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The Disaster Response Radio: A Meaningful Encounter

Two days before the 4th anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), members of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) International Board traveled to Bantayan Island in northern Cebu last November 6 to meet the community who survived the disaster and is now working for the establishment of their community radio station.

They met the survivors who are eager to learn about mass communications and to use these skills to claim and exercise their communication rights. More importantly, they saw a community determined to rise after a tragedy.

Here is a video of what transpired that day. (IAWRT International Video / Directed and edited by Iphigenie Marcoux-Fortier of IAWRT Canada)

Encounter: Disaster Response Radio

By Nonee Walsh

As members of the IAWRT board disembark from the ferry at Hagnaya Port in Cebu Province, Philippines, they longingly admire the light green ocean and white sand beach lined with palm trees which barely hide thatched-hut beach resorts. There is little evidence of the devastation of cyclone Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) which hit this island hard and killed at least six thousand people across the Philippines, just four years ago.

These young palms on Bantayan Island also hide the story of the survivors relocated from this idyllic spot.

This is a story which veteran journalist and IAWRT Philippines member Sonia Capio and I partially extract from Jenalyn D. Santilalan, our Disaster Response Radio community link person who joins us in the tricycle-truck taking us inland. The land upon which those beach resorts sit used to house fisherfolk and their families. For their ‘safety’ and despite protests, they have been relocated to villages further inland. We are heading to one of these villages, where the people will do a narrowcast and we will share some of our media expertise with community radio volunteers from the Eastern and Central Visayas regions.

The rains have only recently stopped and there have been floods again, but there has not been any repeat of the torrential typhoon rains. We pass through the town and villages which Jenalyn tells us were flattened in the typhoon. The people of Bantayan Island waited ten days for any government help to arrive.

After an hour, the tricycle driver refuses to take us any further on the ever-narrowing pothole-filled road, so we walk the rest of the way through one village to Upper Patao.

Here, in a tiny area between one-room houses built from a combination of concrete, bamboo and corrugated iron, a green sheet, adorned with spangled purple writing, says ‘WELCOME VISITORS!’ The people, women, men and many curious children, greet us with necklaces which they have made from beach shells. Mine is mounted on cardboard recycled from a mosquito coil box. A dining table covered in floral plastic is about to be covered with a feast of local scallops, jellied seaweed, fish and rice.

Despite multiple language differences, including the local dialect, Cebu-anon (Sebuanon) which many of our Philippines link people don’t fully understand, it is clear that everyone is so pleased IAWRT International has come. They have put a significant effort into hosting us. I laugh when I see Angelmae, a tiny 18-month-old girl, taking scallops from her mother’s plate. She impatiently throws the shells on the ground when she can’t quickly extract the seafood knowing she will be told-off by her mother, Benjie. Such things are universal.

IAWRT International Board members trek to Upper Patao, Bantayan Island in Cebu Province, Philippines. (Photo by Nonee Walsh/IAWRT)

After lunch, we take a narrow walking path to the new, one room, day care centre/school newly build by a Philippine non-government organisation.  The lush area is overgrown with lantana, but young banana trees are finally almost ready to bear fruit. Taller palm trunks taper to remnant dead fronds, testament to the ferocity of the typhoon.

On the way I take the hand of a wizened lady in greeting. Ma Perla Mata, is one of the trainee community radio volunteers. Later, in the narrowcast to the village, she says that she is a peasant finding it increasingly difficult to eke out a living because the sea water inundation has made her soil too salty.

The lack of roads to the relocated village is raised in that narrowcast by tricycle driver, Eddie Fernandez. He says after the people were forced to relocate, the promised aid money did not materialise to provide social services or basic roads. The screams of IAWRT treasurer Violet Gonda demonstrated the hazards first-hand, as an attempt to assist with her luggage almost went wrong when men rushed to stop a small tricycle carrier from tipping over.

Without internet access IAWRT training focused on basic principles of filmmaking and radio using smartphones, simple communications principles of journalism ethics and gender sensitivity. Iphigenie Marcoux-Fortier takes off a group to participate in making a film about the project. Quickly the young participants learn to direct the decisions about how they are to be portrayed.  We also focused on the privacy dangers and vulnerabilities of using Facebook, the Philippines most popular social media platform. All this was ably assisted by translation into Tagalog by Raymund B Villanueva, the director for radio of Kodao Productions, one of the partners in the community radio project which IAWRT supports.

Raymund is a veteran press and broadcast journalist, a former economic reporter who left the mainstream because he could not find “the grand notion of journalism”. We hear the translations liberally expanded with local examples, and good humor. “What we are trying to do here, as communicators and advocates of people’s communication rights, is to look for something a little bit bigger,” he says. “They should use these communication rights [as] a way for them to make it easier and faster for them to get out of poverty, to be involved in governance … so that whatever development project the government has it should look their way more often.”

Sometime translation is hardly necessary, when our star safety trainer, IAWRT board member Abeer Saady, warns participants about the emotional impact on the citizen journalist and the victim who may be a member of your local community. There was an emotional response to play acting by Abeer as a frantic mother and Violet the journalist, demonstrating the wrong (and cruel) way for a journalist to deal with victims, and the better way. The possible deaths of four children (which Abeer does not have) brought some close to tears.

Their faces showed genuine experience as she outlined the difficult choices they might have to make when they personally know victims. They brighten a little as she assures them that being a journalist is important work which is helping, by giving a voice to people affected by disaster, broadcasting their need for expert help.

There is a similarly strong response when IAWRT President Gunilla Ivarsson, assisted by Sonia Capio, advises on simple rules about speaking for all by proactively ensuring women have their say. The audience response showed that female participants clearly had stories to tell and were determining to be heard. These are key messages for a community hoping to have a transmitter, next year, which allows them to broadcast to the whole Island.

The afternoon training ends with two narrowcasts, the first in Cebuano anchored by the Radyo Sugbuanon volunteers, Jenalyn and Mariel V. Villamor. The second half-hour is hosted by Sonia and Raymund in English, introducing IAWRT as an organisation to the community.

Earlier, the community leader Orly Golisao asks how the volunteers can gain more confidence in radio. But he does not hesitate, beginning with an appeal to the Philippines government not to deal with the lives of the people living on the shores of Bantayan Island – the poor who did not have the title to their land – in such a cavalier fashion. Under the anxious eye of chief trainer Jola Diones-Mamangun, Ma Perla Mata, Eddie Fernadez, and Henry Coyus speak about the post typhoon experience of their constituents.

Much to the Board’s surprise, the generosity of the Patao people had no bounds. We track back to an open grassed area behind the village strung with lights. A new banner declares it is a solidarity night. It seems every woman man and child is there. An enormous table is groaning with a communal feast of more delicious sea food and rice laid out on banana leaves. We are treated to a evening of singing and performances. In her final thank you (salamat) Gunilla tells them how the sharing of food and the workshops and community generosity would remain in her heart for a long time.

Two motorcycles light the way along the walking track and the people offer to carry our bags back to the road in the pitch-dark night. There is lightning in the sky but the few drops of rain on the humid night have not dampened the event.

Iphigenie Marcoux-Fortier draws kids around her as he films the solidarity night prepared by the community. (Photo by Nonee Walsh/IAWRT)

Iphigenie’s filming has turned her into a child magnet and she chats to a group surrounding her about her country, Canada – how cold it is now with the snow. It has rained and the holes in the tracks past the outer village have filled up, they skip nimbly, but I choose the wrong side and add a bit of slippery mud to my sandals.

Then as another small sprinkle of rain falls, they begin singing “Rain, rain go away, come again another day” she asks if they don’t like rain, but they don’t answer and continue onto the next verse. #

(Australian Nonee Walsh is the online editor of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT). She is attending IAWRT’s 37th Biennial Conference in Quezon City from November 9-11 in Quezon City, Philippines.

This article first appeared here. Kodao is co-sponsoring the conference.)

Philippine women broadcasters elect new set of officers, to host int’l confab in November

An association of women broadcasters in the Philippines elected a new set of officers ahead of its hosting of an international biennial conference in the country this November.

The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)—Philippine Chapter held a meeting Saturday in Quezon City and elected its officers as it prepares for one of the most significant gathering of women broadcasters in the world this year.

Jola Diones Mamangun of Kodao Productions was re-elected as chapter president, along with Miriam College’s Lynda Garcia as vice president, DWNE’s Sonia Capio as secretary, and Bulatlat’s Ronalyn Olea as Treasurer.

People’s Alternative Media Network filmmaker Ilang-Ilang Quijano, Farmers’ Development Center radio broadcaster Marvie Matura and Kodao’s Yanni Roxas were elected as board members.

Mamangun said the officers and the chapter will focus on organizing the 37th IAWRT Biennial Conference as well as continue its aggressive recruitment of new members, especially in Mindanao.

The chapter shall also continue to actively participate in the programs and projects of IAWRT International.

IAWRT is a global organization of women in electronic and allied media that aims to ensure women’s views and values in mass media. It enjoys a consultative status with the United National Economic and Social Council.

In the Philippines, IAWRT is also in the midst of establishing the country’s first-ever women-led disaster risk reduction community radio station in Cebu Province in partnership with Kodao Productions and the Farmers’ Development Center in Central Visayas.

In conjunction with one of IAWRT-International’s core programs of providing trainings and workshops, the Philippine chapter also organizers such activities for local women broadcasters. # (Edna Cahilog-Villanueva / Photos by Jomaline Diones Mamangun)

IAWRT Philippines officers 2017-2019. (From left) Board members Marvie Matura, Yanni Roxas, Ilang-Ilang Quijano; treasurer Ronalyn Olea; secretary Sonia M. Capio; vice president Lynda Garcia; and president Jola Diones-Mamangun.