“Perhaps the next time you hear from me I’ll be dead,”
December 18, 2015 5:14 AM   Subscribe

Dead Air: The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, especially if you’re in talk radio. [The California Sunday Magazine] By Saul Elbein Photographs by Jes Aznar
When Elgin Damasco’s radio talk show was over, his bodyguards would hustle him out of his fortified studio and into his car. They would drive him through the leafy streets of Puerto Princesa, capital of the western Philippine province of Palawan, and bring him home. There he would hunker down until morning. Police had warned him that men had been casing his house. “I don’t even have the freedom to go to the mall,” Damasco told me. Inside the cinder-block walls of his studio, the cherubic 32-year-old felt safe. His sonorous voice was hooked into the most powerful transmitter on Palawan island. He was charging forth, as his station ID went, “to defend the weak and criticize the corrupt.” From 4:00 to 5:30 weekday afternoons, no one could shut him up.
posted by Fizz (3 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
This is a great piece of journalism and well worth your time. Her's my favourite section:
Buaya, crocodile, is local slang for a corrupt cop or politician. The House of Representatives, for instance, is known as “the crocodile farm.” In his first radio gig, when he was still overseeing his crocodile farm, Ortega would declaim, sorrowfully, that using the word this way slandered the poor buaya. Sure, sometimes the crocodile ate people, he’d say, but unlike those in office, it didn’t need to feed every day. It just asked for food once a month.
posted by Fizz at 5:18 AM on December 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

It is no doubt true that corruption is endemic on Palawan. I've been there on long holidays with my family 4 times and on arriving the first time while driving along a mud road during the night we stumbled on illegal loggers taking down some large trees near Port Barton where we were staying. And a few days later when we enquired about the massive twin hull boat in the bay we were told with a knowing and slightly sad look that it belonged to the Mayor. But it's worth pointing out that the Philippines people are largely a lovely and welcoming people and for visitors it is a pretty safe place as well as having amazing diving and beautiful islands. Many families rely on tourism there, some of whom we've got to know well and whose kids we've baby sat, and I'd hate to think that anyone might avoid going to Palawan because of what is a very serious problem but is largely independent of overseas visitors. Most of the people there are just trying to do the best for their families and find the money to keep their kids in school.
posted by drnick at 6:37 AM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

That was a really interesting article!
posted by Kevin Street at 4:03 PM on December 18, 2015

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