ABC Campus News — Focus on the Philippines

A team from ABC Campus News, the JMSC group tasked with providing content for the American Broadcasting Company, has just returned from its first international shoot in the Philippines.

Deirdre Morris and Tem Hansen

Deirdre Morris and Tem Hansen

The JMSC’s video journalism lecturer and veteran TV reporter, Rob McBride took MJ students Deirdre Morris and Tem Hansen to cover two stories, one on the prevalance of cock-fighting and the other on the “My Way Murders”.

Deirdre and MJ student Phillippa Stewart spent a few days before this reporting for ABC on kite-surfing in the Philippine island of Boracay.

The stories took them from beaches to the karaoke bars and boxing clubs of urban Manila and out into the rural province of Batangas.

Cock-fighting is banned in many countries round the world, but enjoys legality, national sport status and huge popularity in the Philippines. Exported from Spain to America with the conquestadors, it made its way east from the States via both the Spaniards and Americans.

The ABC Team looked at the influence of US thoroughbred fighting bird lines in the Philippines, and at how the sport has survived the downturn in the economy, the advent of internet gambling and the gaming industry in nearby Macau and Singapore.

Deirdre Morris said the cock-fighting story was fascinating to cover as they met interesting people, travelled deep into the country, and it was also the toughest to shoot.

“At one point we trekked two and half hours out of Manila to a cock farm where there were eight hundred roosters being trained to fight. It was really hard for us to watch roosters fighting and some convulsing in pools of blood.”

The story of the “My Ways Murders” is a more bizarre and chilling tale. The team investigated allegations that karaoke versions of Frank Sinatra’s signature song sometimes cause fights that lead to murder. The song is known by everyone on the island and is so popular that it is one of the favourites at karaoke evenings. As one person takes to the microphone, others either sing over the top or wrench the mic from the singer’s hand leading to brawls. In what can be a very violent society, these brawls can be fatal, or so the story goes.

The team heard sinister claims that the lyrics are ominous: “‘And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.”. One interviewee claimed that a relative, now dead, had sung the song a lot — a fact he linked with the death.

While they found the story somewhat tenuous, it appeared that everyone knew the myth. “One person wouldn’t even sing the song because they thought it was such a bad omen,” said Deirdre.

While in the Philippines, they found another story which they sold on spec to ABC in America. They shot a piece on the mania surrounding Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Paquiao, or “Pac Man”‘ as he is known, is the the first boxer in history to win seven world titles in seven different weight categories. He is a hero in the Philippines; this is reflected in posters all over the islands and even Manny look-a-likes. “Pac Man” is currently building up to taking on Ghana-born welterweight boxer, Joshua Clottey in Arlington, Texas on March 13.

The piece looks at his popularity, and also at the rehabilitation in boxing over the last year or two, as people have focused more on the benefits of boxing to young men — providing strong discipline and an outlet for aggression — rather than the negatives, such as brain damage.

Rob McBride said the team worked unbelievably hard to shoot the pieces within such a short time frame.

“The ABC Campus News Team includes some of the most promising students we have. It was great seeing how these students took the skills they had learnt in the classroom and used them in the field in difficult conditions. They were working in sweaty cock fighting pits and early morning work-out sessions in boxing gyms whilst still remembering the basics of white balance and plugging in the mics.”

The stories are now in post-production. They are readying the Manny Paquiao story for the end of this week, then plan on delivering the three other stories over the next three consecutive weeks.

Tem Hansen is delighted their work will be going out on such a big network and also thankful for the guidance received from Rob McBride.

“It’s fantastic exposure to be on a big network like ABC. We hope the stories will make it to the mainstream news. The best part was going with Rob who treated the work as one of his own news assignments. We did all the shooting and reporting but he was standing there behind us helping us all the way. We are hugely grateful.”