Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Voice of America: its impact on my young life

The first time I learned about the Voice of America (VoA), it was a source of news around the world. I was to monitor the Voice of America, record the news, and transcribe it. At a young age of thirteen, that was what the Voice of America was about.
I had to use the "short-wave" band of a more sophisticated radio to listen to VoA. It wasn't on the AM band.
So before I was even taught transcription work, I had to learn to properly tune the radio to VoA. If not tuned properly, one would hear shrill mono-sound that would warp even with the slightest and finest move I make on the tuner whether clockwise or counter clockwise. Tuning to the VoA was always a "delicate" affair for me, I remember.
When I listened to VoA, everything else in my surroundings had to be quiet. Any other sound was a distraction.
It was an age when access to television---much less t.v. news---was sorely limited. The Philippines was under a dictatorship, and everything was controlled by the government. In the province, virtually there was no t.v. to tune in.
I was instructed to record the Voice of America "Special English" version which broadcast every 8:30 p.m. This would used be for transcription.
The Special English news was delivered turtle-paced. It was as if the newscaster had taken a sleeping pill. But actually, it was broadcast to countries where English wasn't the main language facility.
Every night I tuned in to VoA I began to realize it wasn't just a material where news is gathered, monitored and transcribed.
Sometimes, the Voice of America would broadcast news about the Philippines. It was fresh. The news was unlike the regular news from the government Philppine News Agency. Even as a boy, I could already tell objective news from heavily slanted news.
I listened to objective news about the Philippines from the Voice of America.
The Manila radio stations couldn't be heard in our province. There was "Newswatch" of the government's Channel 9 with Harry Gasser as the newsreader every 7 o'clock. The news stories were about the beauty of the Philippines. You watch the news and you feel like there was nothing wrong in the country. Everything was rosy. That was how it was under an era of repression.
The news coming from the Voice of America was also intended for consumption in repressed countries that longed for free information.
Aside from the Philippines, there were countries in Asia that were (still are) not under deomocratic governments like China, Vietnam, North Korea.
It was the VoA that delivered news as it should be.
The Voice of America is the Voice of Freedom in the Pacific.
My father had a friend Max Abellaneda He was also a "media-man" in terms of height.
Max listened to nothing else but the VoA. This man was updated of the latest political developments around the world.
Those were the early days of the Reagan era. And the mortal enemy of the U.S. was the Soviet Union.
In many ocassions, uncle Max gave us scoops because he practically listended to VoA 24/7. In this sense, Max was a true media man.
Nowadays, I do not tune in to VoA as much, mainly because of the more accessible international news sources like CNN and Fox News.
But still I switch the television to the VoA channel.
And when I do, it brings back a lot of memories of my younger days.

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