Kabayan's back

Posted at 11/09/2010 2:05 PM | Updated as of 11/09/2010 2:27 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - There was the familiar voice - which won fans ahead of the face and a storied broadcast career. "Magandang gabi, bayan" Noli de Castro bid his trademark farewell at the end of the "new" TV Patrol.

"Kabayan" Noli said goodbye to the Philippine broadcast world once before, after being drawn to the world of national politics.

We are familiar with his humble roots because he would occasionally intersperse the morning story conferences at ABS-CBN's dzMM conference room with childhood tales from where the sea met the rice fields in Pola, Mindoro Oriental.

He told us about his beginnings in radio, hanging around the studio, trying mightily to be useful by running errands or making coffee for the station's bosses. He would later apprentice with broadcast icon Johnny de Leon.

Such were the rites of passage for journalists of that era. They didn't only have to prove they knew the job - more importantly, they had to prove just how badly they wanted the job.

He earned the "Kabayan" because the "masa" identified with him. Through the years, they also learned to trust him.

Of all the journalist's attributes, trust is perhaps the most difficult to win and also the easiest to lose.

For many, hearing him bid the audience "Magandang gabi, bayan" is like telling them that they've seen all they need to see; they now knew everything they needed to know; the day is almost finished and there was a new day coming.

That became the trademark sign off for TV Patrol, a pioneering newscast known for hard-hitting news, popular advocacies and public service. It defined perhaps more than any other show, the public image of ABS-CBN after it was resurrected by the 1986 People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

Sign offs are simple one-liners that usually convey a belief or virtue.

It can be as simple as John McLaughlin's "bye bye".

Or something as iconic as Walter Cronkite signature, definitive sign-off "And that's the way it is".

Those words perhaps carried no greater weight the evening he told the world about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

"Good night and good luck," Edward R. Murrow would always end his broadcasts.

They speak about the power of words, and the people who speak those words.

We expect "Kabayan" to pick up where he left off, as he leads a news program that we understand, is being pitted against a game show in a rising broadcast station.

We never did understand the game of programming and counter-programming that purported broadcast gurus play against each other, but we've always believed that no reality show can trump the real-life drama of people in the news.

"Magandang gabi, bayan" is more than an "extro". It is associated with "Kabayan" Noli de Castro and possibly offer a foil against the temptation to tailor down news programs, to make them "softer" to compete with a new rival. After all, "Magandang gabi, bayan" also tells of a virtue.