Watching SONA from the jungle

SOMEWHERE IN NORTHERN MINDANAO (MindaNews/25 July) – Using an improvised television (TV) tuner, a laptop and mobile phones with TV, New People’s Army (NPA) rebels monitored from their guerilla base on Monday the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno C. Aquino III.

A New People's Army cadre watches President Benigno C. Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 23, on a projector screen attached to an improvised TV tuner and a laptop inside their camp somewhere in Northern Mindanao. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday MoreAmid the rains inside the jungle, Jorge Madlos, NDFP-Mindanao spokesman, and a band of NPA rebels watched the SONA as it was projected on a white piece of cloth, which is about three feet wide, inside a makeshift tent.

Despite their remote location, the reception was not really bad at all.

Most of the rebels watched quietly as the audio from the portable speakers wasn’t loud enough for everyone to clearly hear what the President would say.

Those with mobile phones equipped with TV tuners, which are readily available in many department stores, turned on their gadgets and attached them to an antenna to get clearer signals.

On the first 10 minutes, the reception on the screen appeared to be pixelated and they could barely recognize the face of the President. But later on, the reception improved. Mindanews asked one of the guerillas where they think the broadcast signal was coming from.

“We are not sure,” he replied.

Some of them, who were inside nearby makeshift tents, were listening to radio broadcasts even if they can barely hear the audio due to the bad reception given the distance and bad weather condition.

Madlos had his headlamp on while taking down notes using his netbook computer, occasionally sipping a cup coffee.

Inside the tent where the projector was mounted, jeers erupted when figures they believed bloated were flashed on the screen.

Madlos and his comrades were specifically aghast when the President talked about the land reform program in the country.

“Mao ra to? One liner ra sa land reform (Was that it? Just a one liner on land reform),” he said,

Madlos then turned his head down and started typing again.

Another portion that caught their fury was the conditional cash transfer program of the government, which they asserted is not the solution to poverty alleviation.

When the camera shots would focus into the crowd inside the Batasang Pambansa, some NPA rebels would even identify the members of the House of Representatives from the different provinces of Mindanao.

About thirty minutes later, a guerilla came inside the tent with a flask of hot water, sachets of coffee and a bunch of bread.

Then some started preparing coffee for themselves, apparently to keep warm from the cold temperature in the middle of the mossy forest.

Another guerilla, a woman in her 50s, was toasting bread on a barbecue stick over charcoal while watching the SONA.

Like Madlos, she too was taking down notes on her netbook.

“Taas kayo ang SONA niya karon ba (He has a lengthy SONA this time),”the rebel spokesperson said as he checked on his watch an hour later.

When the SONA finally ended, Madlos continued working on his computer for a few minutes.

Then he told his comrades that they had to meet an hour later to assess the SONA, before coming out with a media statement for release the following day.

“For sure tomorrow, some radio stations would call me up for a reaction to the SONA,” he told Mindanews.

The following day, Madlos granted interviews to some radio stations over the phone. (Keith Bacongco /Mindanews)