As a kid in the late 60s, Edwin Enrico would often hear about ABS-CBN from his father, Juanito. Juanito was a clerk and later on a cashier back when the network was still Bolinao Electronics Corporation (BEC) in the 1950s. Eventually, the older Enrico would bring young Edwin to the station on Christmas parties or even on regular days. “Ang isa sa palagi kong tinitingnan dati ay yung tower, yung transmitter sa labas,” he says, recalling his days playing around the compound. “As a child, name-mesmerize ako. Pag nandun ako sa baba ng transmitter at tumingin ako sa taas, naa-amaze ako kasi once na dumarating yung cloud, para siyang tataob. May optical illusion.”
It was from his trips to the station and his father’s stories that he became sort of a fan of the network. He would grow fond of hearing the station ID. So when he heard it was shut down following the declaration of Martial Law in 1972, it got to him too. “Naririnig ko sa mga parents ko, wala na ang ABS-CBN. Nag-close na. So bilang bata, nalungkot talaga ako,” he says now. During those days, Edwin would feel a hint of nostalgia each time he would catch a glimpse of the tower on his way to his classes in UE.
Fourteeen years later, ABS-CBN’s station ID resurfaced on the airwaves, and Edwin was thrilled to hear it again. “Yun pala, nakabukas na ang DZMM, nai-turn-over na ulit sa mga Lopezes at nag-operate na ulit,” he recalls.
Passing on the torch
Word reached the Enricos that the company was calling on its former employees to come back and work again for the station. Edwin’s dad received such a call but was already settled in a different job then, so he told his son, “Ikaw na ang pumunta doon, ikaw na ang mag-report.” The time couldn’t be more perfect. At that time, Edwin had already finished his Mechanical Engineering degree.
Armed with youthful enthusiasm and a letter from his father, the 22-year-old Manila boy shuttled to Strata Building in Ortigas where DZMM was then holding office. Edwin remembers meeting a tall mestizo guy who he later identified to be Jake Almeda Lopez, who spearheaded the company’s name change from Bolinao Electronics to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in 1967.
“Iniabot ko ang sulat. Sabi ko, ‘Sir, may pinabibigay pong sulat ang father ko,” recalls Edwin. The young man was warmly received, and ushered to the human resources area to take an exam. “Kasabay kong nag-exam si Ms. Korina Sanchez.”
Edwin was soon hired as a first level VTR technician in the revived ABS-CBN, and eventually learned the ropes of broadcast operation. Later on, he would work as a continuity switcher, a master control operator, CCU (camera control unit) operator, and technical director for the Sarimanok News Network (SNN). “Nadaanan ko lahat, kasi medyo maliit pa yung technical operation center at that time. At saka interested din akong malaman ang iba’t ibang aspects ng broadcast operation,” he says.
Entering the ABS-CBN compound for the first time as an employee, Edwin could not help but take a moment. “Bumalik ako sa paanan ng transmitter. Tiningnan ko ulit siya kung paano ko siya tinitingnan nung bata ako. Natutuwa pa rin ako. For a very long time nawala ang ABS-CBN, tapos bumalik ulit. Maraming alaalang nagbalik sa akin,” he says wistfully.
A pelota court and a lagoon
The ABS-CBN of ‘86 was a totally different ABS-CBN compared to today. “Ito yung dating PTV 4, Maharlika Broadcasting Corporation, because the station was sequestered by the government,” he says. “Ang inabutan namin ay lumang gamit, lumang studios. We really started from scratch. Nagsimula kami sa pagpapalabas ng mga pelikula from different countries.”
Over the decades, technology has drastically evolved and the station has kept in step with its progression. Edwin, who has been with ABS-CBN for 33 years now, currently heads the technical support of the media company’s Technical Operations Center (TOC). His department takes charge of running the operations of the network’s 29 channels. “Before, there were only ten of us. Now, we’re 56 in the team.”
He still remembers the days when there were only less than 500 people in the compound. “Pag sinabi mo sa akin ang pangalan ng isang empleyado, kaya kong sabihin kung saang department at kung saan yung opisina nila—marketing, merchandising, TV production, news. Kahit hindi kami magkaka-department, close kami sa isa’t isa.”
The lot where the ELJ Communications Center building now stands was at one time a basketball court, and beside the chapel, where the DTC (Development and Talent Center) Building is currently located, was a pelota court. During breaks, Edwin and company would go fishing at the lagoon at the back of the chapel. “May mga alaga kaming tilapia doon,” he says. And since there were not too many employees back then, the technical operation center served as their playground. “Dun kami naglalaro ng basketball, volleyball. Nililibang lang namin sarili namin kung ano’ng amenities meron.”
Work was light and fun. “Masaya yung working relationship noong araw. Until now naman masaya pa din, kaso dumami na ang tao.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, he observes, is the “malasakit at pagmamahal sa trabaho at sa tao”—a company culture passed on from one generation of bosses to the next. There’s also the passion for work. The urge to do one’s duty. He recalls the 1989 coup attempt against then President Cory Aquino’s administration. “Sarado ang ABS-CBN, nagbabarilan ang mga sundalo sa labas, pero pinilit kong makapasok sa trabaho. Ang naiisip ko kasi noong panahong iyon, kailangan ako ng ABS-CBN; kailangan kami ng tao dahil kailangan nila ng balita.”
Three generations now
When he was about to start work at ABS-CBN post-EDSA, Edwin remembers his father reminding him to always do his best at work, as the company had shown nothing but goodness to its employees and the people it serves. It’s the same thing he tells his children now who also happens work in the company—one is with the Creative Communications Management division, the other with the News Department.
“Naitanim sa akin ni Daddy yung culture, and then naipasa ko din sa mga anak ko, kaya naging love din nila yung company,” Edwin says. “Napaaral at napatapos ko sila sa tulong ng ABS-CBN. Kaya gusto ko, hangga’t maaari, maibalik din nila sa kompanya yung kabutihang nagawa nito para sa amin.”
Edwin’s father, still sprightly at 88, is concerned about the current situation of the company. “Nagagalit nga e! Ako naman, hindi ako natatakot,” Edwin says. “Nalulungkot ako kasi yung pinagdaanan ng kumpanya in the past, parang nauulit lang. Nadagdagan pa yung kalaban ngayon, may COVID,” he says.
He is concerned many Filipinos are not able to access the company’s service now that it’s shut down its operations. “May mga tao sa malalayong liblib na pulo ng Pilipinas na ABS-CBN lang ang nakikita at naririnig. Nawala pa sa kanila yon. Hindi nila alam na may paparating na bagyo,” Edwin says. “Gaya din ng sinabi ni Kapitan [Geny Lopez Jr.] noong araw, ang serbisyong ibinibigay ng ABS-CBN ang nagdurugtong sa mga Pilipino, hindi lang sa Pilipinas, kundi sa iba’t ibang parte ng mundo. Dahil sa teknolohiya, nakakaabot sa kanila ang mga balita dito sa Pilipinas.”
Edwin and his family remain hopeful and optimistic ABS-CBN will be allowed to operate again. “Alam naming matatapos din ito, magbabalik din ulit tayo sa normal, at makakapaglingkod din ulit tayo sa mga taong nangangailangan sa atin,” he says, getting emotional, trying to hold back tears, “lalo na yung mga nasa malalayong lugar na umaasa sa TV at radyo ng ABS-CBN.”