Behind the Scenes
Once a cameraman, always a
cameraman, that’s probably the reason why friends oftentimes look at me and wonder as if something is missing whenever they see me without my gadget.
I often suspect that people invite me to their functions and programs because they want their event to appear on cable television or on the pages of the local weeklies.
There are times even when people mistook me as an ABS-CBN cameraman or a Midland Courier reporter. Once, I was called “Kodak” then somebody asked, “saang Studio Kayo?”, well, that’s what I get for wearing a multi-pocketed vest and not carrying a press card at all.
There are odd reasons why my group is called BCBC. Baguio’s members of the fourth estate are really “Busy-busy”, always on the lookout for any eventuality worthy of publication. While Baguio is normally festive during vacations, the lent is our period of penitence by hosting the annual lucky summer visitors. It’s hard to stay sober since drinks are overflowing courtesy of sponsors and friends but we have to take turns to tour the visitors because it is an obligation-as I said it’s our penitence.
Whenever we attend a press conference and served a decent meal, I jokingly tell my wife that I must be an occasional “free lunch” journalist but she’s quick to reply that there’s no longer such thing as free lunch. True, those who usually call for a presscon want to access the media for their personal, political or corporate gains. But when it comes to civic activities, journalism lectures and other worthy causes, expect the BCBC to be a good partner.
During the return of “Apo Anno”, a centuries old Benguet mummy to his original cave in Buguias a few years back, lensmen acted like Paparazzis disobeying every guideline that the National Museum imposed. Anno became an instant celebrity when every hole, dent and cranny of his tattooed body saw print in wide reaching publications. As a result, the words “cultural sensitivity” became a byword to working journalists. In fact, two journalists reportedly felt ill during the coverage when they did something “inappropriate” like sneezing during the solemn ritual.
Having served the government since some few remaining months of the late Ilocano strongman, I can say that I have witnessed a historic event and experienced realities in the bureaucracy. In October 1985, I tried my luck as a neophyte VTR Editor of the defunct Newscenter-4 of the Maharlika Broadcasting System. Korina Sanches was then a fresh talking-head (newsreader) while Ces Orena-Drilon, Becky Cabral, Ronnie Nathanielsz, Bon Vibar and Lulu Matubis were among the regular anchors of the news center. My task then was to assist the Chief Editor on the U-matic recorders, edit sports clips and put together screened visuals of Imelda Marcos. As editor, my cardinal rule was to show the best shots of Imelda and edit-out some unwanted takes that showed her double chin and skinny legs that doesn’t match her heavy built.
There was a perceived imbalance of TV coverage for presidential candidates during the historic 1995 election campaign that’s why lawyer Joker Arroyo wasn’t joking when he sued Channel-4 for biased reporting
No EDSA revolt can ever come close to the first one especially from an insider’s point of view. I was lucky to have left for Baguio moments before the EDSA revolt broke out. Channel-4 was taken over by rebel forces and when I returned, new faces in yellow shirts plagued the place and Cory loyalists took over the network. Actors, singers and other celebrities including Baguio boy Bong Pineda who were linked with Tita Cory were at my news center and techno guy with a Bombay accent gave technical instructions that none of us editors could understand.
Seeing no bright prospect for a Baguio boy to stick it out with a network undergoing change, I decided to return home. Few months later, with a scar from a pellet gun on my forehead as a result of the odd jobs that I engaged in, I joined the National Media Production Center now resurrected as the Philippine Information Agency.
After Marcos fled to Hawaii in early 1986, the revolutionary government ruled the land and Cory became my big boss (will that make me a Balimbing?). Many of Cory’s programs then were tagged with the word “people” or “public” that even Malcolm Square was renamed as People’s Park. I held the position of Public Assistance Desk Officer before I became an Information officer.
Months later, I was involved with the Cordillera News Agency, a loose research and media based organization that facilitated the meeting between President Cory Aquino and
Fr. Conrado Balweg in Mount Pulag. That historic encounter led to a peace pact called “Sipat” that means a slap in the face in literal Ilocano but it is understood as a cessation of hostilities to tribal Filipinos in the uplands. A bible was exchanged for an Armalite rifle and gongs were played symbolizing unity among the tribespeople and the national government.
That historic moment (September 13, 1997) in Mt. Data brought hope for the creation of an autonomous government in the Cordillera.
From the Mt. Data Sipat till Balweg’s funeral in Abra of December 1999, I have partly chronicled Ka Ambo’s quest for autonomy. I was with the rebel priest together with the late activist Peppot Ilagan when we went down south to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao for a consultative meeting with Nur Misuari. In 1987, combatants from the other movement must have spotted my trusty camera and realized that I was just a reporter when they let us pass through few minutes prior to their bloody ambush killing eight of Balweg’s men in Baay Licuan, Abra.
When I covered the 1988 peace negotiations in Sagada but this time with NDF top brass Antonio Zumel and Luis Jalandoni, I noticed that local organizers were not happy to see me poking cameras at their cadres. I was once suspected as a subversive activist when I interpreted the Aquino-Galman murder in an experimental art form, but this time, its different…they took me as an infiltrator.
Above all, its nice to note that Sagada is the first ever peace zone in the country.
Itonomi-After two futile attempts and political pressures (as in jumping Eddie’s Bibingka concept) to get the people’s nod on the proposed form of government, the organic act was rejected twice and President Estrada thought it wise to dissolve the two governing bodies of CAR to the dismay of a handful of appointees who lorded over the region for a several terms.
Projecting a President’s image can really be a tricky task for a publicist especially if that official has a habit of pouting and frowning in public. As a matter of etiquette, press photographers are not supposed to take photos of a top official while eating, frowning, mad or even gambling. A camera buff himself, Atty. Mike Arroyo inducted the officers and members of the Cordillera Press Photographers at the favorite nesting ground near the Mansion recently. What Atty. Arroyo can’t experience as a cameraman is get collar grabbed and pushed by Presidential guards.
Back to camera gadgetry, I now carry one that is light and ideal for my new work as a trade and industry promotions officer. Of course, I give thanks to CNATV for making me an instrument to document important aspects of
Cordillera history. My new gadget has a Japanese recording mechanism and a German lens- an unusual duo remembered in causing a significant mark in world history or tragedy.
Now, what is the Tagalog term for a photographer? According to the Professional Photographers Association of the Philippines, it is Manunyut ng piktyur.
Visit my other sites: my photo album at
my images at www.imagesphilippines.com.art tibaldo
and Cordillera Chronological Briefs
Posted by artibaldo
at 11:58 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 9 December 2005 12:58 AM EST