The Kabataan News Network years, pushing the voice of pinoy youth on television

Atom, Nidjee, Apple, Chiyomi, Albert and Marco during a Manila workshop

"How many times have you heard the saying “children are seen and not heard”? This is true in most of Philippine media where children and youth are often depicted as victims and liabilities. The day-to-day reality of children is seldom reflected, and this can have a profound impact on the formation of children’s values."

Fortunately, there are groups of grown ups who want to give young people a chance to speak out and share their real conditions, issues, problems, joys and triumphs through television. Say hello to the Kabataan News Network (KNN).

Probe Media Foundation, Inc. (PMFI) with the generous support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), trained young people from eleven areas around the Philippines, called “bureaus”, in the creation of video reports. Youths from the Mountain Province, Capiz, Cebu, Davao, Zamboanga del Sur, Manila, Camarines Norte, Baguio, Sarangani, Dumaguete and North Cotabato underwent an intensive one-week long workshop were they were taught to shoot, interview and write their own video segments. The training helped them develop their ability to seek facts, analyze problems and discuss a variety of solutions with through the people they interview and images they shoot... (from Probe Media Foundation Inc. Website)

This three paragraph description of the Kabataan News Network sums up what the project is all about. The project got started in 2003 under the auspices of then Unicef country communications director Dale Rutstein. In 2004, the supervision of the Davao Bureau was transferred to the Philippine Information Agency XI and I was tasked by our Regional Director Efren Elbanbuena to handle the program as Davao Bureau manager.

Darn,  I had to give up a long-planned Bohol holiday just to go to Manila for an intensive TV production training.  I remember accompanying Llaben, Jona and Ryan then still in their teens  for the training which had us being mentored under the country's top journalists for a crash course on TV magazine production.

Miss Cheche Lazaro on a Manila workshop

Back into Davao, we were joined by Chloe and Apaul which now made up the Davao Bureau.  The following years several members were recruited into KNN Davao; Alberto, Marco, Nidjee, Shemie, Nice, Paul, Darel, Mary Ann, Wendy, Modda. Then there were countless trainings and refresher courses under top broadcasters like Ms. Che Che Lazaro, Booma Cruz, Twink Macaraig, Jay Orense and many others.

We were provided with top of the line equipment, Sony TRV cameras and Mini DV players, Seinnhauser and Azden mics and other top-of-the-line gears which is more than enough to comply with the stringent standards of nationwide television broadcast

Then there were the segments which we produced. Even though Davao was laggard among the other prolific bureaus, we still managed to make quality segments, one of which was our in depth feature on Davao's Teen Prostitutes, which was painstaking to make, other memorable segments was a feature on child laborers in Piapi,  a feature on Mindanao young filmmakers, the Kadayawan floral float parade and the David Statue at Matina Baywalk which inspired a Probe Team segment.

Jona doing her stand-upper

One of the great joys was finding our produced segments shown on nationwide free television, from ANC and NBN to ABC5 then in 2007 we made a big leap to ABS-CBN and the program was renamed into KX or Kabataan Xpress, but the ABS-CBN's program was short-lived and existed for only one season. 

Aside from the in depth learning from TV production which I didn't learn from my communication arts class during college. it also made me realize that the youth needed a voice in the media. their thinking, ideals and beliefs are unique from us adults; previous or traditional TV shows about youths and children were made with adult scriptwriters and production people. Sure these adults can be adept in popular culture but there is a certain aspect in the way of thinking that differentiates adolescent from young adults or those adults which are considered as young at heart.

Being a teenager is not all about age, it is about possessing a certain personality and attitude one which KNN has planned to show. The youth as themselves and not just mouthpieces of their elder adults

Shemie, Marco, Paul, Rhea on a news reporting training

The role of a bureau manager was only supervisory in nature, which meant that we were only responsible for the operations of the bureau but for creative control it all belonged to the youth TV journalists of KNN, the way how they approach, write and produce the story. 

The age segment of KNN reporters (13-20 years old) also made shifting members, upon reaching 21 the kids graduate from the bureau and new younger members are taken in where they again will be trained and made to produce segments, each new member injects a certain vibe or interest to the production. For example Chloe loves to make segments about children, Jona loves making videos about the streets, Llaben is inclined into performance arts, Albert is into filmmaking, Marco wants to focus on stories about his local community, Wendy wants to delve into student life while Shemie wants to feature her faith and religion.

As the years progressed, digital technology became more widespread, internet has grown into a more accessible medium. right now kids and teens don't have to join KNN or other youth oriented shows to have a voice of their own. They now can do it online with blogs, podcasts, websites etc. by the time the program ended, Probe Media decided to show KNN or KX on an online media platform.

I was glad that the program ended as it freed up some of my workload. but I miss the camaraderie, the trainings, the shoots, the new people you meet, the hyper teenagers and their very inquisitive and creative minds that latches up stories after stories, ideas after ideas. Or the shy reclusive teens who after opening up gives you an array of perspectives and sensibilities in approaching the story.

"Ang programang Gawa ng Kabataan, Para sa Kabataan." as the show's tagline would say indeed the show was a revolutionary landmark in Philippine TV history, I was glad I became an active participant in the sidelines.

Llaben now works in Philhealth, Marco or Mark Lloyd works for Hedcor, Albert is with Kisan Lu, Chloe is now a pre-school teacher, Shemie is in the United States married to an American, Paul is a Mix FM DJ, Jona is a nurse, Modda is pursuing medicine proper, Darel and Nidjee are finishing their college studies. 

Promoting the show at ABS-CBN's Maayong Buntag Mindanao, with supportive host Michelle Robin
Mark doing his TV plug on TV Patrol Mindanao


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