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.

Continue reading


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!

Continue reading

Getting the Napoles money shot

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Police special forces, media people, and bystanders outside the Makati City Jail before the arrival of Janet Lim-Napoles. (Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

Bright lights outside the Makati City Jail. (Shot by Archie Torres, ABS-CBN News)

“Huwag na sanang madaling-araw!” reporter Raffy Santos said over his mic. “Pagkatapos ng live ko sa Bandila, tapos na rin duty ko.”

Raffy was preparing for his 9 p.m. live update for Studio 23’s Iba-Balita from the Makati City Jail. Our work day began too early and was not yet over. My ENG van crew and I were in for the overnight—a repeat of our storm vigils the week before.

I was telling Raffy via override that it would do us a world of good if our news subject arrived during the late-night newscast. That way everyone could catch some recharge time before the slew of morning show lives. Raffy hoped it would not breach the end of his shift.

“Huwag ka mag-alala,” I replied. “Sakto, habang nagli-live tayo darating yun.”

We were waiting for Janet Lim-Napoles, long-hunted suspect in a scam that funneled P10-billion from the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of legislators.

The night before, she surrendered surreptitiously to Pres. Benigno Aquino III. Before the public learned about it, Aquino quickly escorted her to the national police headquarters in Camp Crame.

Now the court in charge of Napoles’s illegal detention case ordered her moved to the Makati City Jail. Her transfer could happen any time.

Mug shots of Janet Lim-Napoles (Courtesy: Philippine National Police)

Mug shots of Janet Lim-Napoles (Courtesy: Phil. Natl. Police)

We knew Napoles was in government custody through stills released to the press of her visit to Malacañan Palace and her mug shots. But we had yet to see her in person.

Continue reading

Weathering Pedring

Makeshift market stalls in flooded Calumpit, Bulacan October 2011 Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

CALUMPIT, BULACAN–The shouts of wares and prices rang from the rows of makeshift stalls that encroached on the road plying the town market.

A tindera invited passers-by to try her tilapia, while another wrapped bananas in rice paper and watched over the turon deep-frying in a pan. The prices were largely the same, but few stopped to buy.

Paces away, hundreds of people crisscrossed the kilometer-long pool of water covering this basin-like side of the MacArthur Highway.

Mass of people walking flooded Calumpit Bulacan town center October 2011. Shot by Chito Concepcion.

(Shot by Chito Concepcion)

Traveling north to Apalit, Pampanga or south to Malolos, most trudged knee-deep in the water, recurrent images alluding to the crossing of the Red Sea.

People who preferred themselves dry paid at least 20 pesos for a seat in canoes docked there like jeepneys, barkers calling the shots. Also for rent: an air bed. Motorcyclists could hire a boat or a pedicab to ferry their bikes for close to 500 pesos.

Those who wouldn’t afford the ride could also hitch one on the empty dirt trucks employed to carry many over still-impassable throughways in Central Luzon.

People riding boats over Calumpit, Bulacan floods October 2011. Shot by Anjo BagaoisanMotorcycles ferried across Calumpit, Bulacan floods October 2011 Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

After 5 days, the flood had not subsided from either the road or the real kiosks of the vendors in the pamilihang-bayan. More so in the 22 barangays submerged in this town.

A few more feet, and we would have seen Thailand’s floating market.

The vendors have begun to literally pick up the wet pieces and return to business as usual.

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

The thing with gore and grief

I remember the first time I saw a dead body during coverage.

An early-morning police chase with suspected carjackers had ended in a fatal gunfight. We reached a bullet-riddled car and two bloody corpses sprawled on a back road.

Probably preoccupied with editing the video in time to air, I do not recall wanting to throw up. Maybe I wasn’t affected.

Invariably, media people count among doctors, nurses, and law enforcers.

We tread long or unholy hours, go to work when everyone’s home for a holiday, and every so often stare death and tragedy in the face. We become reluctant bearers of bad news yet need to keep emotionally detached while at it.

The adrenaline and quick succession of coverages might lessen the nausea. But how do you deal with people affected closest by crashes or murders without being jolted by their grim reality?

Continue reading

In Bilibid, BF: A wait ends, a wait goes on

Part 2 of “Awaiting freedom, awaiting justice.” Read it here.

Jail bars at the National Bilibid Prison (Shot by Thomas Carpio, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Thomas Carpio, ABS-CBN News)

Two layers of jail bars separate the detainees of Bilibid from the outside world. This basement entrance marks the boundary between the facade of the Bureau of Corrections and the sprawling prison compound.

There, Sir Jorge and four of our cameramen waited for any stir. From the lull, he reported live for ANC. We had our cameraman pan around for live shots. My MacBook recorded the feed, for later use and should anything happen.

A few minutes into the report, the camera caught an orange-shirted Hubert Webb enter the holding area.

Sir Shadow directed, while I was on the phone to our ANC coordinator Mnemo. “Tell Sir Jorge to keep talking!” she shouted. The people at the ANC control room were squealing at Webb’s first ever shots in years.

First image of Hubert Webb after acquittal (Shot by Thomas Carpio, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Thomas Carpio, ABS-CBN News)

As before, so today. ANC had first dibs on the first verdict, and it had come full circle in this decisive one.

As the other convicts exited the same gate, we were asking each other who each person was. First time I heard of the other characters in this high-profile case.

Continue reading

Top stories from Mendiola

Sept 24 student walkout mendiola shot by Marco Gutierrez ABS-CBN News

“Anjo, nagkakagulo raw diyan. Puntahan nyo. Ili-live natin yan.”

Our afternoon deployments usually land us in Mendiola, that Manila landmark suggestive of white uniforms and red banners. The traffic can get heavy, and the parking tight, but we set up at this university area when needed.

Mendiola is the closest our ENG vans usually get to Malacanang, the nation’s center of power. It is also the quickest way our crews covering the President send video back to the station in Quezon City.

Depending on the day’s flow of stories, Mendiola becomes a hub for our late-running stories in the Manila area.

Palace reporter Willard Cheng’s cameraman or driver would drop by the van to drop off CF cards (before, tapes) from their coverage for feeding. On heavier days we would edit packages or set up for live.

It’s a different story from the the other end of the street.

College Students walkout to Mendiola Sept 24 on education budget

We were only expecting a feed one Friday afternoon. As we struggled to secure parking for a Ford van, a Nissan Frontier and a huge generator-toting truck near the Malacanang gate, base called.

Move closer to the Mendiola peace arch, they said. A rally apparently went haywire.

Continue reading