Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Villages Find Their Voice: Radio Brings Empowerment to Rural Communities in the Philippines

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Villages Find Their Voice: Radio Brings Empowerment to Rural Communities in the Philippines

Article excerpt

"The 20-watt transmitter was hit by lightning and broke down in May," begins the Project Manager's report for 1994. "It has been replaced. The local technicians were advised to install a lightning arrester to forestall repetition of the accident."

The people of Banga, a small town in the province of Aklan, in the Philippines, are quite capable of taking preventive measures of this kind. After all, it was they who set up their small community radio station on the campus of the Agricultural College and mounted its antenna on top of a concrete structure on a small hill nearby. The station, one of five similar set-ups in the less developed areas of the Philippines, was established several years ago as part of Tambuli, a community radio project in which UNESCO, the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the Philippines are collaborating. (Tambuli is the traditional way of calling villagers to an important meeting.)

In this kind of project, the initiative comes from the communities. The local folk build the radio station, and after group discussions, they set the guidelines for the broadcasters. They organize the radio team, drawing on all sectors of the village. There is no lack of volunteers. At Banga, Lyn Villasis, a beautician turned broadcaster, reads fairy tales to children over Radio Manduyong, modulating her voice to evoke the characters in each story. A health programme is hosted by a midwife. On Radio Tambuli in Laurel, a little town in Batangas province, Nerrie Bihis gives talks on development topics, town cleanliness and good manners, while a local police officer hosts a weekly awareness programme on law and order.

Village problems get an airing

Two Christmases ago the Banga community went carolling to raise funds for the purchase of a karaoke sing-along system for their radio station. In Baranggay Bugtong Bato, where Radio Ibajay did the organizing, Vicente Pagayonan played indigenous songs on a flute made from a PVC plumbing pipe! Whatever the music, people sing to cultivate a sense of belonging and identify with their community in the context of a larger national culture.

In Banga, karaoke is more than just a sing-along machine. Karaoke time is time for their baranggayan sa himpapawid (village on the air). Live interviews, and discussions with local officials are broadcast between spontaneous musical performances, problems are raised and solutions are sought in what amount to village meetings aired over the local radio station. …

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