The Radio station the farmers built
Burned but Not Silenced
After a three-year
preparation, Radyo Cagayano started its test broadcast this May. By July
2, the community radio was off the air, after armed men razed the
station. But its unfazed although shaken staff promise they would not be
remembered shedding tears of joy the first time Radyo Cagayano went on the
air. Mapa is the station manager of dwRC 90.1 FM, a community radio
station which began its test broadcast last May 25. After three years of
preparing and hurdling all obstacles, they were finally heard in the
mountainous town of Baggao and its neighboring villages in Cagayan
province (some 500 km. north of Manila).
On July 3,
Mapa again shed tears, this time during a press conference at News Desk in
Quezon City. Armed men, suspected to be soldiers, razed the station July
2 early morning. Mapa recounted how she and five other radio staff
helplessly watched as the radio equipment, as well as their personal
belongings inside the station, were burned. (Link sa breaking news July 3)
PEASANT VOICES: Radyo Cagayano anchors
during the station’s broadcast training last April
nararamdaman ko ngayon ay lungkot. Pero alam kong sa bayan ng Baggao,
hindi titigil ang mamamayan, dahil alam ko ang hirap nila sa pagtatayo ng
Radyo Cagayano.” said Mapa, 32, and a former broadcaster for Bombo
Radyo in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. (I am sad about what happened, but I
know that the people of Baggao will not stop, because I know what they
went through in putting up Radyo Cagayano.)
other radio crew who were hurt in the attack were Eric Ayudan, Arnold
Agraan, Armalyn Badua, Joy Marcos, and Arlyn Arella.
Ilocano Love Songs
Cagayano had been mainly playing music, airing for only two hours, three
times a day, for a total of six hours. The station did not have an air
conditioner and the radio transmitter had to be turned off to cool down
after every two hours of broadcast.
that she and the station crew took turns disc jockeying, music spinning
and reading greetings, text messages and dedication. Ilocano love songs,
such as Agbabakket (Old Woman) were the most requested.
Radyo Cagayano after the fire
and elementary students would flock to the station after school, to
request and dedicate songs, or to simply greet on air. “Mama, andito
ako,” (Mama, I’m here at the station) Mapa recalled how young students
would give simple messages on air. She said some parents were glad to
have their children hanging around the station, instead of loitering
learned about the station’s burning, listeners of the community radio were
distraught and were immediately by the staff’s side.
anyone want to burn dwRC?” Mapa quoted a question by a peasant listener.
Indeed, why would anyone want to block the airing of a small, one-kilowatt
community radio, run by amateur, peasant broadcasters and plays mostly
that for three years, the airing of the community radio had been blocked
by elements of the military, namely those under the 5th
Infantry Division. She said that their main suspects were soldiers of the
17th Infantry Battalion, who have been spreading black
propaganda against dwRC, saying it was a radio station of the New People’s
At the press
conference, Mapa was joined by the National Union of Journalists of the
Philippines (NUJP) and the World Association of Community Broadcasters.
The media groups said that what happened to dwRC is clearly media
that the perpetrators were threatened by what the community radio could
bring to the airwaves. Radyo Cagayano is a community radio owned by the
Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon iti Cagayan or Kagimungan (Provincial
Peasant Alliance of Cagayan), a Cagayan Valley region-wide peasant
playing music, Mapa said that they were airing informative plugs and
practical tips, such as herbal medicine and preventive medicine. Had the
station not been burned, informative talk shows catering to peasants,
youths and women would have been lined up for airing this month.
Built by Peasants
Adviento, general secretary of Kagimungan, said that the peasants wanted a
voice and that they have long waited for the broadcast of dwRC.
Radyo Cagayano ay hindi pag-aari ng isang tao, kundi ito ay pag-aari ng
buong mamamayan. Maraming nagsakripisyo at naghirap para maitayo ang
isang radyo na maglilingkod sa mamamayan,maging sandigan sa pagpapahayag
ng aming hinaing at karaingan,” he said. (Radyo Cagayano is owned not
by one person but by the people. Many have sacrificed to build a station
that will serve the people, and be a channel to express our grievances.)
The day dwRC was burned down was
Armalyn Badua’s 23rd birthday. The wounds she sustained on
her legs that day were caused by explosions of burning equipment.
Radyo Cagayano, released in 2003, came from the congressional development
fund of Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo. The funds paid for the
radio equipment, the tower and the construction of the station.
But it was
the peasants of Baggao and neighboring towns that moved hollow blocks,
sand and cement up the hill where the station was built. Farmers, teachers
and other radio listeners donated the furniture which were mainly benches,
tables and shelves. This year, friends and neighbors donated plates, pots,
water jug and other kitchen ware, light bulbs and even the paint that was
used inside the booth.
recalled that the community radio had their first batch of broadcasters
trained as early as 2003. But its airing was delayed due to several
On July 1,
2003, a few days before the groundbreaking rites at the station’s site, a
group of soldiers in civilian clothes attacked four Kagimungan leaders –
namely, Adviento, Joey Javier, Ronald Reyes and Benito Abarrientos – who
were on their way home after clearing weeds and bushes at the site. The
soldiers pretended to be drunken civilians arguing by the roadside, then
jumped on the passing peasant leaders who were on board a hand tractor.
Kagimungan chair, was hit by a soldier’s bolo on the left arm. The
leaders identified the leader of their attackers as Capt. George Domingo,
the detachment commander of the 41st Infantry Battalion
stationed in Baggao. The leaders charged the soldiers with frustrated
murder, but a local court acquitted the latter. Javier’s veins in his
wrist were severely injured, making him lose muscle control of his left
attack, the groundbreaking rites still pushed through on July 6, 2003,
despite the presence of the military who positioned themselves by the
roadside leading to the site. Still, some 500 peasants attended the
activity from Baggao and nearby towns.
construction of the station was completed in 2003, but the setting up of
the community radio, however dragged on, with most of the staff having
shifted to other interests and to other jobs.
Battling Termites and Lightning
covered an area of three by six meters, built like a container van with
iron sheets for walls. The interior walls had a double panel of ply
board. The floor was also made of wood. The station’s builders however
did not treat the ground, which was infested with termites. Before dwRC
was even launched, termites had eaten up the inner walls, the floor, as
well as the egg trays, which lined the walls to soundproof the radio
booth. The station underwent major repairs before it finally began
operation this May.
the peasant group Kagimungan delegated a staff to finally get the
community radio on the air, but the efforts were again met by problems.
2005, the dwRC staff applied to get electrical connection to the station.
The electric company however required permission from the village council
before approving the connection. For its part, the barangay (village)
captain of Baggao Centro attempted to get the station out of the community
by conducting a survey on whether the residents favored the setting up of
formed staff of the radio station found out that the village head was
changing the survey question and manipulating the results to get them out
of the village. Kagimungan then conducted a counter-survey which they
presented to the barangay council. It showed that the barangay population
wanted the community radio, and the barangay council had no choice but to
allow its operation.
2006, the station had electricity to use.
A week after its first airing, dwRC was temporarily cut off the air after
the antenna was struck by lightning. Fortunately, the rest of the
station’s equipment had electrical grounding and were not affected. Mapa
said that they put up the antenna on top of a nearby gmelina tree, and
resumed airing after a week.
Voice of the peasants
Cagayano staff consisted of volunteers aged 17 to 25, all coming from
peasant families in Baggao town. They were all members of different
village chapters of Kagimungan. Most had finished only secondary
education, and had undergone a short training on broadcasting just last
April. Mapa said that the staff knew that working for a non-profit,
community radio entails much work but no income, yet they were all
committed. The staff also knew about the military harassment on the
lack of broadcast training experience, some of the young staff were even
“buckling,” stammering or hesitating as they spoke on air as DJs. Each had
their share of “dead air,” or the unwanted silence during broadcast. Yet
listeners tuned in to dwRC, as the voices they heard were peasant voices
like their own, the music played were their kind of music.
traveled from Baggao to Manila for the press conference, the other dwRC
staffs also went around local radio stations in Cagayan Valley to give
their account of the burning.
Mapa recalled how she and the five radio crew were at a loss in the July 2
early morning attack at the station. “Anong gagawin natin?” they
asked each other, while the arsonists escaped. (What are we going to do?)
“Magpapatuloy pa rin ang Radyo Cagayano,,” said Mapa. (Radyo Cagayo
will still continue.) Kagimungan sources said there are initial plans to
raise funds to rebuild the radio station.
community radio built by peasants is not about to be silenced permanently.
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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