News…What News?

Not Much News Here!

After sitting down with one of our nephews the other day, I jokingly asked him if he would be interested in becoming a mercenary and joining the Peshmerga special forces to fight ISIS. While he seemed interested, I asked him if he wouldn’t be scared to fight against ISIS. “No uncle, we all have to die sometime” was his response, and after a short pause, he then asked “Uncle, what is ISIS?”  I quickly learned through our conversation that he knew nothing about ISIS, IS, ISIL, or whatever they may be referred to this week, nor was he aware of what had just happened in Paris over the past few days. And I believe I know why. While I tuned in last week to the Paris terrorist attacks that were in progress, I found myself switching back and forth between all the major news networks…CNN, FOX, BBC, Al Jazeera, and Ariang. They were giving the terrorist attacks full coverage. Then I happened to switch to one of the more prominent Philippines TV news stations, ANC, and they were discussing food delicacies. (To be fair though, after several hours, ANC did update the scroll at the bottom of the screen with news of the attacks.) To ANC, it apparently was not the most newsworthy event of the day. The largest news platform in the Philippines is without a doubt print media. There are hundreds of privately owned newspapers distributed across the country, with 42 daily papers sharing a total circulation of more than 4.7 million (according to Press Reference). I’ll let that sink in for a moment.


4.7 million newspapers printed for a country with a total population of 103 million people. Let’s see…thats approximately 1 newspaper each for nearly 22 people. Since arriving here over two years ago, I’ve never seen anybody sharing a paper, let alone reading one! While radio reaches an estimated 11.5 million people (2011) in the Philippines, since then, the internet has become increasingly popular, with more than 33 million persons having access. My question then is why are so many people uninformed? While press freedom is guaranteed under the constitution, it is regulated by the government to some extent. In the farthest reaches of the Philippines, radio and TV remains the main source, even though there are less than 50 televisions per 1,000 people in the country.

Thank Goodness for Cable News

This evening, Philippine Standard Time (Friday, Nov 20, 2015), the news broke about the Mali Radisson Hotel hostage situation and again, all the networks are covering the story. It is the only story being covered in France at the moment. Once again, I head back to the Philippine cable news station ANC and the program currently airing is “City Escape” and the topic is food!  It seems as though the big media players here play a big hand here in deciding which news is worthy of wide public dissemination (not too different from the liberal left media in the U.S. controlling the context of the news). Many stations seem to have a strong unwillingness to share non-Philippine related current events, or more specifically anything that does not affect the Philippines directly. There are fewer radio news stations and literally very little major printed news publications available outside of the major metropolitan areas. And here where we live, it is rare to see anyone reading anything…books, magazines, or newspapers.

Earlier today we drove to town to do some errands and when we returned home before lunch, the kids were running around, playing in the streets. I corralled my little neighbor friend (Fernand, my local informant – the same kid who I wrote about for his now famous line of questioning…  “What Seems to be the problem?”) on the street and gave him the hundred questions – well two actually – as he still doesn’t understand much English. I did learn from my brief interrogation though what the real reason was for having no class…the teacher was absent. Again!  I’m beginning to understand why the average Filipino is so il-informed about many things, and it definitely begins with being under educated, topped off with an abundance of cultural pleasantries forced upon everyone at such an early age like food, drink, karaoke, gambling, cock-fighting, and fiestas. Sorry, I forgot beauty pageants! Then add to that the lack of information available (to include withheld information) to the general public and it becomes the norm.

Occasionally I find myself taking up the role of the educator, and most especially with our younger nieces and nephews. It’s not that I feel like doing anything that resembles work, but it’s more out of the desire to see some of these poor kids turn the corner and understand there is much more to life…and to help them realize there is an entire world beyond the village borders. And I do it because it seems like most locals are totally unwilling to instill change themselves. It’s a challenge akin to curing a heroin addict without having any methadone available. And in most cases, the immediate family offers little help, encouragement or guidance, and most times, IS the real roadblock to success (one can look at the school dropout rate to understand this). It is truly a case of the under-educated leading the un-educated. Last week I continued an ongoing discussion with one of our nieces about college and career options and suggested that she needed to sit down with the Guidance Counselor at her school. Our other niece offered to me that this same high school she had already graduated from had no such person. So I took it upon myself to visit the high school this week and meet this missing “Guidance Counselor” person myself. I found her in the “Guidance Office” and received all the information I requested. Later, I informed my in school niece to do the same.

Most Noteworthy News is Real News!

A different focus on news
Philippines has a different focus on many newsworthy events

Since living here, I’ve learned to never take the first answer I receive as the truth in anything. Verify, verify, verify has become my modus operandi.  When it comes to education, and because at the end of the day these kids go back home to the family and parents who are also a product of the same environment, it becomes a hard groove for these kids to follow. It’s a tough job to get just one child to break the pattern; to ignore the peer pressures, along with everything that they think they know or what they have been taught. They need to be literally lifted and pulled out of the box. All I can do is help to create levels of curiosity and desire, and motivate them to go where very few Filipinos in the village have gone before…to them it really is the final frontier!  To many it may seem like all those stars are unreachable when in reality, they all should be taught that they are reachable if they would possess the determination to simply reach for them.

Everyday for me, it’s like watching these kids continuously trying to cleanse off all the paint they are covered in all the while they are climbing in and out of a paint bucket.  It takes determination and, to make any real progress, they must first learn to stay out of the paint bucket. That part I cannot help them with.


News media statistics source:

7 thoughts on “News…What News?

  1. I completely understand when were back in sorsogon it seems that if it isn’t happening in there barrio then it doesn’t excist. I would read news and tell them something going on and a lot of time I would get this stare like so what does that have to do with us here. followed by more neighborhood chismis now that’s the important stuff.

  2. As spoken about before mate. Dumbing down the population.
    Why tell the people about whats going on in the world, when Showtime and Kriss are more popular.
    Or the little chubby girl show 🙁

  3. Roger, I’m glad to hear it just isn’t our area. After writing this and going to bed, I couldn’t help but imagine that maybe it is just my perception and that I might be living in a little bubble. Thanks for reminding me it’s a big bubble!

  4. You’re right Neil. And don’t forget those folks with televisions are also glued to the noontime TV show Eat Baluga featuring the Aldubs. It is the longest running TV show in the Philippines (36 years)! Come to think of it, that’s just about how far behind this country is in many areas! Hmmm….

  5. Ya can open a door but until they desire to walk through that opening it makes no difference. Many honestly believe that ignorance is bliss.

  6. I agree Jeff, from their perspective, ignorance is bliss. It’s what we know that prevents us from understanding their bliss.

  7. So is it any wonder why EVERYONE just ABSOLUTELY KNOWS all foreigners are so wealthy!

    If all they see on television is depicted as ACTUAL TRUTH and EVERY athlete is a BILLIONAIRE (in Pesos), how could they believe anything else?

    Does the government not understand education and world knowledge is the ONLY way to lift the people out of poverty or do they WANT to keep the WHOLE COUNTRY impoverished?

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