The Quest of Lost Broadcasts and Archiving

IN A BLINK of an eye, the year’s 2017.

If you’re reading this right now, you probably read it on the trinity of mobile technology that you own at least one — laptop, smart phone and/or tablet. Whenever you watch your favorite shows, just turn on the WI-Fi and you’re good to go. However, not all shows are provided to suit your needs, especially when you visit the wayback (or throwback) machine.

Throughout 64 years of television in the Philippines, some shows have episodes — fragmented or comprehensive — that are no longer found for public exhibition. Personally, as a TV enthusiast and researcher, it’s really lamenting how such important programs at their time were no longer around to see but let us list down the significant roles that lost their own reels.

The early days (1953-72)

During the pioneer years of television, cameras used to store it in magnetic tapes. When networks either had no new tapes to buy for recording fresh episodes or had very limited housing space in storing the tapes, they are forced to re-use such materials. This practice is called wiping.

In the wiping process, a tape is placed atop a degausser (a machine with a strong magnetic field in the surface) and it must be manually rotated both clockwise and counterclockwise until the magnetic data is erased. The reels before the wiping are microscopically compact but afterwards, it’ll be disarrayed, meaning it’ll be unclear or empty if played again, signifying that it’s ready for re-use.

When Martial Law is declared in September 1972, the Constabulary and the military forced to shut down and took control on the media outlets. With no thanks to them, tapes within the seized premises were wiped and/or burned down to ashes.

Such program stills, schedules and newspaper promos that are scanned, that are posted in the Internet and that are easily found on search engines barely survived and are considered the rare gem. Other stills that are not in reach are available on their networks by personal request but it’s too hard to find.

Significant landmark programs with lost episodes

  • ABS-CBN, the progenitor broadcaster, is also the progenitor of lost shows and episodes as they no longer recoup the pioneer editions of Tawag ng Tanghalan (that was originally presented by Patsy and Lopito and not by It’s Showtime gang and Amy Austria that we have now) and Student Canteen (the first noontime variety show). They no longer have the tapes on the first teleserye, Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato or their first drama anthology from Fr. James B. Reuter’s Family Theater. Entertainment shows such as 9 Teeners, Oras ng Ligaya, Super Laff-In, Da Best Show and The Baby O’Brien Show are no longer found.
  • ABC 5 had a live dance show, Dance-O-Rama but sadly, the 1962 Sampaguita Pictures film was only evidence they show. On the other hand, Chiquito was a very popular household name of the network as he was both as the leading star of Gorio and His Jeepney and as the main presenter of his eponymous variety show, The Chiquito Show. Dramas that were aired on that channel include Balintataw and Salamisim; the original English newcast, The Big News, are not spared.
  • RBS 7 (the former name of GMA) had Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club and Kwentong Kutsero.
  • RPN 9 lost their early editions of NewsWatch.
  • MBC 11 lost its original version of Straight from the Shoulder.

 

The Martial Law era

During the Martial Law era, the State practically controlled and excessively supervised the media outlets they seized and confiscated. YouTube channels ADMan1909 and flagwavercharacter (Pinoy Memories) provided some clues that happened on television during that period — which is unfortunately claimed to be the “golden age” of the nation for millennial fanatics.

Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko and Eat Bulaga‘s pioneer broadcasts are included in the roster of programs with lost episodes.

Few of the tapes from other programs were survived under that era; it can be found on some living heirs of actors, former personnel within the station or within their former producers or related foundations. As said earlier, it’s available for anyone with personal request and permission.

The age of the Player

This is a true Betamax. Hindi po ito kinakain!

This is a true Betamax. Hindi po ito kinakain!

When VTRs and VCRs were the big thing in the appliance store, the practice of wiping becomes irrelevant as Filipinos get to familiarize the functions. However, those households who own such players are normally for used family and/or personal purposes but not much on direct recording from TV. Hence, this is the reason why enthusiasts are a rarity in contributing the patch of cultural history. During that age, some programs were filmed in magnetic tape (e.g. Betamax and VHS) format.

As modern video players evolved further from VCD to DVD to Blu-Ray, TV networks realize the irreversible regret of lost opportunity and lost cultural value. Hence, they abandoned the antiquated way and embraced a new approach of storing it to earn a potential profit. Therefore, the contents in the videocassette are migrated to the disc format.

The Digital Age

Game show players, guests of a talk show and former celebrities with an eroded stardom (disparagingly termed as laos or starlets) uploaded old programs or its segments thereof to YouTube. Initially stored on magnetic tape or disc, they are converted it into a digital format before uploading it on to the video-sharing site.

This is a better, practical approach for those people who have such tapes that still need to be converted. However, as an advice, they must convert it in different formats because backing up prevents a single point of failure if one of the formats corrupts.

Today, ABS-CBN does this to archive of their past and current programs; GMA and the rest of the networks should also follow suit as we are in the midst of digital television transition.

Someday…

Though the research of this vast topic continues to expands, the story of Philippine television — such as this topic — should be as interactive and tactile as possible to our persistent psychological volatility. Until singularity comes, it is up to our capable and collective minds to maintain the story from our very sector of revisionists.

Someday, an interactive museum of broadcasting will arise. However, with unhealthy competition arising, this may not be materialized but what we hope for is that it will be in our private, non-partisan and objective hands.


Special thanks to Flickr user gorio72, Video 48, FilipiKnow.net, Ellen Joy Anastacio, Janine Natalie Badiola, Jake Jacinto and Pinoy Nostalgia community.


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[Betamax photo: IGN.com]

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6 comments

      1. There’s also another campaign beside the BBC Archive Treasure Hunt, the British Film Institute’s “Missing Believe Wiped” campaign.

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