Why We Fight for ABS-CBN

Back in September 2017, during the final interview for my application to the network, the news chief asked me: What can you say about the repeated threats to our news organization? At that time, ABS-CBN had already been on the receiving end of threats, and its franchise was just a few years away from expiry.

Yet, I chose to pursue this path. I eventually landed the job, and in no time, found myself learning the ropes in news reportage. Prior to joining ABS-CBN, I was already in the media for five years. Three years as researcher, writer and producer in a competing network, and two years as a reporter in a government TV station. I thought I was already equipped with the basics. Still, I found myself starting anew, re-learning everything from scratch.

TV reporter standupper screenshot
I found myself starting anew, re-learning everything from scratch.

On my second night of graveyard duty, I covered my first case of extra-judicial killing. In just a few weeks, I’ve lost count of the dead people I saw. Being on the general assignment beat, we cover a lot of issues: not just crimes, but also fires, accidents, drug operations, late night hearings, basically everything newsworthy that happens within my beat and within my shift. It was a worthwhile experience working under veteran desk editors and producers. I learned a lot from them. They have refined my news writing, angling and reporting, and they have re-shaped my editorial judgment.

In ABS-CBN, the voice of the ordinary Filipino is at the center of every story. It’s here where I learned how to put heart in every script I write. Because of this job, I got to explore the remotest places in Metro Manila. Every night is an opportunity to immerse in diverse communities. I met people from Baseco, Gasangan and Happy Land in Tondo; walked through the narrowest alleys in Payatas where even a tripod could not fit; and braved the darkest roads of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan: all in the pursuit of news. Coming from PTV, this is something new to me. From being a mouthpiece of the government, it was a big shift to being a storyteller of and for the people. It changed my entire perspective in life.

Too often we saw the faces of sorrow and injustice: children losing their fathers to the drug war, families losing homes to a fire, an elderly woman being shot to death because of a mistaken identity, and a transgender woman being denied of basic rights. It’s a huge responsibility to be their voice. It’s almost always painful, but we have to keep on telling these stories. The news we produce is every Filipino’s window to the world outside their ordinary bubble. Deep in our hearts, we believe that we are doing something relevant.

But the process isn’t rosy: we clocked in long hours, deadlines are piling, and the stress level is high. Journalism is tough, and with trolls pouncing on you, it just became tougher. There were rare circumstances when we got to tell stories that restored our hope for humanity. Amid all the deluge of information and noise, once in a while, there were stories of hope. And these were the small packets of energy that kept us going.

By now, you may have seen long lists of benefits and perks for ABS-CBN workers. Cheesy-ness aside, I think the best part of it is working with people who treat you as family. I have endured years in harsher and more cruel environments.

TV reporter with colleagues
TV reporter with colleagues
The best part of it is working with people who treat you as family.

Finally, this is a company of compassionate media workers. A place I can call home. But then there was this ticking time bomb to 2020, when the franchise was set to expire. Every time a threat was hurled against the network, our anxiety grew. Oftentimes, we would feel it in small hushes. We would see how cameramen, producers, and other staff feared for their jobs. But everyone soldiered on and showed up to work: not just because we needed to, but because we loved to.

#DefendPressFreedom

Some people spend their entire life looking for their ‘ikigai,’ or their sweet spots on Earth. Ikigai is the center of four elements: what you love, what you do best, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. We found ours in ABS-CBN. We’re being paid to do what we love: telling stories, be it in the form of news, documentary or entertainment. ABS-CBN employees are among the most passionate and talented I know. Beyond that, we have anchored our stories on public service, something our country badly needs.

As a young child who had no other dreams apart from becoming a broadcast journalist, ABS-CBN has become my North Star. It’s more than just a job: it’s a mission, an advocacy, it’s our raison d’etre, our reason for being. With this, I realized I have already found the answer to the interview question.

Why do we fight for ABS-CBN despite the repeated threats? Maybe because we found our calling here. And when you work for a purpose bigger than yourself, the threats are always worth the fight.

As the Congress decides on our fate, this is our humble appeal. Please do not take away our dreams and our future. Let us continue our service to the Filipino people. Let us all #SaveABSCBN.

About the Author:

Jervis Manahan is a reporter of ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs. He is also teaching broadcast media courses at the Department of Media and Communication, Trinity University of Asia.

He is also an advocate of press freedom and media literacy. Outside work, he goes on outdoor adventures with the Travel Factor group. He has also written theatre plays for Short and Sweet Manila.

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