The journey continues
For Jing Castañeda, former program director of ABS-CBN’s Bantay Bata 163, the network’s shutdown is not the end but the beginning of more things to be done
The journey continues
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Like all her Kapamilya, Jing Castañeda was “stunned, hurt, frustrated and confused” by the shutdown of the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN, which she considered her “home and comfort zone” these past 21 years.

A program director for the network’s Bantay Bata 163, a pet project of the late Gina Lopez (whose first death anniversary will be commemorated next Wednesday, Aug. 19), Jing hosts Kapamilya Konek on dzMM Teleradyo late Sunday afternoons with Susan Afan, managing director of ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. They discuss family-related topics.

Top: At her booth in dzMM Teleradyo for her Sunday afternoon program Kapamilya Konek and (above) witth the late Gina Lopez who entrusted Jing the program directorship of Bantay Bata 163...

“It’s not the end of the world,” Jing told The STAR. “The journey continues. ABS-CBN will rise again.”

Jing talked about that journey and how she has grown with the network.

Can you compare and contrast your feelings when you joined ABS-CBN 21 years ago (1999) and when the network franchise ended on May 5?

“In 1999, I was in New York City taking up broadcasting at the New York University (NYU) and interning for ABC News. My former professor from Ateneo, Atty. Dong Puno (who was then the senior vice president for ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs), e-mailed me if I was interested to work for ABS-CBN. It was the answered prayer I was looking for on what direction to take. New York was nice, but home was different. It was time to come home, and ABS-CBN made me come home.

“I accepted the change and joined ABS-CBN full of excitement. I was hungry to craft compelling stories that move people to action — from helping others, to protesting corruption. It was a fast-paced life which I enjoyed. But slowly, things began to change. I evolved from a journalist who wanted to tell stories and get people to react to these stories, into an advocate who had seen the problems up-close and who would like to empower others in working together on possible solutions. In 1999, I lived in an ideal world, but I’d like to believe that 21 years later, I’ve grown up; I’ve become more realistic.”

And treating residents of Children’s Village as her own when she managed it for six years.

How did the ABS-CBN shutdown hit you?

“ABS-CBN has been our home, our comfort zone. Most of us were naturally stunned, hurt, frustrated, confused and scared to leave our home given so many uncertainties. But after reflecting on this phase in our lives, I feel a renewed sense of trust in the Lord, in our company, and in our individual capacity to rise like a phoenix from the ashes. As Gina Lopez, my boss in Bantay Bata, had said, ‘Always choose love and forgiveness over hatred and vengeance.’

“The non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise ignited the fire in me and made it stronger. I felt inspired when I joined the network in 1999, and I feel even more inspired and determined now to continue the ABS-CBN brand of public service. Sabi ng philosophy professor namin noon na si Fr. Roque Ferriols, ‘Kapag nasabi na ang lahat ng masasabi, ang pinakamahalaga ay hindi pa rin masasabi’.”

How was your Kapamilya journey between 1999 and 2020?

“I’ve always believed that the pandemic — and even the non-renewal of the franchise — gave us the opportunity to reflect, reassess and pray about how the Lord is using these crises to speak to us. As I look back and realize that I’ve spent half of my life in ABS-CBN, I’m amazed at how truly blessed I am to have been a Kapamilya. I felt grateful then, and I still feel grateful now, 21 years later, for having been given the golden opportunity of working with such inspiring bosses and committed Kapamilyas.

“As head of Bantay Bata 163, I realized that it’s the field I wanted to specialize in, and the advocacies I wanted to fight for. After covering almost all the news beats, I found that the most fulfilling for me was covering issues like health, education, children and their families, mga isyu na malapit sa sikmura — mga simpleng impormasyon at istorya pero malaki ang impact sa maliliit na tao. Hosting health and education shows on Teleradyo made me realize the importance of arming parents, especially mothers, with accurate information to empower them in making the right decisions for their families.”

You also anchored Balitang Middle East on The Filipino Channel (TFC).

“That prompted me to continue on my Facebook page my conversations with our OFWs and their families, linking them to the proper channels to address their problems. Hosting the longest-running health show, Salamat Dok, and being part of its weekly medical mission led to my passion of being able to help our kababayans with their health needs. As a child and family advocate, being the former program director of Bantay Bata 163, brought me closer to my dream of having more sectors embrace the cause of neglected, abandoned and abused children.”

What are the most valuable things/lessons that you learned from those years?

“My years in ABS-CBN taught me many things — resilience, work ethics, excellence, good camaraderie, patience, persistence, humility — but most of all, gratitude.

“As the former program director of Bantay Bata 163, there were long waits when you humbly convinced donors and partners to collaborate on child welfare programs, and long talks when you wait for troubled children and stressed social workers to confide in you. The trust the children and their families have put in our Bantay Bata family, opening up their hearts and their lives to us, is something I will forever cherish.”

How long have you been with Bantay Bata?

“Four years. From out of nowhere, there was this invitation personally extended by Gina and Susan Afan (ABS-CBN Foundation’s managing director). God is full of surprises, and I suddenly found myself standing before crossroads. In deciding whether to stay my course or veer from it, I realized something that Gina, in all her unconventional wisdom, must have known all along. That though the roads before me appeared to diverge, they both led towards a single destination: Public service. After prayerful discernment, I accepted the offer to continue the good work begun by Gina, Tina Monzon-Palma, and the other giants of Bantay Bata 163.

“Children’s stories of triumph and victory, the ones that go beyond pain and hardship, have inspired both hope and action in my time as program director. When you visit our Children’s Village, each child has a story to tell. Some went under our wing without really making eye contact or refusing to make friends. But through our services that aim to provide holistic healing to these kids, they’re often the most playful now. The ones that tug on your shirt and would repeatedly call you, ‘Tita! Tita!’.

“Last month on my birthday, the team surprised me with a virtual birthday celebration. The kids from the Children’s Village were also there, greeting me via Zoom. It warms my heart to see these kids interacting with each other and living up to their full potential (of being young kids). They sang me happy birthday and repeatedly asked me when I would go and visit them.”

What do you think lies ahead?

“Like an eagle’s painful rebirth, ABS-CBN will definitely rise again. It’s just a matter of time. ABS-CBN will rise as it did then, and will emerge stronger than before. But for now, kahit maghiwa-hiwalay muna kami, we will bring with each one of us what it means to be a Kapamilya — the values of excellence, service, faith and love — saan man kami makarating.

“I want to be a content creator with a heart. I want to explore the digital platform and craft unique shows and inspiring concepts that have a heart and passion for making a difference. Through my own social media platforms, I would like to continue giving accurate news and information that will strengthen and empower Filipino families — the Kapamilya way.”

Ten years from now when you look back, what would you remember most about ABS-CBN?

“I will always remember how it lived and breathed to be in the service of the Filipino. It is not just a slogan, it is a way of life. In the end, it is the heart — the difference that we will make, the love that we will give others — that will also give the most relevance and meaning in our lives.

“This is what ABS-CBN and Bantay Bata have taught me — to show all of us what can be done if done with love, if done for love.

“I will always remember ABS-CBN — the network, the foundation — as family, as home. I’ve always repeated to myself the words of Gabby Lopez, who said in one of our events several years ago, ‘When all else is gone, we will still be here in the service of the Filipino.’ We work as hard as we do because we believe... that when you feel guilty about all the hours that you spent in the office, away from your loved ones, remember this one small consolation. You’re not selling bottled water or liquor. You’re selling hope to millions of Filipinos. It is not just a job, it is a mission. So one day, when you look back — when you retire as we all will — you can proudly say to your son or to your grandchildren, ‘I am, and always will be, a part of this wonderful company, ABS-CBN Kapamilya.’

“To end, I want to quote a prayer by John Cardinal Dearden, Archbishop of Detroit, ‘We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete...We are prophets of a future not our own’.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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