Arnold Clavio: Ready for any Emergency
- Maridol Rañoa-Bismark () - August 13, 2003 - 12:00am
The priesthood’s loss is media’s gain. Arnold Clavio may have failed to fulfill his dream of becoming a priest, but he got something just as meaningful: a niche in the high-profile world of broadcast media.

After finishing Journalism at the University of Sto. Tomas, Arnold landed a job at dwIZ.

At first, all he did was announce the time.

Later on, however, he was taken in to write the news. Until the station manager told him to his face that "my voice was not suited for radio."

Arnold got the message loud and clear. It was an indirect way of saying, "Better get out of this place; I don’t want you here."

Luckily for Arnold, he met dzBB station manager Bobby Guanzon, who invited him (Arnold) to join the station in 1989.

Thus started a career that would expose him to news, everyday of his life.

It was also then that he met Jessica Soho, who liked Arnold’s sense of humor so much (a la Louie Beltran, she said), she gave him his first TV exposure: GMA 7’s Brigada Siete, in 1994. It has been public affairs TV for the 37-year-old Great Taste endorser since then.

He moved on to Saksi, and can’t help but break into a smile when he recalls his early days on TV.

"The show was only 30 minutes long then, including commercials. So it was actually only 15 minutes for me. No sooner had the opening credits started flashing on screen, than the closing credits would begin rolling," he says in characteristic droll humor.

Arnold’s stint in Saksi paved the way for a bigger, better exposure, this time in the top-rating current affairs program Emergency, which landed on Arnold’s lap seven years ago, when its host, Edu Manzano, did not renew his contract (Susan Enriquez joined the team three years back).

You can easily see why Emergency is tailor-made for the indefatigable Arnold. It stirs the newsman in him whenever he covers such big stories as the Ozone tragedy, military rebel encounters in Mindanao and coups, among others. It brings out the other-oriented part of Arnold — the one that first pushed him to the seminary — via its rescue stories.

Heart-tugging, even frightening, especially on those late Friday nights (at 11) they are aired, the program has brought the team far and wide -- rescuing a man of skin and bones, a child with a cancerous growth on his forehead, a maid suffering physical abuse in the hands of cruel employers.

Emergency cases all that demand quick action — the kind that sends a team of paramedics rushing to the scene in an ambulance, complete with wailing sirens and all (the show gets 100 calls a day from hospital personnel).

A good Samaritan brought a man of skin and bones to the Social Work Department.

"They said they had no vehicle to ferry him," a staff from Emergency reported. By the time the TV crew had finally rescued him, the man was so malnourished he died soon after.

"God must have a plan for me, after all," Arnold muses.

"He didn’t let me enter priesthood, but He made me serve others as a media person instead."

Some people, though, frown on Arnold’s efforts at reaching out.

Believe it or not, some even think Arnold is going overboard by helping those who have downgraded him during his struggling years. To these doubting Thomases, Arnold only has one answer, "My late dad used to tell me, ‘help even those who wrong you.’ Your good deed will come back to you. He showed me this by example. He’d lend a hand, even to those who didn’t pay their debts to him. I found this hard to accept, at first. But now I understand. Perfectly."

The Unang Hirit
host has established the Igan Foundation (Igan, short for kaibigan, happens to be Arnold’s moniker), together with GMA top executives. It helps terminally-ill children through activities that take their mind off their illness. One such activity is the mini-Olympics, which the kids joined, and won.

The minute Arnold’s crew fetched them at the airport, the children blurted out, "This (showing their medal), is for Igan!" He may not be getting anything material for his efforts, but the innocent ones’ remarks is enough reward.

The guy seems to have a soft spot for the young. At the presscon for Emergency, Arnold revealed that his next stop is Letran College, where students were waiting for him to talk about his work.

"I want to inspire students," Arnold explains why he still finds time to squeeze in trips to various schools despite his hectic schedule.

Arnold is up at 3:30 a.m. for Unang Hirit (which starts 5 a.m.) and knocks off at 11 p.m., leaving him only four to five hours of sleep a day.

He hasn’t even taken a long vacation from work. "My work is my therapy," he admits.

"I watch the late news at night so I am abreast of what’s happening."

The dedication has paid off.

Since Day One of airing on October 1995, Emergency has been a ratings leader.

Even among GMA 7’s late-night public affairs programs, it has consistently been the highest rater. The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency recently thanked Emergency for bringing the abuse of new substances to their attention through a series of exposes. The National Disaster Coordinating Council has just awarded the program the Gawad Kalasag, bestowed on groups who actively promote disaster preparedness. It has also reached finalist status in the prestigious New York Festivals for Film and Television, twice.

Even the top brass of GMA 7’s rival station, ABS-CBN, was said to have sat up and noticed.

How true? After hemming and hawing, Arnold finally says, "This is not the first time it has happened. All I can say is, thank you for the interest (in me). But let me make it clear: I didn’t use the issue to get new perks from GMA. I don’t want to be accused of using the issue for selfish reasons." He went to ABS-CBN one time, he admits. But that was to check out the fitness facilities in one of the floors in the building. "I’m a Type 2 diabetic," he admits.

"My doctor advised me to take a physical fitness regimen."

It’s the price Arnold is paying for all that stress he is getting from his extra delicate, high-profile job.

Arnold himself admits getting more attention than he expects. Others are welcome. Like those he doesn’t know from Adam asking his help because they have no one else to turn to.

Others are not. Those involved in an exposé for instance, would call his staff to say they want a story killed.

Arnold’s reply, "The more you stop me, the more I go ahead and do it."

He has been approached to run for public office, but Arnold, who supports his widowed mother and siblings, is not biting.

"I’ll be more effective as media practitioner. If I turn politician, I’ll be eating my own words. Imagine, I am attacking pork barrel, and I end up at its receiving end instead," Arnold says.

His father, who lived long enough to see him get a headstart in Saksi in 1995, would have been mighty proud of his eldest son.

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