‘It’s been a year’: ABS-CBN reporters mark 1st anniversary since signing off the air

May 5, 2021 - 11:31 AM
An empty radio booth of ABS-CBN's radio service DZMM Teleradyo is pictured in the broadcast network's headquarters, following orders by telecoms regulator to cease its operations in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 6, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

ABS-CBN reporters on Wednesday remembered the first year since the country’s largest broadcasting network signed off the air on May 5, 2020.

One year ago today, the National Telecommunications Communications issued a cease-and-desist order on all radio and broadcast channels of ABS-CBN after its franchise expired.

In August 2020, TV Patrol’s regional stations also shut down. Thousands of ABS-CBN’s employees, including journalists, who were part of the job cuts following the closure also bid goodbye.

ABS-CBN’s social media accounts also joined in the one-year anniversary commemoration of the tragic event.

“Sa utos ng National Telecommunications Commission o NTC sa araw na ito noong 2020, huminto sa pag-ere sa free TV Channel 2 at sa iba pang istasyon nito sa Pilipinas ang ABS-CBN nang mapaso ang prangkisa nito noong Mayo 4, 2020. #ABSCBNShutdown,” it said.

Untold stories, throwbacks

On Monday, also the World Press Freedom Day, journalist Chiara Zambrano shared a throwback photo of ABS-CBN reporters before the cease-and-desist order was issued.

She recalled her emotions when the network was shut down and how it felt like forever.

“‘Tara, tara, mag-picture tayo sa labas.’
Walang sumagot sa tanong na iyan.
Walang kayang magsabi. O baka hindi na rin kailangan.
‘Hindi kasi natin alam kung buo pa tayo bukas,’ Zambrano shared.
“These are the national reporters of ABS-CBN, sometime after the Duterte government killed the network’s franchise and took the channel off the air, depriving millions of Filipinos of their biggest source of vital information,” she wrote in a heartfelt Facebook caption.
“Our regional counterparts are not in this photo – they were busy in their provinces, packing up and permanently shutting their offices down,” she added.
Zambrano said the network’s on-air closure felt like forever. Despite this, she remains hopeful in the fight for press freedom and serving the public.
“I’m not surprised that it’s been a year… I’m suprised it’s only been a year. It has felt like forever, the endless heartache and anger, day after day since then,” the journalist said.
“We try to soldier on, serving whoever can still watch us on social media, wondering where the poor – who could only ever access ABS-CBN’s free TV – get their information now. But we have not forgotten, and on #WorldPressFreedomDay, we shall never forget whose hand drove the knife into press freedom’s heart. Mga kasama, tuloy tayo,” she added.

Journalist Jeff Canoy, on the other hand, shared a special collection of series titled “Dead Air: Stories from the Night of the ABS-CBN Shutdown” he worked with his colleagues Tarra Quismundo and Anjo Bagaoisan.

“’Now signing off.’ Last three words heard on air. But there are many more untold stories. Here is a collection of stories, images and videos from the night when there was nothing left but dead air,” Canoy wrote.

Seasoned journalist Lynda Jumilla-Abalos also shared the link of the report and said: “It’s been a year. Here’s a collection of our thoughts, feelings, sentiments, then and now. Mahigpit na yakap sa lahat ng Kapamilya. (red, green, blue hearts)”

Bagaoisan attached a photo of him with the hashtags #LabanKapamilya and #IbalikAngABSCBN.

“Isang taon nang nagdilim at pinatahimik sa himpapawid, pero kaisa ng mga Kapamilyang hindi titigil sa paghahanap ng paraan para magbalita at maglingkod. Magpapatuloy tayo, pero hindi makakalimot. #LabanKapamilya #IbalikAngABSCBN,” he wrote.

Veteran journalist Ces Drilon, meanwhile, shared a video clip where she encouraged her former colleagues to be strong amid adversities in the freedom of speech.

“Once a journalist, always a journalist, ika nga. Wala man ako jan sa ABS-CBN, patuloy parin tayo kumikilos para sa press freedom,” she said in the video.

Drilon was among the thousands of Filipinos who were retrenched.

“Isang taon na. I stand with you Kapamilya. #ABSCBNShutdown,” she said in the tweet.

A former multimedia reporter for ABS-CBN Central Visayas Annie Fe Perez also shared her story on Facebook when their higher management informed them about the cease-and-desist order.

Perez recalled that their team couldn’t believe it back then until she watched the last telecast on her drive home.

“Before I could reach our house, I parked a few blocks away to settle everything in while TV Patrol was airing its last free TV newscast and I was watching it on my phone. When the anchors bade their goodbye and the screen went black tears were just flowing. KASAKIT! Why?! (heartbreak emoji),” she said.

“It took me hours to gather my courage to continue the drive home. I couldn’t just face the fact that the largest TV network, my workplace, my home was shut down,” she added.

Despite having a different job now, Perez said that she still feels like she’s just “taking a long vacation.” She also attached the hashtags #LabanKapamilya and #KapamilyaForever in her post.

“For now, I feel like I’m taking a long vacation…testing the waters of a new house where I previously grew up with. It will be better, I bet. And just like Ben&Ben’s song, ‘All will be alright in time’ (red, green, blue hearts),” she said.

Anchor Christian Esguerra also shared a throwback of his interview with Rep. Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA) who was among the lawmakers who rejected ABS-CBN’s franchise application last year.

Aside from reporters, the hashtag #IbalikAngABSCBN dominated conversations on local Twitter as supporters of the broadcast firm called for the renewal of their franchise.

As of writing, it has 13,700 tweets on the micro-blogging platform.

ABS-CBN programs are currently airing on A2Z, the newly rebranded Channel 11 of Zoe Broadcasting Network.
ABS-CBN has been airing its programs via cable on Kapamilya Channel, and via free streaming on Kapamilya Online Live and other online channels since May 5 last year.

The shows can also be watched on cable and satellite TV via Kapamilya Channel, online via iWant TFC and Kapamilya Online Live on YouTube and Facebook, and globally through the network’s cable TV and satellite partners.