UP Gawad Plaridel ’07

Cheche Lazaro, 2007 Gawad Plaridel Awardee

July 5, 2007. A friend of mine who was part of the production crew in charge of yesterday’s Gawad Plaridel asked me to take photographs of the event.

Gawad Plaridel is an award given annually by the UP College of Mass Communication to acclaimed and outstanding media practitioners who have contributed much to their field with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service. This year’s awardee is from the field of TV broadcasting, acclaimed broadcast journalist, Ms. Cecilia “Cheche” Lazaro.

Cheche Lazaro at the 2007 Gawad Plaridel

Ms. Lazaro’s lecture was enlightening and inspiring at the same time. Her efforts, together with her partners, of putting up Probe Productions, pioneered investigative broadcast journalism in Philippine TV which spawned the emergence of the the many investigative news programs and other public affairs programs we watch today.

More pictures at my Multiply site.

Thank you for waking up this early

Despite retiring to bed at already 1 in the morning, I had to wake up at a little past four last Friday in order to get ready for my “second TV guesting,” this time at Breakfast on Studio 23.

I was given a 6 AM call time but I ended up appearing in the show among the hosts Patty, Vince, JC and Atom at almost half past seven. It’s all right, nevertheless, even though I did have to miss my Spanish class for the second time this week.

It’s freezing inside ABS-CBN studios. This is an incoherent entry. Wish me well and luck this week, guys. I might not be able to post often in the coming days.

Get ’em while they’re young

It felt quite odd walking all around Palma Hall with a big-headed mascot from Studio 23. It was a spontaneous decision to go around there. We even had to convince the strict guards to let us in and promote our event last Monday.

This thing ABS-CBN is doing, going around mass communication colleges in different universities, is obviously, a strategic public relations campaign coated as say, a campus tour regarding youth involvement in nation-building (what with the upcoming May elections) or coated as a youth media summit, like the Pinoy Media Summit held at Miriam College where student representatives from all the communication schools in the Philippines were invited.

There’s nothing wrong with it really. It’s quite ingenious actually that they are conducting all these to woo “future media practicioners” into their fold, while they’re in school. They even sent the “Tres Marias” (Charie Villa, Maria Ressa, Luchi Cruz-Valdes) of their News department to speak with us in UP last Monday.

This News Plenary symposium, by the way, is sponsored by Studio 23 in coordination with our student council, as part of their “Y-Vote” campus tour. I don’t know why GMA Network isn’t doing these sorts of PR campaigns. ABS-CBN probably know they’re the more controversial and more criticized one. But as far as this PR campaign is concerned, I think they’re pulling a good job at convincing us to give them higher regard and maybe even join them in the future, as future media┬áprofessionals.

It’s not that I’m planning on getting into the broadcast industry. I still prefer working in film. But seeing that TV is the stronger and more influential field, it’s one of my options.

Media seedlings

The internet connection’s is more tolerable tonight. I’ve finally gotten myself a good dose of internet surfing after quite a hectic first week of school for the year.

I just came across GMA Network‘s new news website, GMANews.tv, and I have quite a good impression of it. It is pretty neat, organized, aesthetically-pleasing, rich and content-loaded. They have streaming videos and they also got their correspondents, news anchors and other journalists on an integrated blog network. I wonder why their rival television network contents itself with a mediocre-looking and a disorganized news website.

ABS-CBN though, has its own plans up its sleeves I’m sure. Eugenio Lopez III, the company’s CEO, in the 2nd Pinoy Media Congress a few months ago, talked about development of non-linear content delivery over the internet and investing in HDTV broadcasting technology. They’ve lit up their transmitter tower quite nicely, for a start. Hehe.

Anyway… While eating at a restaurant with my UP MCO friends a few nights ago, I noticed that we were the only ones who were staring at the almost-muted television set. It was pretty interesting to have realized now that all we talked about that night were media-related. How gossip and media geeky these Mass Comm kids are. All these hopping around local media sites, reminded me of what I’ve also been thinking about reorganizing UPMassComm.net. I’ve sort of left and abandoned it already, I don’t really know what’s happening in there anymore. Perhaps with the help of some volunteers and some willing web developers, we can fix it up and turn it into a more useful student portal for UP Mass Comm kids, the future of Philippine media, hehe. I’m thinking of something like a portal where film students can upload their documentaries and short films, where broadcast majors can upload their shows, journalism folks can publish their reports and communication researchers can post their studies and findings. Which brings me to another idea about shooting short video segments with my friends in Mass Comm over YouTube and other such video content platforms. Wah. Let’s see if these ideas take flight.

An ABS-CBN affair

November 29, 2006. Some of my collegemates and I attended the 2nd Pinoy [Youth] Media Congress at Miriam College the whole days yesterday and last Monday.

It was really much more of an ABS-CBN propaganda event, really. I don’t mind. It gave us an insight into how things work in ABS-CBN, with all the icing of course. Almost the entire roster of ABS-CBN executives, from the Lopez siblings who own ABS-CBN, to Maria Ressa, head of news & current affairs, to all the heads of the different subsidiaries that make up the biggest media company in the country were there. It was a rare opportunity to hear them speak and promote their organization to representatives from almost all the mass communication schools in the country, and for us to have the opportunity to ask them questions ourselves.

I was surprised to realize how many hundreds of colleges and universities are teaching Mass Communication. There were almost a thousand student and faculty representatives at the Congress. With just a handful of media companies, how the hell can all of us be absorbed in the industry. With such a competitive environment, I can understand why some people can get easily frustrated with the prevailing trend. The stereotype of Mass Comm students is that of one who wants to be a newscaster. Which can make me cringe, really. Hindi naman hayok sa camera ang mga nag-aaral ng say, Journalism or Film or Communication Research. That’s not even the path I want to take (as to what my plans are, I’ll share some other time).

Everyone disliked us there, by the way. They were so averse at UP students. One time, one student from UE came up and asked the human resource panel, (it went something like), “Why do you discriminate applicants based on the school he went to? Bakit palaging taga-UP?! ‘Pag hindi taga-UP, mababa kagad ang chance?!” Then everybody roared in applause. As in, with the “whooo!!” and “yea!!” Sheesh. Then another student came up and said “Totoo bang mas matimbang ang [educational] background kaysa sa sipag at tiyaga?” What the hell. Everybody applauded again, like it was some anti-UP rally. Well, it’s probably really frustrating (for some) that majority of the media personalities you see on TV come from UP. But I’m sure they are all there based on individual merit and hard work, not based on school. It just so happened that they came from UP. The human resource person rebutted that everyone goes through the same application process anyway! If you don’t make the cut, it’s you, not the name of your school or others’. And these are people in front of the camera. I’m sure thousands of ABS-CBN’s five thousand employees aren’t from UP.

It might have not helped everyone’s animosity against us that our professor was very straightforward with his “fierce” questions directed at Gabby Lopez and Karen Davila. That was guts, man. Facing up to ABS-CBN executives, with labor issues and other issues with their programming. They were all valid points by the way. But when Karen Davila, who’s a UP alumna too by the way, calmly yet sarcastically answered back, everyone started applauding like it was some cockfight.

I know its chic and fashionable to criticize media with all their failures. But I have high regard for people like Maria Ressa, Luchi Cruz Valdez and Charie Villa. I’d personally cut them some slack for what they do. Different speakers repeated some things over the two-day Congress, “We’re as frustrated as you! How we wish we could also give you Probe at primetime. But you won’t watch it, what can we do?!” “It’s useless preaching to an empty church.” “If you don’t like the program, turn it off and write to us.” “If it’s such a bad program, why does it rate high?” “We are not part of 80% of Filipinos who live in poverty. What you, or we, don’t like, they do.” Basically, whenever they are criticized, they turn the table upside down and ask audiences the same question. “If you hate the program, why were you watching it?” kind of thing. Which I understand. We’re all slaves to market forces. It’s a delicate balance between providing audiences what they want and what they need. Give them what they need, like educational programs and documentaries, but they won’t want or watch it. Give them slapstick entertainment, but it’s not what they “need”. A balance has to be set. Our professor said this though, “We have abused the audience-reason too much to justify bad programming.”

I hope the next Pinoy Media Congress could be sponsored by GMA.

Moderator na

October 16, 2006. It appears that I am getting off from school later than most of my peers. Let’s see, while others are already on semestral break, I still have a Communication Research 101 (CR 101) paper due next week, a CR 101 exam, Mr. Avecilla’s traditional marathon film viewing for Broadcast Communication 100 (BC 100) on Friday and an exam on the same subject on Monday next week.

My groupmates and I conducted our focus group discussions for our research paper last Saturday. I moderated the three discussions we conducted. Thank you to all our friends who participated. I’d also like to thank David Corpuz who actually responded from my blog notice and came! Whew, naitawid rin namin, despite a minor lack in preparation. I’m actually satisfied with the inputs that came up.

We need FGD participants!

We need your help. My Communication Research 101 group needs participants for a focus group discussion for our final term paper. If you’re below twenty-five years old, currently living, staying or studying in Metro Manila, and watches films in commercial cinemas at least once every three months, you might be who we need…

We will provide your transportation (depends) and food, and something extra (don’t expect much, we are just students). Please do email me or leave a comment below if you’re interested. We will appreciate it. I hope to see you.

It’s an audience problem too

August 8, 2006. We had our weekly student council meeting yesterday afternoon. In preparation for our Mass Media Awareness Month event, we discussed the state of Philippine media.

Hm, let’s see here. I say, I don’t entirely blame media institutions if recouping investments and making profits are always part of their primary considerations. Broadcasting and print publishing, much like filmmaking, are still expensive ventures after all. Is media the way it is because it’s how the audience wants it? Or is media the way it is because it’s how media owners assume how the audience wants them to be? I think we’ve all been underestimating the Philippine audience too much as an entertainment-crazed people. Perhaps it’s not just a problem with media, it’s also a problem with a ‘silent’ audience which fail to provide enough feedback and comments for media to work on. Perhaps we should also call on audiences to be more vocal in expressing their needs for a more socially-responsible and transformative media and patronize and support those which actually recognize the call. I guess it’s one way of assuring media owners that being more transformative and pro-active is not totally a loss or an unprofitable venture. I think it’s one way we can urge and encourage media institutions to shape up.

So far, the media has been good in assuming and offering the public what it wants (entertainment, even in newscasts). How about what it needs? The moment audiences become more critical vocal about their reactions and comments on how media works, the more media would probably be reactive to these sort of feedback. This needs a bigger discussion, and I will not expound on the topic in this blog post.

Let me share with you something that happened while we were in our meeting. It was already past six in the afternoon and most of our co-council members have already left.

Stan: Bilisan na natin, natatae na ‘ko.
ME: Ikaw rin? Nautot na nga ako kanina eh.
Melai: Psst! Kayong dalawa talaga…
Max: Yuck, buti na lang ‘di namin naamoy no?
ME: Oo nga. Akala ko nga maaamoy ni Marella kasi katabi ko siya. Nginitian ko na lang. Sinabihan lang ako ng ano nginingiti-ngiti mo diyan?
Max: Nasinghot lahat siguro ni Micah kaya siya umalis.

After the said discourse, we proceeded to wrap up our discussion on the state of Philippine media. After a few minutes, Max and Mich frowned.

Max: Oh my god, ang baho.
ME: [Silent for a few seconds] I’m so sorry, I farted. Akala ko ‘di n’yo ulit maaamoy. [Everyone laughs their hearts out]
Max: Haha. Akala ko kung anong truck ng basura lang ang dumaan. It smelled inorganic!

Of course, it would be much more hilarious if recounted out loud. Hahaha. Tawa kami nang tawa. That was really embarrassing.

Never a private, personal art

Cinemalaya 2006 at the Cultural Center of the PhilippinesJuly 24, 2006. Aside from watching the gala premiere of Donsol last Wednesday night, I also attended the first day of the 2nd Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival’s Film Congress last Thursday. I went there with my orgmates from UP MCO.

Cinemalaya 2006 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines with college friends

Much was talked about the potentials of independent digital filmmaking. Can filmmaking really be independent? Filmmaking is a public art. You make films for other people to see. It can’t really be a totally “I will make movies regardless of what other people say” kind of thing because filmmaking, I believe, will always rely on audiences to thrive, it will always rely on funds to be produced, it will always rely on team effort of a crew. You can’t make films by yourself for yourself. The discussion about a truly independent, no-holds-barred filmmaking for me is an irrelevant discussion. This is simply about the decentralization of filmmaking in the Philippines from the traditional cliques of producers and directors to newer batches of filmmakers. It will still always rely on a lot of other factors, a lot of are beyond the control of any filmmaker.