Date: Mon, 16 Dec 96 16:20:10 CST
Subject: Philippines: Community Radio for Change
Organization: Mihikatha
Article: 2416

Community Radio

By Don de Silva, 16 December 1996

Tambuli, the carabao horn, traditionally used in a village in the Philippines to convene a meeting, is now the call name of a series of community radio stations. Tambuli has become the voice of disadvantaged communities.

Financed by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through the UNESCO International Programme for Development Co-operation, the Tambuli community media project was launched in 1987.

In the Philippines, 90 per cent of the population own radio sets. Radio is the most potent medium of communication. The project aimed at setting up 12 media community centres. Each community was to organise its own FM radio station, using low-powered (20 watts) transmitters and simple production equipment. At the end of the fist pilot phase, six centres are operating.

The first centre was created with the support of the College of Mass Communication at the University of the Philippines. A small transmitter and studio were set up at Basco in the islands of the Batanes, 670 kilometres north of Manila —Radio Ivatan was on the air.

Other centres have been established in the following locations: Laurel in the coastal province of the Batangas; the farm and fishing towns of Ibajay and Banga in the province of Aklan; Olutanga island in Zamboanga del Sur; and Partido in Camarines Sur.

The present media system is largely run PPPP: profit, propaganda, power and priviledge. We need new public media structures owned and controlled by the people, says Louie Tabing, Tambuli project manager.

According to Tabing: Tambuli has triggered some changes. Set up only in March 1995, the Tambuli station in Camarines Sur managed to stop illegal gambling after much discussions on the air. The whole community was against gambling because people, including the poor, were 50,000 to 100,000 pesos a day for the benefit of the gambling lords.

For the Tambuli communities, the sing-along machine, karaoke, has become the heart of the radio stations operations. In December 1994, the community of Banga in Aklan raised local funds for the purchase of a karaoke system for their radio station. For the villagers, karaoke time was the time for their baranggayan sa himpapawid (village on the air); live discussion of local problems and the search for solutions, a dialogue with local officials, and interviews carried out between musical performances.

The strategy was such a hit that it was adopted by other stations and the baranggayan has become the most popular programme. During a visit to Ibajay in Aklan, the members of a project review mission witnessed a live baranggayan in the local language. Some 60 people gathered for the event held under the coconut trees along the beach. Most performed alternating roles as hosts, emcees, technicians, co-ordinators, interviewers and interviewees. A highlight was a 20-minute segment called Balitaktakan, or a debate with the mayor and councillors. Spliced into rounds of songs and poetry readings were discussions on fund-raising for the construction of a bridge and lack of school teachers in the village.

The Tambuli radio community project has demystified radio technology and succeeded in drawing village communities to participate in broadcasting. Were it not for Tambuli, the people of Banga still will be lying back passively, says Porfirio Bullo, manager of the local media centre.