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Monday, August 17, 2009

ABS-CBN bids Cory world-class farewell

It could have been just another day at work, but for the ABS-CBN crew behind the regal and stately coverage of former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino’s funeral at the Manila Cathedral two weeks ago, it was the last chance to serve a president they so dearly love.

The Manila Cathedral team, led by premier director Bobet Vidanes and business unit head for game shows Marilou “Alou” Almaden, was composed of people who were no strangers to Kris, President Cory’s famous daughter and ABS-CBN’s queen of game shows.

For many years, their unit worked with Kris in mounting the most exciting programs on television. But last week, they offered Kris and her family the most touching and beautifully-captured televised farewell in Philippine history.

According to Alou, putting up the coverage was as hard physically as it was emotionally. Upon Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s announcement of Pres. Cory’s passing last Aug. 1, her lean team immediately proceeded to the Manila Cathedral, where they would spend sleepless nights until Aug. 5.

“We had to face many challenges, including setting up 70 moving lights, two OB vans, an audio Van, around 5,000 feet of cable wires, 12 cameras inside the Cathedral and five outside, without disrupting the normal routine of the Church,” the accomplished TV executive said.

Bobet, on the other hand, recounted how they would pray in the church for the rain to stop, as it was making the set-up more complicated. However, despite all the production and logistic setbacks, they never lost focus on why they were there.

“Our only intention was to give Madame Cory the moment she deserves. Like I told Kris when she asked me to do the coverage, no matter what happens, I will drop everything and do my best for her, and for my president.

By best, he meant coming up with amazing lighting, cinematic angles, and perfectly-timed montage of shots during the arrival of Pres. Cory’s body at the Cathedral and the necrological and liturgical services two days after.

He made sure the solemnity of the event would not be lost, even during the performances of top singers like Lea Salonga, Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Sarah Geronimo, Dulce, Ogie Alcasid, Eric Santos, Jed Madela, Zsa Zsa Padilla, APO Hiking Society, Ivy Violan, Kuh Ledesma, Aiza Seguerra, Rachel Ann Go, Christian Bautista, Jose Mari Chan who were chosen by the Aquino family to take part in the memorial.

It was, after all, a very personal task for him. “Madame Cory was already special to me even before I got to work with Kris. I was able to serve her as a trainee of Radio-Television Malacañang back in 1987 and she was very gracious to me as she was to everybody,” he explained.

Bobet said it wasn’t hard to make his team feel as involved in the task as he was, even those who weren’t alive yet during Pres. Cory’s term. “I just told them this is our last chance to say thank you and goodbye to the woman who brought freedom and democracy back to the country.”

Alou added it was also a chance to be part of history. “Our work will be seen by generations and generations after. It wasn’t just any funeral that we took part in, it was the funeral of one of the most beloved Filipinos and one of the most admired people in the world.”

With both experience and passion, this ABS-CBN team pulled off a coverage which revealed not only the raw emotions of the people who went to pay their final respects to Pres. Cory but also the beauty of the famous church. Most importantly, they were able to keep the ceremony solemn and meaningful for the viewers and the Aquino family.

“This is the greatest work I have done so far,” Bobet, the visionary behind many hit programs, said.

The work of Bobet and Alou’s team at the Manila Cathedral is part of ABS-CBN’s full scale coverage dubbed Salamat, President Cory, spearheaded by the ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs division.

Under the leadership and overseeing of ABS-CBN president Charo Santos-Concio and Channel 2 head Cory Vidanes, all platforms of the multimedia conglomerate participated in covering the late Pres. Cory’s wake, funeral, and burial, as well as the revival of the legendary “Cory magic.” All suspended their regular programming too, so that every Filipino can experience the activities as if they were there in person.

Those who stayed at home saw the coverage on ABS-CBN Channel 2 and Studio 23. Those with cable tuned to ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) and DZMM TeleRadyo. Those driving listened to DZMM Radyo Patrol 630, while those in the office relied on the live streaming at Global Pinoys overseas, on the other hand, watched it from TFC and TFCNow.

The coverage meant different things to different people. For the public, it was a heartfelt viewing experience, for the reporters and anchors, it was hard work and passion, for ABS-CBN, it was a chance to showcase its extensive reach and gratitude to the late President.

For Bobet, simply being a part of it was a big honor. “The coverage didn’t only bring the ABS-CBN slogan ‘In the Service of the Filipino Worldwide’ to life, it also gave it a deeper meaning for me. I was ‘in the service of a true Filipino,’ and that true Filipino is Madame Cory.”



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