Local communities go on air
By Gina Mission

Ambush interview by a TAMBULI volunteer

n one instance, community residents hold a meeting. At another, they party. On yet another occasion ,they discuss serious issues. All these activities they do on air - through the community radio stations set up by TAMBULI.

___TAMBULI is Filipino word for the carabao horn or the conch which people used in the old days to call other villagers for an important event. As an organization, TAMBULI sets up alternative community media and training centers that make use of low-power community radio stations in remote, economically depressed communities in the Philippines.

___Established in 1991 by the United Nations Education, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the Philippine government, the project will end in 1999. Since its establishment, TAMBULI has set up 11 community radio stations.

A TAMBULI volunteer on air
___TAMBULI differs from commercial radio in many ways. It operates on 10 to 50 watts of radio transmitter while the latter is usually powered with 5 to 50 kilowatts. It covers a particular town, district or island while the latter has a region-wide or nationwide coverage. The signal reaches a 10 to 50 kilometer radius while the latter reaches up to 50 to 500 kilometers. It uses simple, low-cost and appropriate equipment while the latter uses sophisticated, expensive, even computerized systems. In terms of personnel, it taps community volunteers to do the programming while the latter has a pool of highly-trained, well-paid professionals. And TAMBULI is owned by the community, not by capitalists who control commercial radio.

___Just like any radio station, TAMBULI provides information to its listeners. But more importantly, TAMBULI’s community radio brings broadcast communication to an intimate and interactive level.

___Louie Tabing, project manager of TAMBULI explains: "We wanted to re-invent the image of community radio which has always been slapped with contemptuous terms such as ‘weird eccentrics’, ‘high-rise intellectual ballons’, ‘retrogressive parochials’, ‘impractical idealists’, ‘haughty devcom experimenters’, ‘reversed globalizers’ and, ‘simply backward’."

___People in the community, according to TAMBULI, recognize community radio as a venue for discussing village issues and feeding back their sentiments messages to their municipal and local leaders.

___"TAMBULI promotes a high level of participation in the communication system and in society. Ordinary people are encouraged to speak out and develop their capability for self-expression," says Rina Ordoņez, TAMBULI’s executive assistant.

The TAMBULI antenna: a 12-volt power transmitter

___By locating the stations in remote and isolated communities, TAMBULI helps democratize communication in the Philippines. "It is a step towards more citizen's access, not only to relevant information, but to the means of communication," says Tabing.

___To set up a community radio station, TAMBULI provides the basic equipment such as transmitter, tape player-recorders, turntables, audio mixers, antennae, speakers, radio transceivers, and microphones. It gives training in broadcasting, newspaper publication, research, station management, resource generation, organizing and special livelihood-building opportunity. It also provides the major research components of the project.

___In return, the community provides the building, studio room, personnel, operational cost and some of the necessary equipment.

___As matter of policy, TAMBULI doesn’t introduce new gadgets or instruments into the village. It trains and encourages people to conduct neighborhood radio program production right in the villages using their own karaoke recording systems. Some such radio programs are kapitbahayan (neighborhood activity) or baranggayan (village activity) and haranahan.

___Baranggayan is usually a one-hour lively program featuring mostly local songs rendered by village talents. It has a discussion portion on major issues and concerns of the community. Some interviews are done with personalities in the village. The program also incorporates other folk media such as balagtasan (debate in verse form), poems, declamations, cancion (impromptu songs), and composo (originally composed songs).

Baranggayan at work

___Like the baranggayan, haranahan, is a participatory program which provides entertainment through a variety of indigenous love songs, traditionally sung by village swains to win the hearts of their ladyloves. DWRA (Cabagan, Isabela) reports that the program has been a major audience and talent drawer.

___Most baranggayan or haranahan programs are held and aired only once a week. In other stations, baranggayan is aired two to three times a week. The programs are taped live right in the community and aired the following day. All the villages within the coverage area of the radio station are given the opportunity to produce and air their own programs.

___At the start, trained staff give the villagers programming guidelines and assistance. Later on, when they already know the trade, the residents are given the freedom to produce their own programs according to their needs and capabilities. Singers, guitarists, musicians, performers, interviewers, panelists and almost all villagers participate.

___"Part of the villagers’ excitement is the prospect of being heard on radio. They tell their families, their friends, everybody, that they will be going on air. As a result, everybody wants to participate. They all want to be heard," says Ordoņez.

___The entertainment numbers and folk expression offered in baranggayan and haranahan capture the general trait of Filipinos as natural fun-loving entertainers. "The high level of community participation and village people involvement make baranggayan and haranahan a regular community affair," added Ordoņez.

___In between the "light" programs are public service announcements, educational sessions, and discussions of more serious issues like domestic violence, environment, agrarian reform, sustainable development, and others that every community radio station tackles.

___In DZLM Maragusan (Compostela Valley, formerly Davao Oriental), cases such as rape, incest and other women’s issues are handled by Lorita Gonzales, not as a lawyer but as a crusading women rights volunteer broadcaster. In DYMT (Banga, Aklan), all local candidates during the May 1998 elections were allotted 10 minutes each to present their platforms of government to the people. IN DXOI (Zamboanga del Sur), local residents hit local environmental violators.

___To sustain the operations of community radio, TAMBULI organizes the Community Media Council (CMA) in each station. CMA is composed of a multi-sectoral group of community leaders chosen from among the farmers, fishermen, women, youth, educators, small businessmen, ethnic communities, civic groups, local government workers, religious leaders, and professionals. The council decides on programming and station operation as well as on major issues concerning how the station will handle certain issues.

___A cooperative, foundation or association, school, local government unit or church institution undertakes the operational and administrative requirements of the station. Other institutions such as schools, established foundations, or a non-government, people-oriented organization are also identified and encouraged to provide support to the community radio station.

___According to TAMBULI, all its 11 stations have received high ratings in their respective areas of coverage. More people now have a higher awareness of events in the community rather than of the national and international scene.

___"A tendency has been developed among the people to be more open and inclined to participate in discussions of issues directly affecting the community. Local leaders make the stations a convenient means of informing the citizens of their projects and programs as well as a means of getting candid and well-discussed responses from their constituents. The exchange of information among local people stimulates social and economic activities," says TAMBULI of the impact of community radios among villagers.

___The TAMBULI experience shows that communication need not be in the hands of the powerful and rich alone. Various interest groups, particularly the disadvantaged sectors, can also have a hand in resolving the issues affecting them. TAMBULI has truly evolved that today, for many villagers, it symbolizes a concept of community cooperation for social and economic development.

Photos courtesy of TAMBULI

CyberDyaryo | 1999.01.28