Duterte-Cayetano wall mural in Davao City (Shot c/o Melchor Zarate)

Countdown to the end game in Duterte-land

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Davao City private billboard supporting mayor Rodrigo Duterte's presidential bid

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

DAVAO CITY— In the city of pomelos and durians, it’s business as usual under the scorching sun.

The streets bustle only with the rush-hour jams of vehicles driving under the mandatory 30-kph speed limit. Pedestrians shy away from the elements at high noon, except for the occasional street hawker peddling beads.

If not for the campaign posters that sparsely dot this city, you would hardly notice that it’s election season.

It still qualifies as quiet here, much as it was in the days that led to an election that has elevated Davao City and its most famous resident to national and international prominence.

Common poster area at Davao City for 2016 elections

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The quiet is also characteristic. This city has gained a reputation as a blueprint for where 16 million Filipinos think the Philippines should be.

But the tranquility masks the mix of anxiety and excitement here, as it did during the countdown to the May 9 vote.

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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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The 3 stages of falling in love with your job according to Charo Santos

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

My moment with the execs. (Shot by Joseph Jacob)

My moment with the execs. (Shot by Joseph Jacob)

In the time of “walang forever”, staying in the same company or line of work for more than 5 years is already a prize.

It may be due to the scarcity of tenured posts, the allure of shifting workplaces for better offers or simply the impatience often ascribed to today’s Millennials.

Whatever the reason, loyalty to a job or an organization these days remains the unheeded advice from the older generation. Many of them grew up seeing ascent in the corporate ladder as the main evidence of success.

But there are professions like journalism and media whose hold on their practitioners is for more than bread and butter. And there are companies whose opportunities can span a spectrum of careers one could explore without leaving their backyard.

Getting to last long in these places is encouraged and in some, rewarded.

At ABS-CBN, they call it the “Kapamilya Awards”, a gala to recognize employees who reached 5-year milestones in their service with the company. They are treated to dinner, performances by ABS-CBN artists and receive a personalized token along with a moment with the executives.
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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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Replays: PinoyJourn’s 2013 top posts

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

TACLOBAN CITY–Another storm, another scandal, another switch of leaders. We faced familiar events this 2013, only bigger in scale and more sobering in the lessons that came with them.

We survived the déjà vus of the year, but they were not all shakeups. We also turned back time as we marked milestones in our long-time relationships. Among them, a replay of the first journey my parents took together.

This year, my adventures with the news team landed me in new places and let me revisit old ones to see different scenes. Unfortunately, some of those trips did not bring good news.

I’m glad to say though that I’ve been able to keep writing despite the rigorous field production assignments. This year, an expanded story of an emotional tribute I got to cover helped PinoyJourn top its record for most hits in a day.

Anjo Bagaoisan speaking at Bayan Mo iPatrol Mo bloggers conference in ABS-CBN (Screen grab from TV Patrol)

Sometimes, I get pulled to share some thoughts in our blogger con. (Screen grab from TV Patrol)

Also, I was able to brush up on doing some enterprise stories for this blog—those fueled by interest rather than my daily deployments. I only added two installments to my “The Bookshelf” series: for another Agatha Christie mystery and for a sci-fi novel by Robert J. Sawyer.

The untimely death of ABS-CBN Cagayan Valley reporter Julius Camba this year had some revisit a 2011 blog entry about my sole coverage with him—chasing a typhoon up north.

I am also thankful for some of my posts getting replayed in outlets like photo blog Shoot.PH and the Lopez Group publication LopezLink.

I’m bringing into the new year a bucket list of unfinished business—long-planned stories that still lack the sides of needed sources. Being on the field before and beyond office hours is not exactly ideal for booking and doing interviews.

Here’s hoping that gets to improve this 2014. For now, allow me to replay the posts that brought the most readers to PinoyJourn this 2013.

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A renewed mission for ‘TV Patrol Tacloban’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Life after Yolanda, Log 5)

TACLOBAN CITY–How do journalists cover the news when they themselves were directly affected by it?

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) did not spare local media outlets in Eastern Visayas. The worst hit were radio stations whose announcers were on the air as the typhoon hit.

For the news team of ABS-CBN’s regional station in Tacloban City, the biggest story they covered cost them their homes and nearly them and their families’ lives.

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On the part of the Senate: Closing time at the 15th Congress

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

ABS-CBN video monitor showing scenes at the Senate during Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's speech resigning the Senate Presidency. (Shot June 5, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The last stretch of regular sessions at the Philippine Congress each year are  largely unremarkable. Even their schedule is nondescript–two weekdays snuck in at the end of summer vacation. And every three years, it comes just after the winners of the incoming Congress have been proclaimed.

This routine resumption avails little for the news media attuned more to clashes, exposés and sensational investigations. But it was different when the Senate briefly returned to session on June 5, 2013.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile opened the plenary with a privilege speech blasting the critics among his colleagues, ruing over his son Jack’s failed Senate run, and finally, tendering his resignation as Senate President. He then left the session hall, no longer to return till the next Congress.

Broadcast outlets, some of whom got wind of Enrile’s apparent bombshell a day before, came early that day to set up control booths for airing the speech live.

What Enrile would say was expected to be hot copy after days of news about the impending change of the guard in the Senate once the administration-heavy lineup of winning solons took their seats in July.

Few foreknew that he would resign.

Before the session began, a Senate staff member expressed hopes that the speech would avoid controversy. It would only divert attention—and precious time—from the pile of last-minute legislative work.

The speech indeed did its work, and the session was paralyzed for the rest of the day. Yet not all of Enrile’s opponents were present to hear his attacks.

Sen. Franklin Drilon making a phone call at the Senate floor after Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile walks out folllowing his resignation as Senate President (Shot June 5, 2013 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Drilon making a call after the walkout. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

A TV news producer got the text and scanned it quickly, circling any references to other senators. He then told the live feed director near him whose reaction to show next: Senators Antonio Trillanes, Pia Cayetano, or Franklin Drilon. The two men, seated apart, were caught smiling during key points in the speech.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who engaged Enrile in a personal debate months back, only showed up after Enrile walked out.

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Thoughts of a first-time media absentee voter

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Members of Philippine media vote during the last day of the local absentee voting period, April 30, 2013 (Shot by Edgar Soberano, ABS-CBN News)

Last day of absentee voting (Shot by Edgar Soberano, ABS-CBN News)

I stared at the list I jotted down on a sheet of grade-school-ruled pad, asking myself if I was ready to take the plunge.

I had a nagging feeling–second thoughts even–to be sure. I was casting my vote for the first time, and this list of candidates for senator and party-list was my assurance that my first time was being done right.

The list was a digital one at first–a rough draft sitting on my laptop. When I learned in February that media workers like me could vote earlier, I hurriedly listed names that had the best chance of getting my vote.

I only went back to the list the day before, April 28. The three-day period of local absentee voting (LAV) for soldiers, police officers, civil servants and the media had already begun.

This mini-Election Day felt like a final exam. I went through a review, scanning the profiles of the 34 senatorial bets on the Halalan 2013 web sites of ABS-CBN News and of the University of the Philippines.

I watched the final leg of the Harapan TV debates. I shuffled my digital list as the candidates faced the nation. I thought I wouldn’t complete my Magic 12. But after Harapan, I was already weighing who to retain or replace in an already-full lineup.

ABS-CBN News field producer Andrew Jonathan Anjo Bagaoisan voting at the Comelec NCR during the local absentee voting period, April 29, 2013 (Shot by Chito Concepcion)

(Shot by Chito Concepcion)

I had already covered a national election in 2010. Assigned out of town, I, like most of my colleagues could not vote. Thankfully, my registration remained active when the Comelec approved a petition to include members of media in the absentee vote.

This time, I had to grab the chance. Voting was one right—and duty—I did not miss out on, even as a student voting for the school council or for national candidates in mock university polls.

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Losses and look-backs—PinoyJourn’s 2012 top posts

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Anjo solo editing PC Cateel - Shot by MelThe year 2012 was one big nostalgia trip in ways both fun and tragic.

As seen in the stories covered by this blogger, our nation dealt with death many times over, the lot of them persons of influence.

Their passing inadvertently brought us back pleasant memories of their heyday years. For one loss, we mused what might have been in the future.

2012 was also a good year for one personality, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. His role in the biggest political event of the year paved the way for many to revisit his controversial life.

But as a student and practitioner of media, the biggest commemoration of the year is the silver anniversary of the country’s longest-running primetime newscast, TV Patrol.

It’s a program I have been privileged to contribute to on a daily basis in the field. TV Patrol’s 25th year also allowed me a rare glimpse of the show’s evolving look and recent history as it was covered.

Among those historic events were calamities, which again began and ended 2012.

A little showbiz intrigue added to the visits to this blog, which jumped to the thousands per month. People came searching for Umagang Kay Ganda hosts Andrei Felix and Venus Raj, who went public with their relationship this year.

And as in 2011, a quaint book review also brought in visitors interested in a fictional Belgian detective.

But still, the big events and characters of the year—and also some scene-stealers—were what riveted PinoyJourn readers.

Again, with the fervent wish for more meaningful stories to tell, I hope for opportunities to write other pieces that go beyond behind the scenes.

A big thanks to the readers who help keep this blog running.

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