Maybe you were still in elementary school when your family watched TV Patrol at 6pm every night before dinner. Or perhaps, beginning in the mid-90s, you were a Fil-Am who was thrilled to watch this newscast everyday in America via The Filipino Channel, and somehow found a way to “re-connect” with the motherland you left many years ago.
It was the voice of Kabayan Noli de Castro which has left an indelible impression in our collective memory, as he anchored the news program that helped Filipinos made sense of the world since 1987.
It was 1986 and the Lopez family had just recovered ownership of Channel 2 and its broadcast station in Bohol Avenue Quezon City, after Marcos was ousted from power. They had to start all over again to find their niche in the Philippine broadcasting industry. The journey required a great deal of soul searching for the network owners and executives.
Channel 2 had a few twists and turns and several bumps along the way, in the quest to find its identity. Its new rationale was to deserve the privilege of using the airwaves of a country that has just reclaimed its democracy.
Guided by the vision of El Kapitan of ABS-CBN, the late Geny Lopez Jr., the network embarked on a mission to find a way for Channel 2 to be of service to the Filipino.
In a country that has been deprived of freedom of speech and information for so long under the Marcos regime, the challenge to make Filipinos follow the news again with trust and passion was embraced by the network’s leaders.
And so defying conventional news programming, broadcast icons Freddie Garcia and the late Rollie Cruz followed their instinct and pioneered a different kind of newscast - a news magazine that spoke to the ordinary Filipino in terms of content, language, and packaging.
TV Patrol dished out a one-hour newscast that went beyond the usual headlines of local politics, economy, world news, sports and weather. Patterned after the top rating early radio news programming of ABS-CBN’s AM radio DZMM Radyo Patrol, TV Patrol sent reporters out to different beats, especially expanding four important elements of the news that have enjoyed wide following on radio: police report, public service, balitaktakan and entertainment news.
TV Patrol has been regarded by some as a “tabloid newscast” because of its perceived "sensationalization" of the news. Many followers of TV Patrol, however, looked at it in a different perspective, saying the newscast has been successful in the way it has fully used the visual medium of television in telling the story, especially the police stories, which used to be just reported through words by the sound medium that is radio.
More over, like radio DZMM Radyo Patrol, TV Patrol had also succeeded in connecting with its audience-- the broader Filipino “masa”, by telling the news in the language that they speak and understand -- colloquial Filipino, following a human interest storyline.
The network executives also placed their bet on Noli de Castro-- who at that time only had his radio success as newscaster and commentator for DZMM morning primetime to back him up for the prime position. But he was perfect for the job -- his strong loud voice with the sense of urgency “radio style”, his command of conversational Filipino language, the depth of his knowledge about the issues that matter to Filipinos, and his wide following on radio had all been good capital.
Mel Tiangco provided the female energy and perspective to TV Patrol. She was also in charge of Lingkod Bayan, the public service segment of the program that has helped so many kababayans around the country. Like Noli, Mel was also very knowledgeable about the issues, and had her morning radio commentary program (Mel and Jay) after Kabayan’s slot, that also rated very well.
Frankie “Ka Kiko” Evangelista (RIP) was the calm, statesman-like anchor with the grandfather’s wisdom. He was in charge of the “PULSO” segment, which was the opinion portion of the news magazine. Viewers loved this segment, as the three of them sounded like "magkakapamilya" talking in the kitchen table, or “magkakapitbahay’ exchanging their views in the sari-sari store sa kanto. Each represented a different perspective, voicing out the sentiments of ordinary kababayans out there.
Angelique Lazo was the “bunso,” and she was in-charge of the entertainment segment, Star News. Kababayans just couldn’t have enough of the news and inside stories about their favorite artistas, shows, and movies, and all the drama and comedy behind the scenes!
Other segments had also been introduced and eventually became full length programs, like the public service/investigative program Hoy!Gising! And who could forget the iconic Ernie Baron (RIP), known not only for his weather report, but more so for his Knowledge Power trivia segment. Noli's standard intro and extro spiel "Magandang gabi bayan..." also became another top rating public affairs program.
I had the privilege of working with these amazing anchors, staff and crew of TV Patrol, as pinch hitter for Mel Tiangco whenever she was on vacation. I also got to work with Kabayan, Mel, Jay, Ka Kiko, Korina, Ted, Senator Kiko Pangilinan, Senator Pia Cayetano, and all the Radyo Patrol reporters and staff of DZMM as a radio anchor and commentator from 1989, until I left for the US in 2001.
Through the years, "TV Patrol" has evolved--- in the late 90s, Kabayan went solo until he ran for public office. There had been rigodons, too, in anchoring and reportorial assignment. Some left and new ones joined the news team.
After Kabayan’s term as Vice President expired in 2010, he went back to anchoring "TV Patrol" with two other “veterans”-- Korina Sanchez and Ted Failon.
I used “veterans” as a term of endearment as they both had been good friends of mine through the years. They were my contemporaries then as junior anchors, and also my team mates in “Hoy!Gising! “.
In its ongoing journey, TV Patrol has earned local, national and international awards for its newscast and special coverages, including international recognitions like the Asian TV Awards, New York Festivals and International Emmy Awards.
Looking forward, TV Patrol will continue to evolve as the program responds to the changing needs of the Filipino community worldwide, adapting to and maximizing technological advances in news gathering, delivery, and sharing of information using different media platform.
Twenty five years hence, TV Patrol has been an institution, a big part of the Filipinos' collective social experience that has somehow helped in unifying and motivating our kababayans to act for the betterment of the Filipino community, especially during times of challenges.
And as it was then, and always will be, TV Patrol has continued to strive to live up to the vision of El Kapitan Geny Lopez Jr.: to be a program in the service of the Filipino, wherever in the world we may be.
(My Asian Journal Column Article--March 3, 2012)