In her many years of covering elections, journalist Sol Aragones has never seen a polling precinct that facilitates aid for the elderly and disabled.
That’s why when she met an elderly voter named Helen who was anxiously looking for her name in a series of voters’ lists during her election coverage for TV Patrol, Sol felt that she had to personally seek help from the head security of the school to assist Helen.
Sol Aragones writing her script,
Photo by Jet Leyco, Patrol ng Pilipino
While the rest of the country enjoyed the non-working holiday last October 25, journalist Sol Aragones had to report early for work. And by early, we mean at 3 a.m..
Even before the election precincts opened their gates, Sol had to report a barangay elections’ coverage “advancer story” or a summary of what is expected for the day for ABS-CBN’s early morning show Umagang Kay Ganda, live from Payatas, Quezon City at 5 a.m..
Payatas is considered a hotspot by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) where elections there are accompanied by disorder and confusion. But Sol needed to put these notions of Payatas behind and focus on the long day ahead.
This is just the start of a long day for reporters like her and the rest of the technical team covering the election.
Sol shared that she has learned to adjust and take advantage of lull moments in a coverage. In between live updates and interviews on camera and phone patch reports, she steals a few minutes to take power naps to energize her through the day.
Getting the number of people who voted and encountered problems with the voter’s list, among others is easy and is considered a staple of every election story for journalists. But the task of looking for a face to represent those numbers is another thing. Sol shared that in journalism, this is the process of looking for a “case study,” an example, Helen.
Helen can barely walk, and while going around the precinct, she had to be assisted by her grandchild.
“Bingi na nga ako at malabo na ang mata, hirap pa sa paghahanap ng presinto (In my age, I can hardly hear and see already, and I still have a hard time looking for the precinct),” Helen said.
Despite the difficulty, Helen was resolute to make her vote count, even if it meant climbing countless steps and transferring from building to building to find her name.
Exercising the right to vote purely for the sake of democracy is difficult these days as some choose to make money out of the elections by selling their vote; and some would rather stay home than vote.
But people like Helen convinced Sol that our country is not totally hopeless after all. And there are still people who patiently participate and cooperate to bring about change.
And it is stories like these of Helen that Sol needs to tell.
Upon feeling the pulse of the voters in the precinct, a woman complaining caught Sol’s eye. She was protesting about an old man silently campaigning by wearing of the candidate while he voted.
Many voters also approached Sol and reported some acts they assumed violated the election code: some young people discreetly giving flyers and a voter who caught a flying voter.
A child handing out flyers. Photo by Jet Leyco, Patrol ng Pilipino
These things were not new, the previous barangay election in Payatas was worse.
But unlike the last time where some voters forced to go in the precinct after the gates were closed and incidents of burning of election returns were reported, this year was different.
When the bell sounded and signified the end of voting period, everyone in the precinct held their breath in fear. But fortunately, it was all peaceful.
After the coverage at 3 p.m., Sol took the chance to steal a few minutes for a nap. She still has a long day ahead of her.
Sol wrote the script for TV Patrol, waited for the edited version from the News desk and put together the video for the TV Patrol report.
A few minutes past 6 p.m., and 5 minutes before TV Patrol airs, Sol hurried in front of the camera to establish the start of the newscast for the live report from Payatas.
“Ngayon masasabi kong quota na ako, dahil nakapasok na kami sa TV Patrol (Now I can say that I have reached my quota, after we aired in TV Patrol),” Sol said.
Sol may have finished a long day covering the barangay election, but the elected officers are just about to start their service for their respective barangays, to prove themselves worthy of the votes that placed them in power.
“Hari nawa, sakaling ako na naman ang matotokang mag-cover sa kanila sa susunod ng barangay eleksyon sa 2013, makakita na rin ako ng anino ng pagbabago (In case I’ll be assigned to cover the barangay election in Payatas again in 2013, I hope to see the shadow of change there),” Sol said.
Corpse for Sale
For news coverages that land on the long holiday break of All Saint’s Day, journalists must devise a strategy to report for duty and at the same time fulfill some personal obligations to his family.
Dominic Almelor was assigned to do a story on the dead that were long forgotten by their relatives; unclaimed corpses that piled up in funeral homes.
Since he needed information from some cemeteries, he decided to hit two birds with one stone. His first stop was Bagbag Cemetery in Novaliches, Quezon City, where the remains of his grandfather lie.
He considered his grandfather and those who were given decent burials by their relatives, lucky. Unlike the victims of “salvaging” and other crimes he encountered in his police reporting victims who were never seen by their family again.
On to work, Dominic and his technical team visited Blessed Memorial Services in Holy Spirit, Quezon City. He has reported several stories there, but only then did Dominic find out their concern for unidentified corpses.
Two bodies were there when they arrived, a woman who was shot dead and a man who took his own life that has been there for weeks.
The owner Virgilio Labrador said come three months and the bodies remain unclaimed, he gives them a proper burial, even if it costs him money from his own pocket.
Linda Alindog, owner of another funeral home in Cavite shared the same concern for unclaimed bodies. She said it has been their family’s vow to provide a shelter for corpses forgotten by their families.
When Dominic asked them outright if they have sold a corpse before, they both gave him a direct no for an answer.
While Virgilio and Linda show genuine care for these forgotten bodies, there are some who make a living out of the dead.
After some research, Dominic learned of Pacific Funeral Homes in Mandaluyong that sells corpses to medical schools for P18,000 each, a transaction which is against the law.
A posing buyer of the corpse called the funeral home and agreed to meet them to claim the purchased corpse. Little did they know that the news team and police were on standby, ready for an entrapment operation.
After the exchange of money and the corpse, the police quickly arrested 56 year-old Reynaldo Alfonso and two other minors of Pacific Funeral Homes.
Alfonso said he knew that the selling of corpse was illegal, but he justified that such transactions were made under the consent of the funeral homes’ owner.
As a result of the entrapment, Pacific Funeral Homes was closed down.
In his four years of being a police beat reporter, where everyday dead bodies are part of his report, Dominic has learned to stomach being around corpses.
Such is the life of a reporter, Patrol ng Pilipino. Dahil karapatan mong malaman ang buong katotohanan. November 2, 2010
November 2, 2010