Jay Taruc: The son also rises
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - December 11, 2003 - 12:00am
The special screening of I-Witness documentaries is ongoing until tonight at the UP Film Center in the Diliman campus. This is in line with the fifth anniversary of this GMA 7 public affairs program, which has won numerous awards in the Philippines and in TV festivals abroad.

The other day, I had an interview with I-Witness (and Saksi’s) Vicky Morales. This time, I am talking to Jay Taruc, another one of I-Witness’ formidable reporters. Here’s my interview with him:

Let’s talk about Basurero,
one of your most popular episodes.

is one of my most recent episodes. It tackled the basic problem in urban areas – garbage. We gave Basurero story a human face by telling the stories of different basureros – people who live off garbage. Our first case study was a family who lives in an overpass in Cubao. Magbabatchoy ang tawag sa kanila. They look for food in the trash – usually from fast food restaurants. They ask permission from the guard kung puedeng kalkalin ang basura nila. Pinag-aagawan nila ’yung tira ng mga customers. Unahan sila sa mga buto-buto, tira-tirang isda or vegetables, which they re-cook. But sometimes they eat it on the spot. Nakakasukang isipinbut that’s reality for the mambabatchoy.

The night we covered that segment, there was a dare. They prepared a plateful of leftovers and asked me to eat with them. How can I say no? They were all laughing at me and were waiting for me to eat and it took me some time before I dug in and got a spoonful. Well, I also gave the crew their share.

I also did a bit of role-playing during the production of Basurero. I played the part of the scavenger and I spent two hours in the dumpsite looking for plastic bottles and cans. I earned P7 for a basketful of trash.

What are the problems (and frustrations) you encounter working for a public affairs program like I-Witness? What about logistics? Do you have a problem with that in your station?

Usually lack of time frustrates most of us. You always feel you can do more, improve on a segment. Each I-Witness team is given at least six or seven shooting days per episode. We cram for a shoot kasi kulang talaga sa oras. Ideally, mas maganda kung mas mahaba ’yung process para mas accurate and kumpleto ’yung documentary.

How do you come up with stories for the show? Please cite examples.

Story proposals usually come from our researchers. But the team chooses a topic closest to the host’s heart. Kailangan ’yung istorya na gusto talagang ikuwento ng host para may damdamin ang pagtalakay niya sa issue or topic. My team is known for kalye stories like Taong Grasa (vagrant psychotics), Riot Pulis, Bayaning Hi-Rise (construction workers) or Strip Boys (male strippers).

Does being the son of the great Joe Taruc bring more advantages or disadvantages? Cite the advantages and disadvantages. Where do you get all that courage to bring out into the open all those exposes?

My Dad has been in media for more than three decades. It’s hard to escape from his shadow. Being his son is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. My Dad, from his decades’ worth of experience has shown credibility. True public service through media. All I have to do is continue his legacy. Na-establish na niya ’yung name and I don’t want to be to be the one to destroy it. Mas mataas ang expectations sa akin. Sometimes, I lose my identity. When meeting people, I still get reactions like, "Bata pa pala si Mang Joe sa personal."

What were the local news and public affairs programs you used to watch growing up? Were you always interested in these types of programs?

Where do I get my courage? Sometimes, the source of my courage is my deepest fears. I once did a story about a brutal murder of a 16-year-old student from Zamboanga and this led to the arrest of the principal suspect. Natakot kasi ako nu’n. I feared the suspect might commit the same crime to somebody is dear to me. Hindi kaya ng conscience ko. For as long as you are commited to truth, you will always find courage.

Who were your idols in local broadcasting then? Who are your idols in local broadcasting today?

Sa mga
newscasters, sina Tina Monzon Palma and Harry Gasser. I admire Cheche Lazaro’s objectivity, courage, credibility and yes, staying power.

When Jessica Soho and I won a George Foster’s Peabody award, I couldn’t get over the fact that I now share the prestige with somebody like Jessica. She’s one of the most respected journalist I’ve worked with. I admire Karen Davila’s work ethics and discipline – and the same with Arnold Clavio. Mike Enriquez for his energy. Mel Tiangco for her honesty and credibility. Jun Bautista, Tony Lozano and Jimmy Gil for showing me the true meaning of being a newsman. Marissa Flores, head of GMA News and Public Affairs, is my mentor.

What are your dream stories for I-Witness that you haven’t done yet and would like to do someday?

No particular subject yet, but I dream of producing an I-witness na gagawin talaga for a whole year–a project that will observe the true spirit of documentary. Parang malabo ito, but this is my dream.

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