Stranded in Cainta

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Sept 20 Crossing Cainta by Anjo

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our strides were slow, taking care not to slosh the water in large ripples. The rain had stopped past midnight, but the water in the dimly lit highway rose further up our limbs as we walked on. The occasional ten-wheeler drove by, making waves and raising howls from people who like us were wading through the flood in a single file.

“I can’t remember the last time I walked this deep in water,” said anchorwoman Ces Drilon.

She had been reporting live for Bandila from an upslope part of the Ortigas Avenue Extension in Cainta, Rizal. It was our broadcast point the whole afternoon and evening, trapped between two impassable pools of water caused by monsoon rains strengthened by Tropical Storm Mario.

Ces and her staff’s only hope of returning home lay in a Ford 4×4 Ranger sporting a snorkel. The Ranger also carried food and water for our Electronic News Gathering (ENG) van team, which expected to stay for the night.

Noel Padernal often hauls plastic and metal junk on his pedicab. The rains did not stop him from finding a means to earn. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Noel Padernal drives a pedicab through the flood. He usually hauls plastic and metal junk with it. The rains did not stop him from finding a means to earn. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But the Ranger could no longer park. The pileup of stranded trucks at the upslope already extended to the water. The driver could not risk stopping his crew cab in the flood to wait. Before long, he turned and drove back to dry road at the Ever Gotesco mall a kilometer away.

Ces had no extra boots, only sneakers. Then again, donning boots would not keep the thigh-deep water out of her jogging pants. With time ticking and no dry options in sight, Ces, her producer Ferdie and researchers Irish and Niño shrugged and stepped into the water.

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When a train speeds off-track

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The news day of August 13 was already slowing down and winding up. At 3 p.m., the lineup for that night’s TV Patrol was already set, and there were hardly any big stories.

The so-called “Butcher”, Jovito Palparan, years at large, was quietly under NBI custody. Food costs were rising again, and I was getting ready to leave the office for a live price watch at the Commonwealth wet market.

Then at 4, my boss said, “Cancel that. You’re going to EDSA Taft.”

People in the newsroom were now standing up, clumped around desktop PCs, and hurrying about. They were saying a carriage of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) plying EDSA had derailed.

Was it true? Everyone looked for proof on social media.

They soon found one, a picture posted by a Twitter user, @ryandgreat. The shot was greeted with gasps. It seemed like the movie “Speed” come to life–minus an explosion. The train had run off in a barrage of debris past the EDSA-Pasay Taft station and onto the asphalt of the Pasay Rotonda.


Writers at the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) scrambled to break the incident in their ongoing newscast with the shot, while crews from the network hadn’t arrived. The pic was being re-tweeted by other news orgs. But a breaking news producer shouted, “Huwag gamitin si @ryandgreat! Taga-TV5 siya!

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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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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)

Wanted in Maguindanao: Hassle-less elections

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

2013 Campaign posters on the streets of Buluan, Maguindanao (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

2013 campaign posters in Buluan (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

BULUAN, MAGUINDANAO–The rural air is occasionally broken by blaring music. It’s different from the familiar amplified chants calling Muslims to prayer five times a day. The sources of the music: roving rented mini-pickups packed with speakers and dressed in campaign posters.

One vehicle plays a down-tempo, pop tune repeating the nickname of a provincial candidate as a chorus. Another passes by moments later, blasting a rap-style song in Maguindanaoan extolling the virtues of another candidate.

It’s my second election coverage here in Maguindanao. With me are the same reporter, a few same crew mates, and some newbies to this election hotspot. Some elements have changed in three years, the sound of campaign jingles one pleasant surprise.

ABS-CBN satellite set up at the Rajah Buayan Silongan Peace center - Maguindanao provincial satellite office, May 2013 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our set up at the Maguindanao provincial satellite office in Buluan (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our haunts have changed too, mirroring the changes in local politics. Since we arrived, we’ve set up our live point outside the Rajah Buayan Silongan Peace Center here in Buluan–the de facto capitol building which was not around in 2010.

Last election, we were stationed outside the provincial complex in capital Shariff Aguak. The capitol there is still imposing but unoccupied. The compound’s sole tenants are a brigade of soldiers.

We merely pass by Shariff Aguak on our two-to-three-hour trips from Cotabato City. The standout mansions of the Ampatuans still loom near the capitol, yet even this bailiwick of the clan seems less hushed than it looked before. More residents roam the town center, and the campaign posters are more varied.

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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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Balik-gisaan sa FOCAP

FOCAP forum at Mandarin Oriental Manila, October 12, 2011. Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan

Ngayon lang ulit humarap ang isang nakaupong Pangulo ng Pilipinas sa grupo ng mga peryodistang bahagi ng mga dayuhang pahayagan.

Limang taon na kasing hindi pinagbigyan ang taunan palang ginagawa ng mga naunang Presidente mula kay Ferdinand Marcos–ang makipagbalitaktakan sa Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines o FOCAP.

Kaya ang inabangan: Ano kaya ang itatanong nila at ano kaya ang isasagot niya.

“No holds barred” daw kasi ito. Kahit ano, pwedeng ibato. Gisaan, ika nga ng malanding salitang pang-headline.

Para rin kasing humarap sa mundo ang Pangulo sa pakikipagtapatan niya sa mga correspondent ng mga organisasyon gaya ng Reuters, NHK ng Japan, at Agence France-Presse.

Iba nga lang ang mga isyu sa Pilipinas na mahalaga para sa mga bayang magbabasa ng kanilang mga isinusulat.

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Mina’s mixed signals

(Shot by Jeffrey Agustin, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

(Shot by Jeffrey Agustin, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

TUGUEGARAO CITY, CAGAYAN–When you set out to welcome a storm, it either shows up elsewhere or merely sneaks a peek.

That’s a running joke among our field teams. When the wrath of storms do tread (Milenyo, Ondoy, Pepeng, and so on), they’ve often met no welcoming committee.

Still, it has always been better to be there and prepared than scooped and sorry.

The instinct for anticipation, prized all too well in coverage, thus extends to the unpredictable arena of rains and tempests.

Riding two pickups and a truck, we drove north for eight hours to meet Mina, the first storm weeks after a succession of others pummeled southern Luzon.

It’s a welcome break from weeks of covering a dengue outbreak and Senate hearings galore.

We would work with our regional news teams in Isabela. On the road, I asked TV Patrol Cagayan Valley anchor Darlene Gemino how things were.

“Parang ‘ala naman bagyo (It seems like there’s no typhoon),” she texted. “No rains, normal lang situation dito.”

Prepping for the storm in Isabela. (Shot by Joni Teneza, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

(Shot by Joni Teneza, ABS-CBN News Isabela)

All the way to Ilagan City, the winds blew strongly here and gently there. No sight of rain at first, and then it drizzled as we neared.

Manila called when we arrived. “It doesn’t look like a signal number 2,” I told our news desk head.

“Really?” she said. “But PAGASA says it’s already signal number 3 there.”

Deploying teams to cover nature’s fury is entirely played by ear, unlike for events shaped by people.

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In flood-hit Cotabato, life goes on

Boy dancing in native costume for a Muslim wedding in Cotabato. Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

COTABATO CITY–The music of Mindanao clashed with the local natsots and soundbites we were sending to Manila.

It was a mix of the pounding drum and the penetrating kulintang. A group of boys played the beat and danced to it, inches from our satellite setup outside an events center.

They wore native garb of glossy greens over their t-shirts, shorts, and slippers.

Two boys twirled around as they brandished wooden castanets. Two others put on costumes resembling clothed medieval horses, which they bucked up and down like the lions on Chinese New Year, only smaller.

They call these “unta,” translated as horses and as good luck.

The guests arrived as the boys rehearsed for their grand entrance. Many wore smart casual clothes. A number, mostly the older ones, put on their brightest dresses and head scarfs.

Outside, a row of pleated banners striped red, yellow, and green lined the road leading inside. It’s the same color on the frills worn by the dancers and the mascots.

The colors signal a wedding, already the second this day and one of many in the city in this month of nuptials.

Wedding entourage at Cotabato. Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

We already arrived here on its third week of flooding. Unrelenting rains and a clogged river had inundated 33 of the city’s 37 barangays. Neighboring town Sultan Kudarat had it worse.

The images we transmitted that night bared the effects: the influx of evacuees, the flooded city center, and the soup kitchens put up by the local ABS-CBN station.

Yet like the entourage of the bride and groom ready to march, the stream of life could not be stopped by rising waters.

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PNoy meets UP

Bag inspections at the UP 2011 graduation. Shot by Ronin Bautista

Long lines, bag checks, and selective admittance. Dozens of sentries in white polo barongs. The occasional chopper overhead. And at conspicuous areas, broadcast vans and a media platform.

It’s a rare prelude to any commencement rite. I hadn’t seen this much fuss when I went through this ceremony.

But this was no ordinary college graduation, in no ordinary college, and with no ordinary visitor.

President Benigno Aquino III was speaking to the University of the Philippines Diliman’s class of 2011.

It would be the first in 12 years. He would also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws from UP–the 13th after Fidel Ramos.

ABS-CBN cameraman looking over the seating for UP graduates (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Our cameraman shooting from a reverse angle of the seats. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The potential conflict also made it worth checking out.

After all, a number of the university’s students and professors have not hidden their impatience at the Aquino administration’s delivery of campaign promises.

And wasn’t UP’s budget for 2011 one of the worst cut?

Protests would surely mark the ceremonies.

If you’re a President beginning to feel the heat of criticism and opposition, how do you approach a university known as a hotbed of dissent against sitting leaders?

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