After 30 years, Ted Failon and ABS-CBN part ways

Miguel Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2020 01:57 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2020 12:03 AM

Ted Failon became a household name through the iconic ‘Hoy Gising,’ along with his co-anchors Gel Santos-Relos and Korina Sanchez. FILE/ABS-CBN News

MANILA — After a storied career as one of the news pillars of ABS-CBN, with fearless investigative reports and a track record of public service, “TV Patrol” anchor Ted Failon is parting ways with the network.

“Multi-awarded broadcast journalist Ted Failon is leaving ABS-CBN after 30 years. He will make his final appearance on ‘TV Patrol’ and ‘Failon Ngayon sa TeleRadyo’ on August 31,” ABS-CBN said in a statement on Sunday.

“The closure of ABS-CBN’s radio broadcast operations led to his painful decision and we respect it," the company added.

"We admire Ted’s talent, passion, and commitment to radio as his most effective medium in serving the Filipino people,” it said, as it thanked Failon for his many years of dedication and service as a Kapamilya broadcast journalist.

"He will always be a Kapamilya. We wish him well on his journey,” ABS-CBN said.

Failon joined ABS-CBN in 1990, initially as desk editor for television news, and then as DZMM anchor, bringing with him years of experience as a radio reporter and announcer in Tacloban City.

Through the iconic “Hoy Gising,” Failon became a household name along with co-anchors Korina Sanchez and Gel Santos-Relos, as the news program addressed citizen complaints and prompted government actions.

“That time, ang stories talaga ng ‘Hoy Gising’ are everyday problems: basura, lubak, tubig. BLT. Lahat ng tao, problema ‘yan. Ganoon kasimple, pero nakakainis,” recalled Irene Manotok, who at the time was segment producer of the program.

Failon was both anchor and executive producer of “Hoy Gising.”

“Kahit maliit na story, ginagawa namin,” Manotok said. “Walang malaki, walang maliit na story na ginagawa niya, from ganoong maliliit to big investigative stories, to exposés.”

That continued until 2001, when Failon briefly departed ABS-CBN as he served one term as congressman of Leyte’s 1st district. Even then, Failon didn’t part ways completely from journalism, continuing part-time as a DZMM host and as anchor of the ANC program “Good News.”

Returning to the Kapamilya network full-time in 2004, Ted Failon became “TV Patrol” anchor with Karen Davila and Julius Babao, and was seen once again by Filipinos on primetime television.

FEARLESS JOURNALISM

In 2009, “Failon Ngayon” started its decade-long run which cemented his brand of journalism, described by his colleagues as “fearless” and “meticulous.”

Ted Failon made fearless commentary on a range of issues in his DZMM program ‘Failon Ngayon.’ TeleRadyo

“Wala siyang takot kahit malaking tao ‘yung babanggain namin, kahit sinong government official pa ‘yan. Kahit noon pa, wala siyang fear talaga,” Manotok said.

“Palagi siyang may Plan A, Plan B, or Plan C pa minsan,” said Marco Cabrera, Failon’s former assistant of 9 years and “Failon Ngayon” multimedia producer. “Kung umulan kunyari, dapat meron na laging backup.”

This was seen in Failon’s special reports on his eponymous program, with issues ranging from mining’s economic and environmental impacts, to irregularities in the use of government funds.

Failon’s painstaking process, according to Manotok, would sometimes mean gathering material for months before the actual report airs. Beyond that, it would serve as a line of defense in court.

“Hindi puwedeng ilabas ang story na hindi kumpleto, kasi baka mademanda ka. O kahit mademanda ka, at least meron kang ebidensya na kinuha mo ang panig ng lahat,” she said.

In July 2020, for instance, the Court of Appeals dismissed a libel case against Failon, Manotok, and other colleagues in “Failon Ngayon,” filed by former Metro Manila Development Authority chairperson and now-Senator Francis Tolentino, in relation to the program’s report on the government agency’s procurement of second-hand motorcycles.

“Hindi kami naglalabas ng story na basta-basta lang,” Manotok said. “Iyon ang natutunan ko sa kaniya: struggle gumawa ng story, pero kailangan, walang butas. Hindi ka puwedeng mabutasan.”

“We get all sides of the story. ‘Pag interview, dapat may evidence kami talaga na we tried to get the side of this person... Hindi kami naglalabas ng story na hilaw.”

‘KID, WE’RE GOING TO DIE HERE’

At the core of Failon’s journalism is a commitment to serve the public, according to Engelbert Apostol, who covered with him the 2013 devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City.

Failon and his news team’s ordeal of barely surviving the storm surge on the morning of Nov. 8. 2013 has been chronicled numerous times over the years, but little has been said about his dedication that helped broadcast to the world the first images of the post-landfall havoc in Tacloban.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

“Kid, we’re going to die here,” were Failon’s resigned words to Apostol during the storm surge that morning. But only hours later, he regained his focus to ensure news of the destruction would be aired as soon as possible.

Apostol, who was senior producer of “TV Patrol” at the time, recalled that their team walked six hours to reach the Leyte Provincial Capitol, where ABS-CBN’s live equipment were supposed to be set up.

Failon had intended to transmit to Manila his team’s footage — gathered during the hours-long walk, showing the leveled city and bloodied survivors — but even the makeshift headquarters of ABS-CBN at the capitol was incapacitated, with many of its equipment swept by the storm surge.

“Akala namin makakapag-‘TV Patrol’ pa kami,” Apostol said, referring to the 6:30 p.m. newscast.

By nighttime, the city was in complete darkness without electricity. Failon’s team proceeded to Leyte Park hotel, which was not spared from significant damage. With no means of communication, it appeared they had no choice but to wait until the next morning.

“Noong gabi na, si Sir Ted, hindi mapakali,” Apostol recounted. “Sabi niya, ‘Kailangan makakuha tayo ng satellite phone.’”

“Matutulog tayo, walang nangyayari, hindi alam ng opisina kung ano ang nangyari sa atin, hindi alam ng buong mundo kung ano ang nangyari sa Tacloban,” he quoted Failon as saying.

Counting on the slim possibility of finding a satellite phone, Failon headed out to check the Tacloban police station, where government officials were supposed to be staying. 

“Brownout ‘yun, super dilim. Puro bagsakan ng poste, may debris na mas mataas pa sa tao. Naglakad sila ulit noong gabi,” Apostol said of Failon and other crew members who accompanied him.

Owing to being a Tacloban native, Failon was able to navigate the streets despite the destruction. The risk was not in vain, as Failon did manage to find a functioning satellite phone. He, however, was only given less than a minute to call one person.

Failon called Ging Reyes, head of ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs. The exchange, within just seconds, established a meeting time and place, Failon would later tell Apostol.

“Hello, Ging. Si Ted ito. We are down. We need help. Please send equipment. Wala kaming gamit. Wala lahat. We will broadcast here in Tacloban,” Failon said over the phone.

Reyes’ answer, according to Failon, was quick and precise: “Noted. Pasundo kita diyan. You broadcast from Cebu.”

‘COMMITMENT TO SERVE’

In the early morning of Nov. 9, Failon’s team stationed themselves at the capitol, the meeting place. Before noon, ABS-CBN’s chopper arrived, and brought Failon and Apostol to the network’s regional office in Cebu.

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

“Habang umaakyat ‘yung chopper, doon na kami umiyak pareho, kasi nakita na namin ‘yung extent ng damage,” Apostol said. “Nagkapit-kamay na lang kami, umiiyak kami pareho.”

Despite the emotional toll, service came first for the two journalists. At ABS-CBN Cebu, Failon readied himself in the studio, while Apostol produced the footage they had gathered.

On the afternoon of Nov. 9, Failon went live on ABS-CBN’s telethon, “Bagsik ni Yolanda,” and described in detail the super typhoon’s wrath, as the first videos of Tacloban flattened by the storm surge were broadcast on national television.

“Kailangan gumawa tayo ng paraan,” Apostol recalled Failon telling him the night prior. “Doon ko nakita talaga ‘yung commitment niya to serve, kasi, kung tutuusin, given ‘yung experience namin, puwede naman kami matulog muna at magpalipas ng araw. Kumbaga, mag-stranded kami sa Tacloban until may dumating na rescue sa amin.”

“Doon ko nakita ‘yung pagiging journalist ni Sir Ted, ‘yung gigil niya, ‘yung drive niya na maibalita ‘yung nangyari sa Tacloban. Looking back, what if hindi niya ni-risk na maglakad noong gabi. Malamang sa hindi, na-stuck kami sa Tacloban for days.”

TRACK RECORD OF PUBLIC SERVICE

In the years that followed the super typhoon, Failon would return to Tacloban several times not only to report on the state of the city and its survivors, but also to spearhead relief efforts — the more recent of his track record of public service.

As early as “Hoy Gising,” Failon actively led charity segments of the program. That time, it was called “Handog Kapatid,” particularly helping the less fortunate with illnesses. Failon personally sourced donors for wheelchairs and medicines, Manotok recalled. At one point, the show also awarded a house and lot.

“Failon Ngayon,” by the anchor’s mandate, had at least two public service initiatives per year throughout its 10-year run, according to Manotok.

The program helped build schools and day care centers, and gave uniforms to thousands of students. It also provided livelihood to families in Leyte by giving them each a pedicab.

“Lahat ‘yan, concept and idea niya. Ini-execute lang namin. Ganiyan siya katindi. Hindi lang basta nasabi na, ‘Natulungan ko ‘yan.’ Hindi. ‘Yung tangible na tulong, ‘yung talagang magagamit nila,” she said.

‘MAY BENTAHE KA’

Ted Failon was one of the anchors of ‘TV Patrol’ for 16 years. FILE/Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

That “Failon Ngayon” juggled in the past decade such projects with its regular investigative stories is a testament to the hard work and collaborative process behind the scenes, according to Cabrera, the program's multimedia producer.

“Pag taga-‘Failon Ngayon’ ka, may bentahe ka, malaking factor, kasi ‘yung training sa ‘Failon Ngayon,’ hindi siya mabilis. Matindi. Ma-ti-train ka talaga as a journalist, marami kang matututunan sa kaniya,” he said.

Save for Sundays, Failon would meet with the production team daily, after the “TV Patrol” newscast — a habit he carried over from his “Hoy Gising” days, observed Manotok.

Referring to the citizen complaints format of “Hoy Gising,” Manotok recalled: “Wala pang e-mail that time. Pipila ‘yung mga tao sa labas ng compound, tapos may dalang mga sulat, tapos ihuhulog doon sa dropbox. No kidding, sako-sako!”

“Si Sir Ted, EP namin, pinapauwian niya kami ng 100 letters bawat isang staff. Babasahin namin ‘yun, tapos isa-summarize namin sa yellow pad paper. Tapos the next day, ipi-present namin sa kaniya. Ganoon kami noong time na ‘yun, every day meeting dahil every day din ang airing ng ‘Hoy Gising.’”

The meetings, Cabrera added, would often feel like graded recitations in school. For him, that was no wonder, given Failon was a part-time professor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, teaching broadcast communication, for three years until 2000.

“‘Yung pagiging teacher niya, nadadala niya sa amin. Parang recitation talaga. Kailangan namin mag-pitch kami ng story at ididepensa mo sa kaniya, kung bakit iyon ang kailangan. Tapos may points ‘yun pag mayroong na-pitch na story,” he said.

‘IN THE SERVICE OF THE FILIPINO’

Ted Failon was one of the anchors of ‘TV Patrol’ for 16 years. FILE/Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

With the end of “Failon Ngayon,” Cabrera said he believes anyone who will form part of Failon’s new team will similarly learn and become better journalists.

Manotok surmised the same, saying: “I’m sure lahat ng makaktrabaho niya saan man ay magugulat na ganoon siya katindi magtrabaho. Hindi nila alam ‘yun, na ganoon siya ka-dedicated sa craft niya. Hindi nila alam na ‘yung heart niya talaga, ‘yung buong buhay niya actually ay nasa pagiging journalist niya.”

For Apostol, who witnessed Failon facing near-death and only hours later resuming his work as a journalist, the ABS-CBN creed of being “in the service of the Filipino” will forever remain a value instilled not only in Failon, but other ABS-CBN employees who are now forced to part ways with the company due to its broadcast crisis.

“Ang pagiging in the service of the Filipino — tingin ko, iyon ‘yung naka-ingrain sa sistema natin pare-pareho, e,” Apostol said. “If we see an opportunity to serve others, tingin ko, gagawin at gagawin natin ‘yun. Iyon ‘yung tingin kong isang bagay na hindi na maaalis sa sistema mo.”

“Kung naging bahagi ka na ng ABS-CBN, the commitment to serve the Filipino, in whatever capacity, in whatever way, iyon ‘yung tingin kong bitbit ng bawat isa sa atin, kahit saan tayo mapunta.”

On Aug. 31, his last day on TV Patrol and Failon Ngayon on Teleradyo, the curtain falls on 30 years of partnership between Failon and ABS-CBN.

But no matter where his broadcasting passion takes him, both the news icon and the broadcast giant affirm: Ted Failon will forever be a Kapamilya.

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.