September 6, 2007

Radio Days

Before FM and Cable TV, there was AM Radio. Its cackling sound--coming from the neighbor's transistor--used to herald a new day. Along with the crowing of the cocks would come the reporter's running-out-of-breath voice, telling of the terrors of the night.

But it wasn't the news I was interested in. I got my news from Junior Citizen, from Bulletin Today or from the Daily Express. To the ten-year-old me, radio was proof that there was a world out there--a world of serialized melodramas, of variety shows--the Search for Superwheel Singing Stars, ha ha--of requests and dedications, of celebrities endorsing products--and in Bicol, too.

BetaMax and FM put a damper on AM Radio's entertainment value. Suddenly, Mga Kwento ng Lagim seemed less scary. What I pictured to be hairy tikbalangs and green-eyed monsters were, in fact, prosthetics. What I imagined to be beautiful, if long-suffering Esmeralda, turned out to be Matutina. All the hit songs of the day sounded better on FM--or could it be that the cassette player replaced the turntable, the thing that you had to put a fifty-centavo coin on to stop the needle from skipping?

Almost a year ago, though, I was forced to reconnect with AM. It became, again, the only connection to the post-Milenyo world; a companion that told of the devastation of Legazpi and Bicol and the coming of yet another typhoon.

Despite an absence of over 20 years--broken now and then when the taxi I would ride home in tuned in to Kuya Cesar and Tia Dely--I realized that AM was still, well, AM.

It still crackled, it still had a string of panicky reporters. And commercials still ended the way they did: with two people--probably gossiping over the gumamela bush--hastily saying goodbye to rush to the grocery to buy all the pancit canton in the world. Or to the water district to avail of the free reconnection. Or to the appliance store to splurge the Christmas bonus on the latest videoke machine.

Yes, AM still keeps us connected.

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