LONG AGO, TODAY, 39 YEARS AND 1 DAY, TO BE EXACT.
Saturday, September 16, 1972, Barrio Del Carmen, Calabanga, Camarines Sur. At the residence of the Obias family. By eleven o’clock today, Emerita Obias was cleaning the dining table, removing the plate, spoon and fork, and drinking glass. Her daughter Mila has just finished an early lunch. The mother hugged and bade her good luck. Mila went on rushing for the door to catch the next bus ride for Naga city.
Earlier, the mother (flat) ironed Mila’s dress for a very important occasion. Mila, the eldest of the Obias brood was a college student of the
Colegio de Santa Isabel Ateneo de Naga College. Just recently, she passed the audition in the live search for a new disc jockey and announcer of radio stations DZGE and DWEB of Filipinas Broadcasting Network with main regional and broadcast offices at Baras, Canaman, Camarines Sur.
Part of Mila’s on the job training was reportorial and coverage of live events. On this day, the radio stations will cover the fluvial procession of the Virgin of Peñafrancia and the venerated image of the Divino Rostro- the transfer and return from the Naga Cathedral to the Shrine.
The eleven kilometer ride from Calabanga to Baras almost took her 30 minutes. A good clearance, she arrived at the station on time. Walkie talkies were being distributed to reporters and announcers. During a previous staff meeting, they were given post assignments and timings of location on the fluvial coverage.
As a rookie announcer, Mila was assigned to cover the procession in tandem with a senior radio DJ. Her first posting was a vantage point near the Colegio de Sta Isabel fronting the gate where the images were supposed to come out after the 3:00 o’clock afternoon mass.
Past 12 Noon, September 16, 1972, Near Colegio de Sta. Isabel. FBN senior DJs Glady Nora A. and her boyfriend “tanging pogi” Larry B. went to savor the fiesta atmosphere, proceeded first to the house of her co-teacher for a much-needed lunch. Nora, other than working in FBN, was also teaching at the elementary department of the Colegio. She was detailed to cover and relay live the fluvial portion via the reporting point on the Colgante bridge.
Past three PM. Rookie Mila went on-air, her report describing in details the goings-on, the volume of people about the street, the many more wanting to get near the images. She was well adept at her reporting the station executives at the base were confident they selected the right one. FBN regional manager Salvio Fortuno was monitoring the live coverage of his team on board the announcer’s booth. It was a smooth sailing stint of a coverage, he mused.
The procession part went well, like the previous years. It takes hours for the procession to reach the landing site as the images were being carried on the shoulders of male voyadores through a structure called “andas.’ Voyadores take turns in carrying the images, making the procession time-consuming and almost directionless.
But eventually, the images were loaded on the “vancuerna,” the make-shift barge. The sun was almost setting. Earlier, the Naga river has swollen in height due to the generous rain fall, enabling the barge to sail on unobstructed course.
After more than two hours, the fluvial entourage came into full view by the Colgante vantage report point. Reporters from different radio stations including DZRB, DZDR, DZXN, and DZGE located themselves near or on the mid of the hanging and swaying steel contraption of a bridge, the Colgante. From the structure, one can see the Naga Cathedral.
The undermanned police force made it clear (but was too helpless to enforce) that only media personalities and few people were allowed to stay in the area. The devout Catholics and enthusiasts were not contained. It was jam packed to the hilt by the hundreds.
DJs Nora and Larry returned to the Baras radio broadcast office upon learning that Mila was reassigned to cover the Colgante report point together with assistant station manager Sal Orbon. Nora went on board to receive reports from the field.
Mila and Sal were trapped on the Colgante by warm bodies edging to get a vantage view of the Virgin of Peñafrancia. But this did not prevailed them from reporting the events live. As the vancuerna passed under the bridge, the people became more excited and jostled for a good view. Some were praying the rosary, many were chanting “Viva La Virgen!!!” and “Viva El Divino Rostro!!” The bridge was then in motion, like swaying and vibrating.
This is part 1. To be continued.
Below is the link for part 2:
9/17/1972 Live Blogging the Sorrows and Pains of Colgante Tragedy