I-Witness host and award-winning journalist SandraAguinaldo admits that producing stories for the public affairs program has taught her valuable lessons in life.
“Journalism graduate ako so ang training ko, detached ako, may wall dyan tapos umiiyak na ang case study ko pero detached pa rin ako. Pero [for I-Witness], it will change you kasi as a human being may connection ka sa case study mo,” says Sandra.
Having been exposed to these case studies allowed her as well to realize that her role as a journalist does not end the moment the story airs on TV.
“Parang ako mismo, ito lang ba ang gagawin ko? I’ll just be the storyteller? Kaya ako din on my own, as much as I could, I try to also help or be the bridge of that person. Halimbawa, may kailangan siya for the government, I try to walk the extra mile as well kasi ayoko na nagkukuwento lang ako. Katulad ng viewers ng I-Witness na napaka-proactive, napakamatulungin at napaka-inspiring, ganoon na din ako. Binago din nila ako.”
“It’s a constant challenge,” Sandra says of being part of the pioneering and longest-running documentary program. “We must always come up with something new para mai-present sa audience natin. At the same time, we’re keeping up with the challenge to present stories through very well-filmed documentaries.”
But what makes a good story? Sandra says it should not only be visually-appetizing but informative and empowering as well.
“First of all, buo sya. It has to be complete with all the elements so that you can present it as an I-Witness documentary. I-Witness has been aired for television viewing so talagang kailangan na meron kang napapakita visually. But of course, it’s also very important that at the end of the day, you’ll be able to change people’s lives or you’ll be able to touch people’s hearts. Kailangan din may matutunan sila mula doon sa documentary,” she shares.
For 20 years, I-Witness has told many stories on education—a topic that somehow has become close to Sandra’s heart. Tonight, the I-Witness host travels across the country to look for the students who have touched the hearts of viewers.
It was 2010 when Sandra met Maris in a mountainous community in Cebu. Despite living in abject poverty, she was very precocious and determined to make something good for herself and her family. Sometimes she went to school hungry and often walked to school barefoot. The wounds and callouses on her feet were proof of her daily trek to get an education.
After 9 years, the kid who did not even own a pair of slippers, is now a teacher. What was her journey like in the last decade? Is she finally on the road to success?
Meanwhile in 2008, I-Witness visited a school in a remote village in Lanao del Sur in Mindanao. Datu Ariman Guro Elementary School is one of the most inaccessible schools in the country, not only is it far, but the area is also dangerous.
Rido or clan wars were frequent then. Many students missed their classes in fear of being caught in the middle of a rido. Help from the government was also hard to come by. A single classroom was divided into four to service different grade levels. The library carried only one kind of textbook. This affected the school greatly—ranking at the bottom in that year’s National Achievement Test.
On Sandra’s return 11 years later, what will she discover? I-Witness revisits the community to look for Rahima, the smartest kid in school and Fahad, the boy who was always absent because of rido. What have become of them? Has the school received the badly needed help from government that they badly needed?
Several administrations have promised to improve the access to education in the country but how does the Philippines fare when it comes to the quality of education? Are young Filipinos getting the level of education they need to be competitive?
I-Witness’ special 20th anniversary episode airs tonight after Studio 7 on GMA.
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