Can you walk us through one of those profound moments in your career?
“We were assigned in Tacloban, Leyte when Yolanda tore into the country. You know what happened – houses were flattened, you couldn’t see any building standing, the airport was not spared. The city was in complete wreck, homes and lives lost. It was a ghost town. Since our car was washed away, we walked to wherever the rescuers could find us. We walked 30 kilometers. Finally, we found a spot where we could set up so we could air live (our equipment were soaked, we tried drying them and thankfully it worked). Atom Araullo (who was then with ABS-CBN), CNN's field reporter, and all the representatives of other networks who were sent to cover couldn’t go live; their stuff were all damaged. They were all looking to get located, so they gave us their names so we could broadcast they’re alive. (GMA was the only network to go live.)”
“One realization that came to me was that some of the most profound miracles happen in the most hopeless situations. I couldn’t forget the establishment where we checked in – it was the only structure that didn’t completely collapse. The original plan was to stay in a different hotel, but eventually we decided to change hotel. The hotel we first planned to stay at collapsed.”
You were stranded and you were thinking about going live so you can tell and show people about the situation in Leyte. How much dedication does broadcast journalism require?
“The kind of journalism I believe in is one that’s built on public service. Public service is a tired concept, but that’s how I see journalism – putting others first before yourself.”
You’ve been on countless assignments, dangerous and fancy. Can you recall some of your most dangerous coverages, aside from the Yolanda coverage?
“One is the London bombing. Hours before we arrived in London, the explosion happened. Had we arrived a little sooner, we could have been among the casualties. Another one is the chopper crash in Kalinga. I was supposed to get in the helicopter, which was used to transport cops who were supposed to conduct a marijuana eradication drive in the province. The chopper had to land-crash in a mountain in Tinglayan after it started to develop engine problems. Luckily, no one died. The Lebanon military conflict is another. When you’re in a war zone, you just hang on to dear life every second of the day, hoping you make it out alive.”
How do you get through the trauma that you get from all of these?
“I write. You just have to find an outlet, you know. People in my field are highly prone to post-traumatic stress disorder, and you really have to find a way out, before it completely catches up. You see, broadcast journalism can be ruthless… It’s real hard work that’s constantly needed.”
When do you feel most fulfilled about what you do?
“Whenever I get the chance to help out. In a coverage that I did in a war-torn area in Mindanao, I had the chance to help a survivor. I asked him if he wanted to learn how to operate the camera; he said yes, so I mentored him. He eventually found work as a camera man, and he has won an award. It’s actually beyond fulfilling.”
“Minutes ago, I was having a text conversation with someone I once interviewed. He's in jail, and he’s hoping if I could work some papers on his case. I said I’d do what I could do to help. I believe you should extend help whenever you get the chance to do so.”
“You do interviews and talk with people, and sometimes those are not just conversations – they create in you a sense of obligation, and it strikes that compassion chord. It’s outside your job as a journalist, but I believe it’s part of your duty as a human being – to show compassion for others.”
You said broadcast journalism can be sometimes ruthless. How do you stay gentle amid the ruthlessness of it all?
“I guess it’s my values and beliefs. I find sanity in my faith in God and in my family.”
What are your words to those aspiring to be in the broadcast industry and in journalism in general?
“First and foremost, please don’t make fame as your main motivation. Work hard, deliver hard, and then fame – which you should consider a bonus – will follow. Second, strive to deliver the truth – no matter what it takes, no matter what happens. Third, remember to give back – to your family, to the community. Fourth, always have the drive to get better. Fifth, stay grounded. And most importantly, have compassion for others; after all, we are one community.”
Mr. Jiggy Manicad was in UB for a talk on broadcast reporting and production, as part of the "Jiggy Manicad Stories" talk series.
GMA won the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in New York in 2014 for its coverage on Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The Peabody Award is considered the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for print media and the Oscar Awards for film.
The Peabody Awards cited GMA for “overcoming the challenges posed by a historic storm to provide coverage that was thorough, candid and compassionate. Faced with daunting logistical challenges and sharing in the national shock and grief, GMA reporters and crews provided desperately needed spot news coverage and information, gaining strength and perspective as they worked. They followed up with solid reporting and public-service broadcasts about the aftermath, heroic acts and relief efforts. The coverage includes footage of storm-surge rapids ripping through streets and apocalyptic winds decapitating houses that’s so close-up and intense that it’s a wonder the videographers survived.” Along with GMA News in the roster of winners are the series “Breaking Bad,” “House of Cards,” and “Orange is the New Black,” among others.
Interview & Text by RONA LIN
Photo by RENE PASCUA