Eve before history’s repeat

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Full disclosure: The writer is a former part-time associate producer for the show Salandigan once hosted by now provincial board member Ryan Gamboa.

The show was executive produced by Romeo Subaldo and the station manager then was Leilani Salem-Alba.

It was a short stint that ended right around this month more than 10 years ago.

Aniceto Lacson is a local revolutionary, Emilio Aguinaldo is a national hero.

Or a villain, depending on which side of the debate one is on.

Right at the junction of two streets that bear their names in Bacolod City is a white, single-storey building.

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Its white walls and glass doors gleam in the tiempo muerto heat, more punishing, sagad sa buto (down to the bones) heat in the Sugarbowl of the Philippines.

It is a silent witness to history.

In its halls passed politicians, from the aspiring, failed, victorious ones, to movers and shakers of society.

Even El Kapitan himself – the Lopez and ABS-CBN patriarch, Eugenio Lopez Sr., whose mantra: “In the service of the Filipino” became a corporate motto that employees embraced, regardless of rank.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Regardless of paycheck.

That building faces Lacson Street, a major thoroughfare in Bacolod, which connects to the national highway in the north, DPWH Code: N7.

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The entrance to that building is now on its side, along 26th Aguinaldo Street, a gate to the left if one faces west.

It was at this place, close to 50 years ago that an office secretary in the old building, now long gone, received a closure order.

Marty Go, right, with The Morning Show hosts, Dani Dingcong, middle, and Kurt Soberano, left. | Photo from Marty Go personal collection used with permission
Marty Go, right, with The Morning Show hosts, Dani Dingcong, middle, and Kurt Soberano, left. | Photo from Marty Go personal collection used with permission

Then there was TV static.

That day, in September 1972, came a few days after then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law.

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He was at war with the Communists.

Or so we thought.

The debate rages on.

Did Joma and the Communist Party support Marcos as historian Joseph Scalice’s research shows?

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Did Joma and the CPP turn a blind eye to the mass murders under the Duterte government because of its alliance with him?

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That debate is as thick as the sauce in the menudo of news chief Romeo Subaldo whose creative standuppers, like emerging behind a pick up truck, will soon be missed as ABS-CBN Bacolod shuts down again.

Again, after 32 years since 1988, when the static over Channel 4 on terrestial TV was replaced with the flurry of news on TV Patrol Negros and the probing questions of Agnes Lira-Jundos on Pulso Sa Kwatro.

A group photo taken outside the Bacolod broadcast while it was in the final stage of construction in the 90s. | Photo from Yasmin Pascual-Dormido personal collection used with permission
A group photo taken outside the Bacolod broadcast while it was in the final stage of construction in the 90s. | Photo from Yasmin Pascual-Dormido personal collection used with permission

Which made a lot of children, like this writer, hate Harold Limbo as parents tune in to TV4, away from IBC13 that was showing Voltron, the Lions Five version.

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Tonight, as this article goes out, it is the eve of a repeat of history, almost back to that day when Marcos declared martial rule and the Press was stifled.

Except that Rodrigo Duterte did not declare martial law.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Like the government-CPP conspiracy, the debate as to who erred, the government or the Lopezes who own the broadcast giant, continues.

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What is clear thus far are two things: ABS lost its Congressional franchise and the day after tomorrow, 81 workers of the local affiliate will stop working.

Additional statistics to the country’s joblessness.

The economic slump.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

But if losing their jobs is a career-ending, life-changing event, even a near-apocalyptic one, the reporters of ABS-CBN Bacolod don’t seem to show it.

Or are good at acting unaffected.

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After all, someone once said journalism is “showbiz for ugly people.”

Of course, no one is ugly among the local ABS-CBN reporters.

Or short of brains.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Yasmin Pascual-Dormido was the youngest reporter of ABS-CBN in Bacolod when she became one, fresh out of college.

Curly-haired, fair-skinned with a slim, straight nose, Yasmin was a “crush ng bayan” when she crashed the local press community.

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Today, in an online group interview with the ABS CBN reporters, Yasmin gave a cryptic answer when asked how she feels and what she thinks as goodbye paycheck day nears, 21 years after her first broadcast during which she rose from rookie reporter to newsdesk to senior reporter and correspondent for the national channel and dzMM.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

“Sad and excited,” she wrote, eventually followed by a longer answer.

“Sad that I am forced to leave the profession I so much love; excited about what awaits ahead,” she added.

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Before everything went sideways, Romeo Subaldo, the news chief, had already been into homecooking, a hobby that he had been pursuing along with physical fitness.

Now, his Facebook cover photo is a logo, a black and white minimalist one with the text “Roming’s Food Trip.”

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Judging from exchanges with friends, Romeo, Roming to fellow journalists, is looking at a life beyond reporting via homecooking.

Today, however, he feels numb.

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“Maybe it’s because of the heat, the tiredness and the pain,” Roming says in the DNX interview room.

He adds seemingly in jest: “I wish I could skip that day and ask someone to wake me up when September starts,” seemingly ripping off a line from that Green Day song.

Then the next line turned sober.

Yasmin Pascual-Dormido, left, then the youngest reporter of ABS-CBN Bacolod with, from left, forner station manager Agnes Lira Jundos, then a senior reporter, Alvin Elchico, now dzMM anchor and reporter at ABS-CBN Manila, and forner reporter Ragie Mae Tano-Arellano | Photo from Yasmin Pascual-Dormido personal collection, used with permission
Yasmin Pascual-Dormido, left, then the youngest reporter of ABS-CBN Bacolod with, from left, forner station manager Agnes Lira Jundos, then a senior reporter, Alvin Elchico, now dzMM anchor and reporter at ABS-CBN Manila, and forner reporter Ragie Mae Tano-Arellano | Photo from Yasmin Pascual-Dormido personal collection, used with permission

“What makes it more painful is leaving the thing that I love to do and have been doing for 15 years,” he says.

And that pain is in “leaving my kapamilyas who were formerly strangers but became instant barkadas and family,” he says.

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Like most journalists, the dedicated ones at least, leaving that building on N7 and 27th is painful.

“We spent more time there than in our homes,” Roming muses.

Mary Go, center, on the field with cameraman Ish Faicol and driver Sherwin Gialolo | Photo from same caption as above
Mary Go, center, on the field with cameraman Ish Faicol and driver Sherwin Gialolo | Photo from Marty Go personal collection used with permissio

To them, that newsroom right smack in the middle of that building is where most of them blosommed to become men and women, quality broadcast journalists, from hapless, wet-behind-the-ears interns or newbies.

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And where fond memories were born.

Like that flying mobile phone, an iPhone to be exact, hurled by someone out of anger, Roming recounts.

“All the unique people are in the newsroom,” Yasmin muses to which Roming responds: “despite the daily stress and pressure we can still manage to throw jokes and laugh together.”

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

Which makes the flying iPhone incident a mere comedic moment, an inside joke of sorts that only those who are part of a tight bunch, a band of brothers and sisters can understand.

A kinship forged in blood, in the foxholes.

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And in that foxhole, Marty Go, soon to be a Juris Doctor holder, spent at least 15 years in, waking up early for The Morning Show, which he co-hosts.

“I will miss waking up early in the morning to prepare for The Morning Show; I will miss meeting and interviewing people from all walks of life and sharing their stories,” Marty says in the interview room.

He adds: “I will miss going to places and report significant events of history. A new chapter in life, indeed.”

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“The diversity of the cast is what makes the newsroom fun,” the soft-spoken pastor’s daughter, Barbara Mijares, a 17-year veteran, adds.

Barbara, the main anchor of TV Patrol Negros who has had her share of bashings from pro-Duterte supporters even before the franchise renewal issue caught fire.

Late afternoon of 28 August, however, there will not be a Barbara Mijares on TV Patrol.

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“I told Roming I didn’t want to do the last broadcast; I feel I can’t bear the pain, I hate to part with something I loved doing,” she says.

Barbara adds: ” I realized that now, more than ever, I have to be there up to the last newscast.”

Ruby Ore, production assistant/make up artist and the only non journalist, did not send answers to the questions.

Romeo Subaldo's most cherished photo | Photo from Romeo Subaldo personal collection used with permission
Romeo Subaldo’s most cherished photo | Photo from Romeo Subaldo personal collection used with permission

She just sent photos of her happiest moments at ABS.

Even if this reporter asked for only one.

“I will miss the laughter, the angry moments at each other,” Gabriel Mark Salanga, son of prominent radio commentator Fred Salanga, who had made his own mark in broadcast away from his father’s shadow.

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One of the youngest, if not the youngest reporter in today’s editorial batch, Gab or Mark was the last to send his answer.

Sober. Brooding.

Quite unlike his jolly, whimsical off-air persona.

Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission
Photo from Ruby Ore personal collection used with permission

By weekend, he says, it would be the first Saturday after 12 years that he would wake up to without a job.

Without a salary and bonuses.

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August is drawing to a close.

In the vast sugarcane fields of Negros Occidental, the tiempo muerto is about to end.

There would be work again as the mills open.

The workers prepare their espadings or cane knives and the andamyos or wooden planks.

They will have work again.

But over at that building on the corner of N7 and 27th, 81 workers will lose their jobs.

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Some will hang their microphones.

Tiempo muerto is about to start for them.

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