The expat countryman: last airbender (Part One)

The expat countryman: last airbender (Part One)


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I have a friend, a former colleague. We go way back when I was just starting in the world of broadcast journalism. Like most situations where a newcomer is trying to make a dent into an established work order, I felt that I was being ‘handled’ – not badly, mind you – but in such a way that I wouldn’t be able to make a mess of things. After all, broadcasting was a very serious thing, especially back then in the waning years of the martial law era. That was okay by me – I was the new kid on the block; I had a lot to prove before I could fully be one of them.

At that time, actually it was just two of them and they ran the newsroom of DYSR when it was still under the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). My idol, Boy Panajon – also a product of SU’s School of Communication – was the head of the news division, and they had a part-time transcriber, an openly-gay student, whose name unfortunately I couldn’t recall now. Boy’s partner was Romy Capilitan, transplanted from Samar, who was also DYSR’s resident activist-turned-philosopher, aside from his major role as copy editor and anchorman for the vernacular newscasts (every 6 am and 6 pm, except Sundays). When I joined DYSR as probationary announcer/newscaster, I was given the job of transcribing local (i.e. national network news from the Ministry of Public Information) and foreign news broadcasts (the latter from the Voice of America, and sometimes from the BBC’s short-wave global newscasts, which we tape-recorded on vintage Ampex open-reel recorders).

As a newbie in the station, my airtime was restricted to some top-of-the-hour news bulletins, and a few times voicing the tail-end riders of pre-recorded commercials (mostly also recorded, but sometimes also done live). The senior staff announcer then was the legendary Rudy Arbas, whose distinctive radio voice was identified as DYSR, almost exclusively. The radio station manager then (first in an acting capacity, then later as full-fledged manager) was Miss Annie Calis – shrewd, cool but hot-looking, and with a voice that was almost as sexy as she looked. She also did some board time, but administrative work took most of her daily hours. But effectively she was likewise the head of the other division – the programming division (where Rudy was the star, the announcer). [The third and last one was the technical division, composed of the technicians/engineers that ensured that DYSR – with its main studios equipment at the third floor of Guy Hall and transmitter site facilities in Banilad – all ran smoothly and was properly maintained.] This was how it was in late 1977/early 1978.

As I remember, Boy and Romy were already DYSR regulars before I got into the scene. Boy was the anchor for the 12:15 pm major daily newscast in English, which invariably contained all the major late-breaking local news stories and freshest national and foreign news developments. Not long after I formally joined DYSR, another of Silliman’s Communication School students also came onboard – Muffet Dolar, but she was mostly “programming property” and initially only did some of the hourly newscasts, having for a start her major responsibility as the station library custodian.

When Muffet and I eventually had our very own program time slots (thus having that ‘coveted glamorous title’ of “DJs”), we also had another newcomer to DYSR – Mrs. Glynda T. Descuatan – who eventually became head of the programming division. From that time forward, DYSR was transformed – from the [mostly English-speaking] voice of Protestant out-reach on the airwaves (and also-ran in terms of the only two local radio stations then – what with hard-hitting Philidore Quingco of DYRM , which got much of local listenership shares due to its syndicated soap-opera core programming and part-time local news and public affairs) – and DYSR began to make its presence felt beyond the boundaries of the Silliman community, and even farther beyond Dumaguete’s limits, to the other towns of Negros Oriental, and on to neighboring provinces in Central Visayas (Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor) and Northern Mindanao (Zamboanga del Norte, Misamis Occidental & Oriental, including Camiguin).

I could still recall those days when the entire DYSR staff (administrative, programming, news, and technical – even including some student production assistants) spent a whole weekend together at the Banilad transmitter site’s conference facilities, fronted by the deep blue southern sea, adjacent to a prominent resort site (which wasn’t operational yet). It was really a strategic planning workshop, at the same time a series of extended bull-sessions, due to the multi-faceted problems endangering the very existence and continuation of DYSR’s operations. The NCCP management of DYSR (and another radio station or two in Metro Manila) was supposed to have long ago put in place a 5-year development plan and program to become wholly self-sufficient/sustaining before US-sourced capital/operations funds dried up. It never materialized. However, we did emerge from that “retreat” with a whole new mission – not just to survive, but also possibly – to excel. And we set down to do the job… with a vengeance.

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