After a hiatus of a year and four months, I’m back on air doing the live horseracing coverage for Viva-Prime Channel at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.
With sports writer Barry Pascua last 22 March 2009, on standby to do the opening of the day’s live coverage of the races half an hour before the parade for Race 1. This was my first weekend back. Barry and I are at the grandstand.
The last two horses cross the finish line after Race 1.
Racing fans pack the grandstand at Santa Ana Park on Sundays.
I started my broadcast career in racing in 2002, when I was tapped by PRC’s then-vice president of administration Fulton Su to be a panelist for PRC’s coverage, then handled by production outfit Creative Station for Pro-Ads Marketing, the actual contractor.
Boss Fulton took a leap of faith with me, as I had no experience at all doing live racing coverage. Despite being a jockey’s wife, I didn’t have much knowledge of betting or how to do race analysis.
I did have prior on-camera experience as a segment presenter and later co-host of “Karera 2000″, a horseracing show that aired over the government station, PTV (People’s Television) in 1997. For that show, I also wrote the script for my own segment, “Karera 101″, occasionally did the script for the entire show, and directed my own segment and others like the “Jockey’s Tips” presented by rider Dhunoy Raquel.
That’s where I learned to work under intense pressure – imagine showing up at on location at a ranch, only to be told by the scriptwriter/director that he had not written a script for that day’s shooting, and having to scribble the spiels for that episode right there and then while the hosts Jackie Castillejo andYeng Guiao (professional basketball coach and current vice governor of Pampanga province) waited.
But taped shows are easy because you can do over with takes. Live coverage is fast-paced with no room for errors.
Over time, and again under pressure, I learned to analyze races and and discuss the betting with the help of my fellow panelists during the early days at PRC – racecallers Ricardo “Carding” de Zuñiga, Ernie Enriquez (brother of GMA Network’s famed newscaster Mike Enriquez), Ira Herrera (racecaller and now a panelist for MJC’s new in-house production team, San Lazaro Broadcast Network), and former star jockey and current Philracom commissioner Eduardo “Boboc” Domingo Jr. (also now the anchor for SLBN).
I stayed with PRC from March 2002 to January 2005, then I hosted for Winner’s Circle Productions at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park from August 2005 until August 2007, when Makisig Network took over MJC’s production and I was dropped from the roster of talents as they had their own.
The break of almost a year and a half was a welcome development as I got to rest, return to graduate school, put up my website, become a fountain pen and ink collector, and do other things that interested me.
Now I’m back, refreshed, with new ideas, and ready to resume active broadcasting again.
View from my seat at the studio: on the table are racecards, pens, favorite purple Fino pencase from Leigh, Nokia Xpress Music mobile phone, Denman hairbrush, and Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler filled with coffee. (“No coffee, no workee!”) The larger monitor displays the actual cable TV broadcast feed; the smaller one, the pool totals and odds.
Coverage essentials: racecards (Winning Time for past performances, useful for race analysis, and Dividendazo for the schedule and for marking the horses on parade, winner, time, order of arrival, and other information that I relay to viewers) and pens (Preppy ED highlighter filled with Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, Waterman Hemisphere, Lamy Safari 1.1 italic, Taccia Ta-ke).
As a mass communication practitioner, I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I do, in that I am doing both broadcast and print (I write a Wednesday column on racing, “The Hoarse Whisperer” for Manila Standard-Today).
Broadcasting has always been a significant part of my life because of my father’s influence.
My father, Valentino Araneta Ortuoste, started his career as a disc jockey in the 1960s in Bacolod City, playing The Beatles and The Ventures. (He didn’t like pop music, though, preferring classical, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole).
Later he became a newscaster for ABS-CBN network in Manila; I was a toddler then, and he would sometimes take me with him to the studio. I don’t remember that, of course, but I have pictures, in black-and-white, me looking up at him almost adoringly, he with a smile and looking dapper in high-necked Vonnel shirts.
Pops also did commercials (a series for Palmolive shampoo with the characters “Sonia” and “Ana”) and bit parts in movies (in the 1990 film Anak ni Baby Ama, he played the wealthy businessman who gets ambushed in his car at the beginning of the film). He also performed voice-overs for radio commercials and even cut a spoken record in the late ’70s, “Happy Birthday, Love”.
I was ten or eleven when he encouraged my sister Aileen and I to do radio commercials. I remember one of them was an English cough syrup plug where I had to cough on cue. I got paid extra for doing the Cebuano version when the kid who was hired couldn’t do what the director wanted and wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t understand Cebuano very well, but was able to mimic a native speaker who read my lines to me. After that I was given more work doing dialects.
When I was in college, in the mid- to late-’80s, Pops was the anchor of “The UN Hour”, a television show broadcast on the government channel, PTV (People’s Television), during the administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino. He asked me and one of my friends from school to act as student interviewers. We met with the ambassador of Namibia; my friend was so nervous, he stuttered over his lines (“Nami-Nami-Namibia?”) but it turned out quite charming and was not edited out from the final version.
I owe my father for giving me the knowledge for this kind of work; it prepared me for when fate gave me the chance to do this. I never thought I would follow in his footsteps. But I look back now and feel grateful for the coaching he gave on how to modulate our voices and act in front of a camera, things we didn’t really understand back then, but proved useful when we needed it.
However, I’d say the most valuable lesson he taught me about broadcasting was this: “Be confident. You can do it. It seems hard at first, but it’s really not – it’s just like talking to a friend.” That’s become my broadcasting philosophy and overall approach to media work.
Another lesson is: information of any kind is welcome, because you’ll never know what might be useful to you later on. So I’m passing on the lessons learned to my daughters, knowing that they don’t appreciate or fully understand these things now, but which perhaps may serve them later on in life.
It’s important, though, to be prepared with data. Oh, and coffee helps too.