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Community Media pt 1 – Kodao Productions

July 1, 2011

Yesterday I was able to briefly meet people from a few of the progressive media organizations (Kodau productions, pinoy weekly, bulatlat, and arkibongBayan) in the Philippines. I hope to be able to meet with all of them to find out more about their work and maybe get some materials for the school of people’s journalism.

Check out there website:

Here’s an article from 2008 that gives an overview of the group –


Kodao is a long strip of knotted rattan rope; each knot represents an event that members of the community must attend—meetings, festivals, weddings, and others. It is a Lumad word and Kodao is an ancient form of calendar.

When progressive filmmakers, broadcasters, writers, journalists and artists (including one National Artist for Literature and one Palanca Award winner) were sure there will be another people power uprising in 2000, they thought of forming a multi-media production outfit to document the people’s participation in another historical event. Remember that factions of the ruling class and the military both claim they made history happen in 1986 the most. They tried to downplay the vital role played by the progressives in ousting the dictatorship.

And so we were there in 2001, with cheap prosumer cameras which have started to become affordable. This is important. More on this later. After Edsa Dos, Kodao came out with its first video docu, Oust!

A few weeks later, we were offered free daily airtime on the AM radio station of the so-called people power network. And Ngayon Na, Bayan! was born. It was a radio program that advocated transparency and good governance. It tackled issues not for the sake of commenting on the news and developments. Rather, it tried to analyze issues from the point of view of the common person. Of course, it was progressive, or leftist to some.

Kodao Productions’ video docus and its radio programs are alternative in the sense that we produce them not for commercial considerations. We do not produce so we can have income from advertisements. That’s one.

Second, we have a different take on issues we tackle. We feature personalities that can never be called poster boys or girls but whose contributions to nation building are more important than animals called politicians and showbiz personalities—not that we did not and do not feature politicians. Depende lang kung sino sila or kung ano ang papel nila sa isyung pinag-uusapan. So we feature jeepney drivers, people’s lawyers, barrio doctors, development workers, journalists, rebels, laundry persons, human rights workers, churchpeople—mga taong kinaiinisan ng magaling na pamahalaan. In our radio program, we give each sector and issue a particular episode. Mondays are about economic issues, Tuesdays are for religion and society, Wednesdays are for women’s issues, Thursdays are for the other basic sectors like the workers and peasants, Fridays for good governance. This lineup was changed, depending on which grabs the people’s attention the most at the time.

One innovation we pioneered was remote-recording radio program episodes with poor communities. In seaside communities in Southern Tagalog, in a peasant community in Central Luzon, an under-the-bridge community in Taytay, in the middle of a park in Hong Kong, in an urban poor community in Navotas, at Hacienda Luisita right after the massacre in 2005. We were there.

Not content with what we were already doing, we started giving trainings to our main publics. We trained out of school youths, factory workers, community women and peasants on videography, broadcasting, writing for radio, newswriting, reporting, photography and others. We helped one peasant organization put up and operate a community radio station and became one of the most active advocates of community radio broadcasting in the process.

For our video and radio productions, we go to communities and hold sinehang- and radyo-hang bayans. Because we can not compete with telenovelas in communities with power supply and many TV sets we go to communities where they hardly have television or radio sets. The reception is always fantastic.

That is why we prefer to be called community journalists/broadcasters/media institutions rather than alternative media.

Kodao is still producing the kind of video docus we have been producing since 2001. Now, we have a new radio program with kids as on-board broadcasters, reporters, radio drama talents, reporters, and writers. It is a radio program and drama for kids and by kids, with only a few adults thrown in. (Kaya Natin ‘To, Kids, DWIZ 882 khz, Saturdays, 4:30 to 5:30 in the afternoon.) And they are no ordinary children. All of them come from urban and rural poor communities. Many of them are out of school—some of them are hardly literate but all are intelligent. A few of them are victims of physical abuse, domestic violence, state terrorism, child pornography and prostitution, and rape and incest.

We like to believe we were good at it. We’ve won awards from the KBP, the CMMA and the Cultural Center of the Philippines for both our radio and video productions, even our historical radio dramas. In fact, Ngayon Na, Bayan! was finalist in the CMMA for five straight years. Our videos were featured in video docu festivals here and abroad.

We also would like to believe we are effective. When this sitting president illegally declared a state of national emergency, Ngayon Na, Bayan! was the first media casualty. We were told not to show up at the radio station within two hours of its announcement. Subsequently, we were among those charged with rebellion, along with 55 other personalities. The government’s hooded witness even claimed in his affidavit that we were the Communist Party of the Philippines’ propaganda arm. He said he knew this because he joined Kodao in 1989. E 2001 lang kami pormal na nabuo. Magaling, di ba?

Then the community radio station we helped build and operate was attacked and burned to the ground on July 2, 2006. Six staff members, out of school youths and peasants, were beaten up, hogtied, blindfolded and terrorized. The police and the fire department did not respond until nine hours later even when they are both just a stone’s throw away. Two presidents and several officers of the peasant organization that owned the station were killed one after the other. We suspect the military to be the only perpetrator, because they’ve harassed them so many times before. Besides, even if the military are innocent, what kind of government allows such things to happen and go unpunished?

These harassments are not exclusive to members of the so-called alternative media, of course. This also happens to members of the so-called mainstream media.

Now, on to other things which make us “alternative”. Earlier, I mentioned about affordable cameras, digital audio recorders, and canned sound effects on CDs and from the internet, plus computer software that make video and audio editing within reach of groups that do not depend on big money from the advertisers for equipment and production and distribution costs. I am sure you know that cheaper equipment and great advancements in information technology brought about the phenomenon called citizen journalism. On the internet, we can upload our productions for an even wider audience. This is the development which made it possible for groups like Kodao to go into this line of work full time. Ganito rin sa digital cinema, di ba? And I think that even the so-called mainstream media recognizes this. Now, there is a marriage of sorts as the big networks are asking people to contribute reports with the use of consumer cameras, even mobile phones. CNN has its I-report, ABS-CBN News has its citizen patrol. Traffic situationers are broadcast through 3G mobile phones.

To end this, let me underscore three things:

1. There are so many people, sectors, interests, issues that are underserved by the so-called commercial media because of their editorial limitations that are dictated by their advertisers. These are the things that compel us to be.
2. To be a media practitioner under a regime like this is very difficult; to be a community media practitioner under a regime like this is dangerous to one’s health.

Nevertheless, it is very fulfilling and highly recommended.



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