Do you think the Philippines deserves a Last Week Tonight-esque program? (And an assessment of news satire on Pinoy TV)


(Photo credits: a screengrab of an episode of Last Week Tonight. Copyright 2014 HBO, no copyright infringement intended)

Do you think this country deserves a television program which follows in the footsteps of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver?
To those unfamiliar, Last Week Tonight is a news satire program which delves into different subjects (Climate Change, Net Neutrality, President Donald Trump, Brexit, among others) in a humorous fashion. There are clips of the show available on YouTube. We might as well provide one here: 

https://youtu.be/FVFdsl29s_Q
Now back to the question, with the messy state of Filipino politics and its divisiveness (especially now), and the need to explain its complexities in a way the ordinary Juan dela Cruz will understand, is it really timely that we produce one? 

We’re no stranger to news satire but there are times programs like these didn’t last, either because of a lack of audience response or diminishing audience interest after an initial huge following, or because of political sensibilities which results in such shows being axed.

Examples are:

  • IBC 13’s Sic O Clock News with Jaime Fabregas and Ces Quesada (which also featured the late Rene Requiestas)
  • Studio 23’s Wazzup Wazzup with Toni Gonzaga and Vhong Navarro
  • GMA News TV’s May Tamang Balita with Ramon Bautista
  • TV5’s Word of the Lourd, The Weekend News with Ramon Bautista, and Kontrabando

This program might be a good pitch for the established networks but will it work in the long term? May this show be perceived as a mere copycat of the original HBO program? Or will it exacerbate the already divisive political atmosphere, especially when it touches on issues like President Duterte’s rape jokes, the Marcoses’ political comeback (mga dilawan!) or the so-called Leni-leaks and other issues surrounding the Liberal Party (Dutertrolls). (Sidenote: I would want to see this show poke fun regularly at Trillanes and his Magdalo as he is a bigger joke than Pacquiao). And in the US, shows like these tend to skew towards the political left (which is also my political leanings though I don’t associate myself with the traditional Filipino left, that is the CPP-NPA-NDF, MAKABAYAN bloc, or its affiliated groups).

No one knows exactly, it’s hard to predict what the audience might think or look for, but let’s see if it will be a similar success. 

Reforms on the public transport system

With the jeepney strikes protesting against the impending phaseout in favor of jeepney modernization last Monday which almost paralyzed public transport in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces (and to lesser extent other cities in the country) and the LTFRB’s controversial decisions against Uber and Grab (which is increasingly becoming the preferred mode of transport among certain segments of the riding public), one thing is for certain, a comprehensive reform of the public transport system. 

How do we propose such a reform?

  • Continue with the jeepney modernization, which is necessary as our distinctive mode of transport which is a sign of Filipino ingenuity must keep up with modern times. (which will also help local manufacturers)
  • The government could employ the jeepney drivers which will make them entitled to benefits like housing, health insurance, and regular pay, as opposed to a per boundary basis. 
  • The government could professionalize drivers through seminars on a regular basis (seminars on traffic laws, among others), so as to mitigate concerns on drivers beating regulations such as no-loading zones, speeding, etc.
  • Develop and expand the railway system (LRT, PNR, MRT) across the country, not just in Metro Manila but also in other urban centers like Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Baguio, among others so as to reduce road congestion, as well as improved connecivity

These are the only tangible solutions available to the government if we truly want to reform our public transport system in the country. As citizens we can offer solutions but it’s still up to them to decide whether or not to carry out those mentioned above, but in our opinion it’s the way to go.

It will take a long time, until then, tiis-tiis muna. 

Thoughts on PTV News’ shakeup

Last June 28, PTV decided to update its on-air identity, reflecting a renewed thrust as a public service station following in the footsteps of foreign counterparts BBC, NHK, CGTN, among others. 

Days later, Kathy San Gabriel and other staff were abruptly dismissed from the network and was never given the chance to bid farewell on-air. It was also during this time reports on alleged corruption over at PTV started to surface. (Check Snow Badua’s Facebook page.)

And on a surprising move, PTV decided to rebrand its newscasts formerly under the uniformed brand PTV News. These are:

  • Sentro Balita, anchored by Alex Santos and Angelique Lazo, who was recently narrating the Para sa Bayan documentary series narrating PTV’s history since 1974 (Princess Habiba Sarip-Paudac is now station manager of Salaam TV)
  • Ulat Bayan, anchored by Aljo Bendijo and Katherine Vital
  • PTV News Headlines, anchored by Charms Espina and Richmond Cruz

This may confuse viewers for quite some time who are already quite accustomed to the PTV News brand. In my opinion, PTV should have settled in reviving the Teledyaryo brand in use since 2001 during the Arroyo years and survived the first 2 years of Noynoy Aquino’s administration. [A common problem for PTV is whenever there is a change of administration, there will be a change in branding.]

Lastly, PTV News must strive to avoid to being perceived as a lapdog of any sitting president and promote itself as a credible source to an audience quite exasperated with mainstream media. 

Changing the country’s name? Seriously? 

On the day we celebrated the 119th year of our independence, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano filed a resolution calling for the changing of the official name of the Republic of the Philippines. This is to, according to him, demonstrate our independence from colonial powers. 

Yet, not everyone is receptive with this idea, considering the potential costs, practicality, and the person filing the said resolution.

The person has tried to file an impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte barely a year within his 6-year term, and when that was junked by the House Justice Committee, turned to the International Criminal Court along with his colleague and nagger-in-chief Senator, or should I say, President Antonio Trillanes IV. [sarcasm] (according to critics of the said resolution, how will you demonstrate the country’s full independence from colonial powers when you are employing the aid of international institutions to unseat a sitting president when you have exhausted all the legal possible means permitted by our laws i.e. impeachment, unless of course you want to pull off something similar to Oakwood or Manila Pen which seemingly is your only tangible achievement so far and seem to be proud of.)

As for the name change, in case this pushes through, how can you come up of a name acceptable to everybody from the Tagalogs, Ilokanos, Cebuanos, Aetas, Cordillerans, Taugugs, Ivatans, and others, as there was no common identity yet among the peoples of this archipelago, unless of course you want to trigger centuries-old animosity among the different ethnic groups in this country.

And there are more pressing matters to attend to, like infrastructure development, poverty reduction, among others, and for Magdalo, focusing on soldiers’ welfare and strengthening our maritime defences considering your military backgrounds. 

So stop pretending to be principled crusaders of good governance (with your failed coup attempts and nonsense Congressional and Senate hearings) when in fact you’re also a part of the much disguised political elite. 

The name change resolution is just an attempt of yours to remain relevant when in fact you’re not. (The political system in this country in general is a joke. The Magdalo is only a visible part of it. Face it, Trillanes, you’ll never be president.)

The name Philippines has become a very huge and integral part of who we are as a country and embrace it, cherish it for the years to come. 

Some TV Patrol regional editions are still not conforming to the updated graphics

We would like to call the attention of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs and ABS-CBN Regional, as some of the TV Patrol regional editions are still not yet updating their graphics package similar to the mother newscast, as most of the regional editions have already followed suit.

These are:

  • TV Patrol Cagayan Valley (produced from Santiago)
  • TV Patrol Northern Luzon (produced from Baguio)
  • TV Patrol North Central Luzon (produced from Dagupan)
  • TV Patrol Pampanga
  • TV Patrol Tacloban
  • TV Patrol Caraga (produced from Butuan)
  • TV Patrol Northern Mindanao (produced from Cagayan de Oro)

Most of the regional editions have already followed suit since the mother newscast relaunched its graphics package on July 4, 2016, among the first to comply were TV Patrol Socskargen (from General Santos), TV Patrol Central Mindanao (from Cotabato), TV Patrol Chavacano (from Zamboanga), and TV Patrol Central Visayas (from Cebu). They were followed by the rest which slowly but progressively updated their respective graphics package albeit in differing scales (some maintaining the old headline graphics like Bicol and Negros, maintaining the old OBBs, etc.).  Now that 11 months have lapsed since the initial graphics change maybe those above mentioned should start catching up.

Maybe this could be perhaps a wakeup call to the ABS-CBN management that they should also be focusing on maintaining and updating the regional broadcast facilities instead of relying mostly on high-budget teleseryes as the regional networks serve as theri backbone in serving the rest of the country with such diversity in culture and language. 

Debunking hoaxes 

As we monitor Facebook pages and groups dedicated to Philippine television and radio, it is unavoidable that we will encounter hoaxes, such as this one: 

(name of the person withheld as to protect his identity)

First of all, there is no truth to these and will largely be impossible in the real world setting. 

  • Viva is mostly unlikely to return to free TV as it has a strong partnership with the established major networks
  • Any attempt by Sony or Fox International Channels will likely violate existing laws and regulations regarding media ownership unless partnering with a local content provider (which is still highly improbable)

We have refuted this, yet there are still people who are bound to believe this, and posts like these are being shared, sadly, by those kids with special needs with a keen interest in media.

In light of these, there has to be a mutual effort to avoid the spread of hoaxes like these by:

  • Parental guidance: the parents must control those kids’ access to the internet or computers and reminding them of consequences of their actions
  • Vetting of posts for moderators of threads and pages
  • For those on the verge of believing the hoax, remind them these are not true
  • Ask them to stop without resorting to bullying

These are among the solutions we can think of, but this will be a long term effort, an exercise of responsibility in a world cluttered by fake news, toxic debates, among others.

Our Cebu experience

(My screen capture of Metro Cebu skyline from Harolds Hotel’s 12th floor.)

We spent a total of six days in Cebu from May 4-9, and I must say with no second thoughts, Cebu is way better than Manila. The ambiance in Metro Cebu is very much like Metro Manila (where I was born, raised, and where I study), but more orderly, no usok, no kaskaseros. The streets are clean. There’s also traffic, but absolutely no unahan or overtaking typical of a Manila gridlock.

At the same time, I have seen for myself how unequal development is with respect to areas outside of Luzon. For example, it takes four hours from Cebu City to Bogo City in the north (when you can build an expressway when it’s roughly the same distance as Manila and Clark Freeport Zone) and another hour to Bantayan Island by ferry (when you can build a bridge). No matter why people down south always refer to Metro Manila as Imperial Manila.

I have spotted no tricycles unlike in Metro Manila though the use of Grab is prominent, despite relatively near distances (we stayed in Harolds Hotel in Gorordo and Grabbed through La Vie Parisienne, Vibo Place, the Iglesia ni Cristo chapel in Gen. Maxilom), though in some cases distances could be very far like going to SM Seaside Cebu, SM City Cebu, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Which explains why Metro Cebu also needs an LRT system. (I’d prefer a tranvia-like system or subway so as not to destroy the city landscape. And by the way, MCIA is better than NAIA.)

I was not able to see most of the sights in Metro Cebu and going south to Oslob after spending an overnight in Bantayan Island though I was able to see the following:

  • The Taoist Temple in Lahug
  • Fort San Pedro
  • Plaza Independencia
  • Magellan’s Cross

Also some sights which captured my attention:

  • Marcelo Fernan Bridge
  • Maayo Medical in Mandaue City
  • A parked DOST bus in Mandaue City
  • The abandoned Cebu International Convention Center
  • Colon Street
  • SM Seaside Cebu
  • Cebu IT Park
  • and much more

The food selection is also wide. I tried a teriyaki burger over at Patty Pie in SM Seaside Cebu, Jonie’s and Zubuchon in SM City Cebu, and of course Lantaw and 10,000 Roses over at Cordova where you could see a good view of the skyline of Metro Cebu.

While eating at Lantaw, I saw a beautiful girl (there are many in Cebu). I initially wanted to initiate small talk with her but she was with her whole family, so I held back. She was soft spoken but heard her curse loud when what she was eating fell on the ground. I could have practiced Cebuano but I held back. I may not have been able to talk to her but at least I knew my limits. But I’m certain, if I’ll ever marry in the future I’d prefer a Cebuana (the other ethnicities in my list are Kapampangan, Ilocano, Ilonggo, and Bikol).

And oh, I’m already starting to learn Bisaya, after a friend told me that I once I return back to Manila, which I am now doing, hehe. I even bought myself a Visayan dictionary to help me and started practicing my Cebuano, though I’m stil having difficulties and I have to ask some friends what to say and what the person I’m talking to meant. I remember having to ask the hotel staff and salesladies what to respond. I also remember having to ask “naa ba’y wifi diri” (Is there WiFi here?) or “unsa man og password” (What’s the password?) whenever in a public space. Despite having some difficulty I do hope I get fluent in Cebuano (also other Philippine languages as well. It’s not a dialect, okay? Let’s get rid of that Imperial Manila thinking.)

That said, my convictions for federalism and multiculturalism, as well as equal development in this country were strengthened by this experience. I also came to think to myself how Cebu is faring in comparison to Metro Manila, which has become in such a sorry and cancerous state. And now I knew where the Cebuanos are coming from whenever they refer to Imperial Manila. All development is brought to Metro Manila at the expense of the regions and then wondering why overcrowding is such a problem.

I look forward to repeating this experience, returning to Cebu to travel and probably live a life there. I also look forward to visiting more places in this country, study their languages, and to further widen my view. That I can safely say I’m truly for federalism, because if you want it for the country, start with yourself. Learn their languages, explore their places, acquaint with people.

And in my opinion, maybe the Spaniards shouldn’t have moved the capital to Manila and perhaps stayed in Cebu. It’s much more livelier than Manila.

Next stop, Batanes, Davao, Zamboanga, Ilocos, etc.

Daghang salamat kaayo!