ALPSIDE DOWNED: Walang forever

BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews /30 August) — I read and watch news about the Philippines every day. And today 28 August I was starting my routine when I realized the agonizing significance of this Friday.

There was a lot of emotions as the ABS-CBN programs entered their last day. There were tears and great sadness, a few attempts at showing bravado or nonchalance, but nearing the end of their time slots, the meaning of the day was very clear:  this was the end for the moment of the ABS-CBN network programs.

I work mornings here, so what I get from the time difference are the afternoon programs on the DZMM platform. The morning news programs, Todo Todo Walang Preno, Pasada Sais Trenta. My favorite is Pasada sa Teleradyo, because Peter Musngi &  Pat Daza is a great mix. Peter – a radio legend himself who survived the martial law closure of ABS-CBN-  provides historical context to the events, while Pat-P, in her bumbling ways acts as the sunny counterfoil to Peter’s  restrained commentary.

To mark the day,  the commentators all wore to work their badge of courage, so to speak—the tricolors of the ABS-CBN network.

It was a shock for me to know that some programs that had to stop were more than 20 years long. Like the popular “Dr. Love Radio Show”  of Brother Jun Banaag and the health and lifestyle show “Dra. Bles At Ur Serbis”.  Or that Ariel Ureta who teamed with Winnie Cordero to host the beloved “Todo Todo Walang Preno” was already three decades long in his radio hosting career.

Also closed by circumstance were ABS-CBN’s regional news offices all over the country, which had been broadcasting the regional news in the regional dialects for more than 20 years. Only one caretaker staff would remain to watch over the ABS-CBN regional units in Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao.  The impact on public information will be clear in the next months as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various natural calamities that come with regularity.

Even if the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)  had already issued ABS-CBN a closure order in early May and the threat of retrenchment was imminent,  it seemed that the network’s 11,000-odd employees still had to cope with the emotions of the final day.

Nina Corpuz who hosted a health program, said finding work elsewhere was not an easy option.  “Tinatanong nila, ‘Ba’t masyado kayong nalulungkot? May ibang trabaho naman diyan.’ Isa lang po ang ABS-CBN. Isa lang po ang pakiramdam na kasama mo ang mga tunay na Kapamilya.»

Others meanwhile were already resolute about their future. “Wala po akong planong lumipat ng himpilan, I just love this station so much,” said Banaag who offered counselling and advice on his program.

It was Peter Musngi who offered the historical context. ABS-CBN, closed down by the Marcos dictatorship 48 years ago in 1972, was closed again by a strongman leader.

What I could hear however throughout the last farewells over the succeeding programs that day, was the belief that ABS-CBN was closed not because of its violations or infirmities, but just because of  President Duterte’s personal vendetta. Nobody believed the televised franchise hearings in the lower House – I consider those a farce – that culminated in the July 10, 2020 vote to deny ABS-CBN its franchise renewal.

“How could the vote be 70-11? What was the mindset behind those 70 congress people voting to close down the network?” asked Musngi in exasperation.

For me, to close a network and therefore cut the jobs of thousands during a period of pandemic is simply brutal. Were these not the economic considerations in the minds of those who killed ABS-CBN? Or are the economic considerations still to come in the form of a new and powerful media oligarch bearing clout with foreign capital?

Only time will tell. Only time will tell how ABS-CBN’s Kapamilya network will react, especially when they realize that their favorite programs are now- with mute finality-  off the air.

Funny– but I still believe the words of Ernie Lopez of the Lopez clan, who was in the compound on July 10, 2020 to monitor the congress vote and offer solidarity to their workers. Ernie said he already knows how these tribulations to his family will end.  “Alam ko ang dulo natin—atin ang tagumpay!”

I meanwhile, am starting to hear this refrain more and more from people these days:  “walang forever sa Malacanang….”

(Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao City and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)