Filipinos are inordinately proud of their nation’s status as the first democracy in Asia, a fact reflected in their love of a free press. Once Marcos was gone and martial law with him, the shackles truly came off and the Philippine media became one of the most vociferous and freewheeling in the world. There is a dark side to this, however – the Philippines is also one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, with many killed every year. If you’re looking for news from home, most cities and tourist areas now have cable TV with CNN and possibly the BBC. Foreign news publications are harder to find. The best bet is to visit a five-star hotel, where lobby gift shops sometimes stock the International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek and The Economist.
Newspapers and magazines
Major English-language daily broadsheet newspapers include the Philippine Daily Inquirer (w), the Philippine Star (w) and the Manila Times (w). There are dozens of tabloids on the market, all of them lurid and often gruesome. Most of these are in Tagalog, though People’s Tonight (w) is largely in English with Filipino thrown in where the vernacular better expresses the drama, such as in quotations from victims of crime and from the police.
Some of the most trusted reporting on the Philippines comes from the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (w), founded in 1989 by nine Filipino journalists who wanted to go beyond the day-to-day razzmatazz and inanities of the mainstream press. Journalists working for the PCIJ were responsible for the exposé of former President Joseph Estrada’s unexplained wealth, which led eventually to his downfall.
Television and radio
Terrestrial television networks include GMA (w) and ABS-CBN (w), offering a diet of histrionic soaps, chat shows and daytime game shows with sexy dancers. Cable television is now widely available in the Philippines, with the exception of some of the most undeveloped rural areas. Most providers carry BBC World, CNN and Australian ABC. At weekends during the season there’s American football, baseball and English Premier League football on Star Sports or ESPN. Movie channels include HBO, Cinemax and Star Movies.
There are over 350 radio stations in the Philippines, and between them they present a mind-boggling mix of news, sport, music and chitchat. Radio news channels such as DZBB and RMN News AM tend to broadcast in Filipino, but there are dozens of FM pop stations that use English with a smattering of Filipino. The music they play isn’t anything special, mostly mellow jazz and pop ballads by mainstream artists. Among the most popular FM stations are Wow FM (103.5MHz) and Crossover (105.1 MHz). A shortwave radio also gives access to the BBC World Service (w), Radio Canada (w), Voice of America (w) and Radio Australia (w), among other international broadcasters.