Irish Vidal)

Sto. Tomas, Pampanga– Karen Davila and ABS-CBN Pampanga’s Jayvie Dizon report live. Click to watch the video. (Shot by Irish Vidal)

The stories moved on to aid and the lighter side Filipinos mustered up amidst the calamity. An ENG van was diverted to Sagip Kapamilya’s warehouse in Examiner Street in Quezon City to cover the influx and packing of relief goods.

One by one, the ENG teams were allowed to return to base. It was a relief for one team that had been braving winds in Aurora Province from an earlier typhoon since August 12.

By Saturday, only one remained—the team in Bulacan which was put on standby in Malolos for the weekend, in case the approaching Low Pressure Area turned rogue.

At least, at last, sunshine took the place of rain.

Marikina--Sagip Kapamilya's relief operations in H. Bautista Elementary School (Shot c/o Irish Vidal)

Balagtas, Bulacan - Evacuees on their fifth day unable to return home. (Shot by Gani Taoatao)Top: Marikina–Sagip Kapamilya’s relief operations in H. Bautista Elementary School (Shot c/o Irish Vidal); Bottom: Balagtas, Bulacan – Evacuees on their fifth day unable to return home. Click to watch Jorge Carino’s TVP story. (Shot by Gani Taoatao)

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)

Campaign snapshots: Jolo brings Jodi to Imus

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Saquilayan at Imus

Imus Mayoral candidate Homer Saquilayan (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News)

The covered basketball court at the Narra Homes Subdivision in Imus, Cavite vibrated with shouts and music the afternoon of April 4.

It was no summer sports league. Instead, Imus was having its own version of the many events enveloping the country since March 31–the start of the campaign period for local positions.

At an enlarged stage inside, the candidates of the “Team Saki” slate–named after their mayoral bet Homer Saquilayan–were working up the assembled supporters into cheers.

A live rock band jammed the intro tunes to pop hits like “Call Me Maybe” as each contender was introduced.

The contenders are one side of the intense political battle permeating Cavite that spilled into Imus. They wore azure collared shirts printed with lines in all caps: “No more lies”, “No more deceptions”, “No more corruption”.

The shirts and the speeches hit at the administration of Saquilayan’s opponent, Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi. The two are at odds over Supreme Court and Comelec rulings in March declaring Saquilayan the duly elected mayor of Imus. Maliksi, however, refuses to leave city hall.

But the city candidates (there since noon) were not the only reason for the excited crowd. Even the subdivision guards and barangay watchmen outside were racking their heads over the flow of vehicles entering the already-cramped subdivision from the narrow main road.

Welcoming streamers announced the main attraction—Cavite reelectionist governor Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, vice-gubernatorial candidate Jolo Revilla, and Revilla’s girlfriend, actress Jodi Sta. Maria.

The hot afternoon meant good business for nearby home-based stalls selling cold refreshments. One heavyset owner already took on blending halo-halo ingredients as the orders piled up. But she laughingly told her vendors, “Kapag dumating na si Jodi Sta. Maria iiwan ko na kayo!”

Revilla and Remulla arrive at Imus sortie (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News, April 4, 2013)

Candidates Jolo Revilla and Jonvic Remulla (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News)

By 4 p.m., the motorcade of Remulla and Revilla arrived. The governor, wearing a personal collared blue shirt, his running-mate in white, met screams in the court. The band struck up “Mangarap Ka” as the tandem walked to the stage.

The opening melody of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” accompanied Saquilayan as he handed the microphone to Revilla.

Female shouts of “Jolo! Jolo! Jolo!” met the actor, who smiled and quickly replaced the chant with Jonvic’s name. Soon the band joined in with a beat.

Revilla held forth on his accomplishments as a barangay captain in Bacoor for the past three years and the problems in Cavite he assured the crowd he and Remulla would solve if elected.

But seemingly he saved his biggest pitch for their votes for last.

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