Manila Night Prowl #2: That escalated quickly

By Anjo Bagaoisan

Police look on at police line surrounding two dead motorcycle riders killed in encounter on Pasay City. August 12, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A text message arrived past 1 a.m., August 12. We followed it to Don Carlos Village, a strikingly familiar area in Pasay City. Wasn’t someone killed there the week before? (Yes, there was.)

All we knew then was that two were dead. The rest we had to find out onsite or through the policemen there.

When media workers arrive on such a scene, the body is usually untouched and the story often complete–courtesy of the leader of the police operation.

If you’ve followed these stories for days on end since July, the narrative can become familiar. Drug buy-bust gone wrong. Or killed by unidentified gunmen. Or dead body left wrapped up with a note.

Then there are days when reporters still have to piece together what happened in bits and pieces as the details arrive. And unlike the usual stories, the plot suddenly twists and thickens in an hour or two.

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Manila Night Prowl: Shadowing the ‘ronda’

By Anjo Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN crew cab facing Sunrise over Commonwealth Avenue. (Shot by Mike Navallo)

(Shot by Mike Navallo)

The shift starts at 9 p.m. On paper, it ends at 5 a.m. but actually does when the story does. Usually, it’s way beyond 5. 

This is the graveyard shift. It’s more popularly the domain of security guards, call center agents, and resident doctors. In news, it’s the lull between the often more significant events of one day and the next. Here, crime and vehicular accidents take center stage and make the headlines.

In ABS-CBN, we call it the ronda, a.k.a. “Ronda Patrol” to audiences of our primetime newscast. Because in between the adrenaline of shootouts and crashes, the shift is largely time spent staying awake and driving around the metro, looking for something to report.

And where ghosts figuratively tread, so do shadows. It’s as one where my breaking in as a reporter begins.

(Warning: Some pictures here are graphic.)

Police looks at dead tricycle driver shot by unknown killers in Caloocan City, August 22. Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan.

Tricycle driver killed by a group of unidentified men in a convoy of motorcycles. Caloocan City, August 22. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Almost all Philippine reporters, especially on television, cut their teeth in the graveyard. The ronda is a rite of passage that only ends when you’re deemed to have proved yourself, when a new reporter comes in, or when another in the day shift leaves. For some, the period takes years. For the lucky few, a few months to a year.

The ronda is often the source for part of the news content in the mainstream morning shows. It also provides attention-getters during the so-called tabloid newscasts. Some agenda-setting events also strike during the overnight. On lean days, though, there are hardly crimes to report.

Child looks at body of suspected drug pusher killed in police buy-bust op. Binangonan, Rizal. August 3, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Construction worker killed in police buy-bust. Binangonan, Rizal, August 3. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

But never has there been a more crucial and interesting time to be a graveyard reporter than now. 

I shifted career gears at the beginning of the Duterte administration. Where our predecessors largely dealt with vehicular accidents, my batch is contending with a nightly reality of deaths—either through police anti-drug operations gone sour or by unidentified killers.

Photographers take pictures of drug suspect killed in police shootout. Tondo, Manila. August 8, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A tip to police leads to alleged shootout. Tondo, Manila, August 8. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

* * *

I didn’t see one on my first night though. 

I piggybacked with reporter Kevin Manalo, who I was assigned to for my entry week beginning August 1. He had just turned a year old as a reporter and had just also been bequeathed a major beat or area of coverage.

New reporters aren’t usually sent to the field on their own at once. Shadowing allows them to get a feel of their new environment and the people they would meet. It also lets them get to know how things work and see a fellow reporter in action.

CCTV video of reporter Kevin Manalo interviewing in Caloocan City August 22, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Kevin Manalo caught interviewing on CCTV. Caloocan City, August 22. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

In police beats like the QCPD, reporters often tip off each other when they get wind of breaking news. With today’s technology, a chat group allows them to do that quickly.

At late night on a Sunday, there wasn’t much happening. Until the reporters learned of a VA, a vehicular accident, past 12:30 a.m.

Emergency rescuers lift man injured in motorcycle crash, Philcoa, Commonwealth, Quezon City, August 1, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Motorcycle crash. Philcoa, Quezon City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

We drove to Philcoa along Commonwealth Avenue and found an injured man stiffly lying on the pavement beside a closed truck. A downed motorcycle lay a few meters ahead.

Our team got off the cab. Kevin approached the pack of people circling the man and took pictures as emergency rescuers hauled him to a stretcher. He then joined other reporters talking to and then interviewing the injured man’s companion, the driver of the truck and his assistants, and the traffic investigator.

In 30 minutes, Kevin gathered a picture of how the incident (we refrain from calling them “accidents” in reports) occured.

Kevin Manalo interviewing truck driver involved in vehicular accident. Philcoa, Quezon City.

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

As a shadow I was also expected to gather the details, join in the interviews and write my own story. Another learning curve of the graveyard shift is the discipline of being accurate with facts and meeting deadlines.

By 3, Kevin voiced his approved report for our main show Umagang Kay Ganda. I was tapped to do phone reports for the Gising Pilipinas newscast on DZMM and for the 5 a.m. news roundup of UKG –a rare instance for a reporter just on his first day.

Only the next night did I see my first dead body since becoming a reporter—the result of a buy-bust operation in a quiet but allegedly drug-infested barangay in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Body of AWOL policeman suspected of dealing drugs and killed in a buy-bust lies below a house in Bulacan. August 2, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

AWOL police officer killed in buy-bust. Bocaue, Bulacan, August 2. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

* * *

Buy-busts-turned-alleged-shootouts were the nightly norm when I shadowed Kevin’s batch mate Miguel Dumaual the following week, this time in Manila. In his one year on the field, he was already shadowed by three newbies before me.

Reporter Miguel Dumaual in an interview with Manila Police station commander Ulsano. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Miguel among pack interviewing a Manila Police station commander. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The Manila PD press corps is a bigger than that in QC, with many print reporters and photographers adding to their broadcast counterparts. The number of those who stay the night at the MPD press corps lounge has also grown since the government escalated its war on drugs. Many of the ops tipped to the media are usually in the capital.

The tips are usually one-liners sent through text and then passed via chat: “DOS (for “dead on the spot”) street so-and-so”. Sometimes, a police officer calls the press corps lounge.

Press and onlookers at a bridge over shanties where a suspected pusher and shooting suspect was killed by police. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Press and onlookers at a bridge over shanties where a suspected pusher and shooting suspect was killed by police. Manila, August 8. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The pack rushes in convoy to the site, hoping to reach the body before the scene of the crime operatives or SOCO arrive and clean up the scene. 

Police are usually the first sources of details. Lower-ranked officers answer the initial questions, but it is the station or precinct commander who allows himself to be interviewed.

Funeral parlor workers carry out bodies of suspected drug users killed in police op from a house in Pasay City. August 9, 2016. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Police op kills 2 in run-down apartment. Pasay City, August 9. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The media usually waits until the crime scene is cleaned up before leaving. But on some days, another death turns up in another area of Manila in the middle of a coverage. Those who don’t have a tag team on hand have no choice but to leave.

Filing all of that information for the morning newscasts is all on the reporter. Miguel and his team once covered up to 10 deaths in separate locations in just one night. In the few hours before 4 a.m. he has to quickly process and write up to 2 reports per coverage.

3 deaths, one night. Top: 2 drug suspects killed in buy-bust in Sta. Cruz, Manila. August 10, 2016 (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Bloodied body found in Baseco. August 10, 2016. (Shots By Anjo Bagaoisan)

3 deaths, one night. Top: 2 drug suspects killed in buy-bust in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Bottom: Bloodied body found in Baseco. August 10. (Shots By Anjo Bagaoisan)

Manning the beat can give a long-term view of seemingly isolated incidents. Like the night police in Tondo connected a buy-bust kill to the hunt for suspects in a shooting incident a week earlier. Miguel had covered the incident and later looked for the family of the victim to get their reaction on the death.

Of course, not all the stories in the graveyard are morbid. But there were hardly any of them during my introduction to the shift.

The ronda supposedly ends when the morning show ends at 8 a.m. There are days, though, when a call or message comes in with an additional assignment before then. 

The night prowl extends to day.

Night shot of Quezon Avenue. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Why journalists’ jobs continue to matter

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan


“A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news.”
Don Keefer, HBO’s The Newsroom

ABS-CBN's Jeck Batallones going live for TV Patrol from a market in Taytay Rizal where a truck crashed (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ABS-CBN’s Jeck Batallones (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Near the 10-wheeler truck that rammed a row of stalls in the New Taytay Public Market in Rizal on June 14, one of the sellers who escaped the accident was telling her companion:

“Sabi sa TV, isa lang patay. Pa’no mo paniniwalaan yun e andaming nakabulagta rito kanina?”

(On TV they said only one died. How can you believe that when there were many bodies lying around here earlier?)

It was on Facebook that the first images and details of the noontime crash broke and spread. The accident was in a public place and people with cellphones swarmed the site. The dozen-plus vehicles dented and crumpled by the truck and the bloodied bodies of victims lying on the ground led witnesses to believe the crash was way deadly.

Their hasty conclusions spread fast online. As many as 16 were reportedly killed. Even a popular motoring issues social media account parroted the info (They later corrected the post). Because there were pictures and they were being shared quickly, the shocking details were passed on too without being verified.

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‘A newsman’s newsman’: Colleagues pay tribute to Rod T. Reyes

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Former ABS-CBN News chief Rod T. Reyes (Grab from TV Patrol)

Rod T. Reyes (Grab from TV Patrol)

Down-to-earth. Cool-headed. Simple. Soft-spoken. A coach. Role model. Inspiration. A newsman’s newsman.

These were how journalists and former co-workers saluted veteran reporter, editor, news director and press secretary Rodolfo “Rod” T. Reyes, who died on April 14 at the age of 80.

People who knew him in various capacities throughout a five-decade career that spanned print, broadcast and public media honored his impact as a daring investigative journalist.

But more so, they reminisced about Reyes’s unassuming and laid-back qualities in a relentless and tough profession.

Coach leadership

At ABS-CBN, where Rod Reyes headed its news and public affairs division both before and after Martial Law, his former employees recalled how “RTR” (their monicker for him based on his initials) embodied the news organization’s slogan “malasakit”.

“Here was a small man with a soft voice who told us, ‘Good morning guys, I’m your new coach!’ I won’t forget that because it embodied RTR’s style of leadership,” recalled current ABS-CBN News chief Ging Reyes of their first time meeting her predecessor when he took over the reins of the  back in 1990.

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That time when journos got to be ‘biased’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pope Francis in Tacloban, Leyte. (Photo by Damir Sagolj, Reuters)

Pope Francis in Tacloban, Leyte. (Photo by Damir Sagolj, Reuters)

When the spiritual leader of Roman Catholics the world over visits his biggest flock in Asia, expect coverage from the usually hardened and unrelenting local news media to cut slack on the bad news. Indeed, that’s what Filipinos saw and heard on their radios, TVs and devices for five days this January.

A number of enthusiastic (and at times giddy) reporters and commentators also punctuated the movements and activities of Pope Francis, who came here on both pastoral and state capacities.

“Ayan na, ayan na siya! (There, he’s coming!)” was the common response of some on the air as they annotated live images of the papal convoy as it moved to and from the Vatican mission a.k.a. the nunciature in Manila.

The aim to see Pope Francis in person landed the personal agenda of journalists, technical crews and production staff deployed to the locations in the pope’s itinerary. With cameras and smartphones in tow, their encounters showed up mainly on social media.

Also, like other Filipino Catholics who occupied the streets for the pope, some journalists themselves sought to get the pope’s attention, smile, touch or blessing—and to tell a story about the encounter. Some reporters even interrupted their live updates to shout greetings to him.

It was surely representative of the outpouring of emotion and affection in this country of 80 million Catholics that even reportedly stunned the pope. But as with the overly excited emceeing at the end of Pope Francis’s final Mass in Luneta, the on-air handling of the visit also reaps its own discussion.

The wall-to-wall coverage and program preemption was a given. A thing like this only happened in the Philippines every 10 to 20 years anyway. Add to that the immense popularity of the Argentinian pontiff, who has been a game-changer for the faith only less than two years since being elected Bishop of Rome.

Taking on the name of a saint of poverty, Pope Francis kept surprising observers by breaching the traditional confines of the papacy to embrace ordinary people. Behind the scenes, he has undertaken sweeping changes in the scandal-ridden bureaucracy of Vatican City.

Good side

With such a positive global image for one already dubbed a “rockstar” and the “people’s pope”, it was no surprise that the coverage of his Philippine trip highlighted the good side.

Of course, the visit had its mishaps, like the death of a volunteer in Tacloban after the pope’s Mass there, and heart-rending moments, like the philosophical question of a former child prostitute to the pope at a meeting with the youth. The news definitely reflected those scenes, but these did not dampen the largely festive spirit of the coverage. The impact of the reporting that came out was indeed a contrast to the provocative and controversial treatment usually seen on the nightly news. It was glowing and with some, short of fawning.

Seen another way, if it were done for any politician, the coverage would have been blasted as biased. Then again, rare are the personalities who could amass crowds without compelling them to come.

Such positivity—if it may be called such—is not unique to this papal event. Call it a five-day extended version of a Manny Pacquiao boxing match. We also see it yearly during the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene, where reports praise the risky devotion of the Filipino Catholic and reporters brave the throng to mount the anda carrying the image.

You will hardly find such stories in more secular nations like the United States. When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Kingdom in 2010, most of the complaints sent to the BBC were for “too much” or “too favorable” coverage.

Here in the Philippines, things spiritual and religious mark the calendar, impact nearly all media consumers and hardly raise eyebrows when they are celebrated on television.

A sense of reverence did characterize the months-long preparations for this event, on a scale even bigger than for the state visit of US Pres. Barack Obama in 2014. It ran parallel to arrangements for what authorities called their biggest security nightmare yet.

For many of them and many media workers, their visitor was not just any global newsmaker, but a person considered holy by millions of their countrymen.

Still, there were reminders from news bosses to take a more restrained tone to the coverage—in the words of one, to cover with “sobriety, sensitivity and dignity.” Above all, the journalists had to be well informed to begin with and to let their facts dictate their annotation, while also prioritizing the real sounds of the event.

Reactions

However, some audiences lamented the lack of depth in some instances of the coverage: the tendency to watch for the unexpected, the focus on Pope Francis’s actions and preferences over his message. This despite the pope making statements interpreted as hitting on same-sex marriage and artificial birth control, as well as corrupt politics in the Philippines. For someone who has been popularly quoted as saying, “Who am I to judge?” what, indeed, was the pope’s position on those subjects?

Others reacted to the reporting of other voices or sidelights they deemed unnecessary to the overall spirit of the pastoral visit: for instance, the rejoinders by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or LGBT community or the scene-stealing responsorial psalm reader at the Manila Cathedral Mass. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had its own say: “More substance, please.”

Hugging children at the Meeting with the Youth in UST. (Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

Hugging children at the Meeting with the Youth in UST. (Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

And then there were questions that were unasked or unanswered during the duration of the event: how much of the bill were Filipinos footing for this event, what indeed happened to families and children living on the streets the pope passed through, and will that “good feeling” the country felt during those five days have any long-term effect?

If anything, Pope Francis from arrival to departure touched and rattled many aspects of Philippine society, from its ills to its potential for good. Nonetheless, foreseeing the enthusiastic greeting for him, the Pope reminded Filipino Catholics to direct their focus on Jesus Christ, whom he represented, and on the poor, whom he championed. The same would have held for journalists.

Appropriate or not, the experience of journalists encountering the pope face to face was an indirect way for those who had no chance to know what it was like. It also showed that media people were people and–for some–Catholics too. More importantly over the actual encounter though was how it was told.

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in Manila that the pope considered journalists as “collaborators in spreading the good news,” with a “very important mission to spread the message.”

They may have been expected to report only the good side, and the overall feel of the coverage may have turned out that way. But journalists also have an obligation to report the proverbial other side–the neglected angles, the unpopular sentiments and even relevant facets that could sound contrary to the supposed “spirit” of the event. All nevertheless with the context to understand these.

Interviewing an early comer to the papal mass in Luneta. (Courtesy of Jeck Batallones)

Interviewing an early comer to the papal mass in Luneta. (Courtesy of Jeck Batallones)

One aspect of this episode that the pope might have appreciated more was reporting on the stories of the ordinary Filipinos who came to be part of history–or who were prevented from being part of it. While television zoomed the lens on the few who had personal contact with the pope, social media streamed snapshots and quotes of groups and individuals that endured the hassle and worsening weather just for a glimpse of him.

And beyond one’s own story or even that of the pope, it was still a bigger but fulfilling challenge to tell the tales of the people loved by the “Pope of the Peripheries”.

(With special thanks to Karla Thea Omelan and Carolyn Bonquin)

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As ‘TV Patrol’ turns 27

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Collage of TV Patrol logos from 1987 to 2014

TV Patrol’s logos from 1987 to 2014

For most Filipinos, it is TV Patrol that has been their window to recent history for the longest time.

It has chronicled the ups and downs of the Fifth Republic, some of them coinciding with its own. Its headlines have shown scandals in the halls of power and brawls in obscure barangay corners. And its subjects have ranged from the ordinary to the influential.

The past 12 months were no exception to big news.

TV Patrol’s crews, reporters, and anchors took their cameras to the farthest and the worst, to the best and the most awe-striking. They were at the fringes of two border disputes and at the crossfire of a downtown skirmish. They uncovered schemes of greed and deceit and covered the outrage that followed.

They saw white smoke signal change in a centuries’ old institution, welcomed another countryman to the pantheon of saints, and celebrated the victories of other Pinoys in the global community.

They braved an earthquake, monsoons, and typhoons, including the deadliest where some of them barely escaped with their lives. And they carried the worldwide call for help and helped bring it there.

If 2013 was any indication, it’s that there are always new experiences for an old-timer, especially in news.

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Chasing Fallen Stars: How television news covers the death of celebrities

(NOTE: I wrote this with two Journalism classmates as our final case study in Journalism Ethics [ J 192] class under Prof. Yvonne T. Chua in March 2009.

Celebrity news, largely a mix of glamour, PR, and scandal, is rarely looked at as an area for responsible reporting. But it is a staple in Philippine media relegated to the end segment of newscasts or the E-section of papers.

But what happens when showbiz lands the top story? We looked at how TV news covered the deaths of celebrities, the coverage of which is as sensitive as covering deaths in the general public.

Two happened twice before this final paper was assigned, which we compared to a highly-remembered one which occurred a decade ago from today’s writing.

DISCLOSURE: I am now an employee of ABS-CBN News. Roehl, one of my co-writers, works for GMA News.)

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CHASING FALLEN STARS

How television news covers the death of celebrities

By Andrew Jonathan Bagaoisan, Roehl Niño Bautista and Annamaebelle Bernal

(First of two parts)

Screenshot of Rico Yan memorial service in 2003 (c/o ABS-CBN)

Grab from Yan’s memorial service aired live on ABS-CBN.

It was a non-stop six-hour affair made for television. At the funeral mass for matinee idol Rico Yan, singer-performer Gary Valenciano moved people to tears rendering “Warrior is a child,” the actor’s favorite song.

Priest Tito Caluag, in his homily, told mourners how Yan dreamed of becoming president. “Rico wanted to be a leader but never mentioned leadership because he only wanted to serve,” said Caluag.

For the climax of a week-long drama captured by television, the service was just the beginning.

From the thousands who held vigil at the wake, thousands of others went outside their homes and waited at the roadside where the convoy en-route to the young actor’s final resting place was about to pass, just to see the car that carried the famous lad’s mortal shell. People cried for the loss of an idol, a friend, a family member, and these with all other drama were shown on national television.

News personalities of ABS-CBN, Yan’s home network, stationed at key areas of the convoy to report live every stage of the procession on ground while the station’s “Sky Patrol” helicopter followed the whole procession from La Salle Green Hills to Manila Memorial Park on camera. It definitely wasn’t ordinary for a burial coverage to last that long.

But Yan’s death in March 2002 was not the only newsworthy event as television news made it to be with its “unprecedented” and “overwhelming” coverage, as a newspaper put it.

Attention to Yan’s demise pushed to the side stories like the Baseco Compound fire which displaced around 3,000 families, a dry-dock accident in Dubai that left eight Filipinos dead and eight more missing, and the deaths of National Artists for Music Levi Celerio and Lucio San Pedro, and Britain’s Queen Mother.

Celebrities make the news. Deaths also make the news. Put those two together and the media is put in a tight spot when it comes to ethics. If covering famous personalities is already problematic, covering celebrities who died is even trickier, when the newsworthy elements of the two combine but their at-times incompatible values clash.

In a country where showbiz news is a daily television staple presented under the guise of journalism, the nuances of covering celebrity deaths are largely unexplored in depth or remiss in guidelines.

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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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TV Patrol 25: Revisiting Ondoy

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Pedestrians crossing flooded Commonwealth / Philcoa during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 (TV Patrol / ABS-CBN News footage)

(courtesy TV Patrol / ABS-CBN News)

Cameraman Bernie Mallari and his ENG van teammates will not forget the day stormy circumstances thrust upon them the defining image of a typhoon.

They were told to go to the La Mesa Dam that September 26, 2009. The dam was on the verge of spilling over after an overnight of rains brought by Typhoon Ondoy.

But with Commonwealth Avenue already flooded, the team never got there. Instead, they passed by Marikina and Rizal, where they chanced upon a throng converged at the San Mateo Bridge.

A mass of flotsam was approaching the bridge in a wave. When they saw that the mass also carried people, the team lugged Bernie’s camera out in the rain to capture the attempt of those “surfers” to reach safety.

Crowd in San Mateo bridge sees people tossed by flood during Typhoon Ondoy 2009 (TV Patrol / ABS-CBN News footage)

(Courtesy TV Patrol / ABS-CBN News)

The result is an iconic grab of history. But it did not turn out well for that family caught in the flood.

Last March 28, Bernie arrived at the Marikina Riverbanks with his reporter Sol Aragones to cover the unveiling of TV Patrol’s second commemorative marker as part of the newscast’s 25th anniversary.

The ceremony was awash with memories of the flood—one of the few times the big story struck even those who tell it.

ABS-CBN reporter Sol Aragones and cameraman Bernie Mallari in Pampanga (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Sol and Bernie preview their shoot at the first TV Patrol marker unveiling in Pampanga. Click pic to watch her story that day. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Sol and Bernie were not yet teammates in 2009. But Sol was among the many reporters sent to Marikina, where the destruction only became clearer as the waters cleared.

“Ang unang larawan ko pong nakita yung mga sapatos at tsinelas—(pang) bata man o matanda—ay nakalubog sa putik, parang alaala na talagang nagmadali silang tumakbo para mailigtas yung kanilang buhay,” Sol recalled.

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