From Hoy Gising to BMPM
During my growing up years in the early 80’s, news and late-night documentary programs dominated my TV viewing habit. But one of the programs that I also followed was the afternoon public service program Hoy Gising! which was anchored by Ted Failon and Korina Sanchez. I particularly liked their “Horror Roll, Honor Roll” segment where my hometown, Marikina became a staple story.
My childhood has become synonymous to dealing with waist-deep floodwaters during the rainy season and as I grew older, I once thought of reporting to Hoy Gising! by mail about our perennially flooded street in Baranggay Parang. Obviously, I was really frustrated on how our local government was handling the flood problem in our town.
I couldn’t remember the reason why I chickened out, maybe if ever the story got aired on TV, the mayor would order a manhunt and I will become a police statistic, or maybe I just didn’t realize the potential outcome of reporting our sorry condition.
Now that I work as a reporter for ABS-CBN, I realize how powerful mass media has become. During those Hoy Gising! days, the concept of “citizen journalism” was never heard of. But that was exactly what citizen journalism is all about, although back then it was through snail mail or a telephone call.
Now, citizen journalism has taken on a new form - through cellphones or email. In 2007, I started doing stories for Bayan Mo I-Patrol Mo, a campaign ABS-CBN launched as an offshoot of its Citizen Patrol segment on TV Patrol.
I wouldn’t forget the first story I did, perhaps the simplest story I have ever done but definitely one of those stories which made a huge impact on ordinary people’s lives. It was from a simple text message of a friend about the construction of a loading and unloading zone for provincial buses in the middle of Guadalupe Bridge in Edsa. Imagine, passengers from the provinces with their “bayongs” and bags getting off their buses in the middle of Edsa, having to play “patintero” against speeding buses and cars.
A day after we did the story, the almost-finished structure was dismantled. A government official admitted that they didn’t want to push through with the project in the first place since it was obviously crazy, but it was proposed by an influential governor and apparently had the go-signal from Malacanang. Fortunately, it didn’t come to a point that someone had to die in the middle of Edsa for the governor to realize how wrong he was.
This election season, Bayan Mo I-Patrol Mo had to be re-born as Boto Mo I-Patrol Mo Ako Ang Simula and I continued doing stories for TV Patrol. Like the loading and unloading zone story, there were other stories where the power of citizen journalists, whom we now call Boto Patrollers, prevailed.
There was this story submitted by a Boto Patroller about a health officer in Marikina who apparently inserted leaflets detailing her credentials as if it were already campaign season. The health officer claimed it was her friends who inserted those leaflets inside the health booklets. She later said she would ask her friends to stop doing their gimmick which is obviously done in bad taste.
In Tagaytay City, a group of youth volunteers complained about the seeming bias of an election officer who refused to give them registration forms. They sent us a cellphone video showing the election officer apparently making a scene and raising her voice in front of the young registrants. In that same video, a man was seen taking hold of his gun as if readying to make use of it.
A Boto Patroller from Angono, Rizal also helped us raise awareness about the voter’s ID. Prior to our story, most voters think that a voter’s ID is necessary come election day, until the Commission on Elections clarified that any valid ID will do.
But there are also frustrating stories wherein government officials are obviously paying lip service, just giving us the soundbytes we need but deep inside are not planning on doing something to address a particular problem.
We have done countless stories about cheap political gimmicks, like notebooks with covers having the photos of a possible candidate in Mindanao and being distributed in the middle of the school year. But the staff of Mr. Notebook Cover said it was not really intended to promote his boss. Ok then, we still gave them the airtime to say their piece.
Equally frustrating are the tarpaulin stories we did. It seems candidates think it is the best way to market themselves this election season, like Mr. Superman of Quezon City or Ms. Tarpaulin Queen of Manila. Despite our stories, it seems those tarpaulins and banners are there to stay until May 2010.
But I am still keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that citizen journalism and mainstream reporting can work hand-in-hand to achieve an honest and peaceful elections next year.
On the one hand, citizen journalists obviously have the access to stories ordinary reporters like me may not have. On the other hand, mainstream reporters can simply make a phone call to concerned officials, make them talk about, and hopefully act on a specific problem.
Now, if I can only bring back time, will I snail mail to Hoy Gising! that report about the constant flooding in our neighborhood in Marikina? Yes, because who knows, I could have shortened the long and unproductive reign of our mayor back then, something which Boto Patrollers these days can easily do with just a few clicks on their cellphones.
(Edited version appeared on the Philippine Star, November 5 2009)