ENQUIRER INTERVIEW "PULSO' ANCHOR CES DRILON
Manila, May 7, 2000 - This is from the Philippine Daily Enquirer. When the Lifestyle staff sat down with TV personality Ces Drilon several weeks ago, she had just started anchoring "Pulso," the nightly newscast of ABS-CBN, in place of Korina Sanchez who had gone on leave for several weeks prior to leaving the show. Korina herself had announced that Ces was getting the anchor position on a permanent basis so people were already congratulating her. During the interview, Ces downplayed the report saying nothing was definite though we could sense that she wanted the anchor's job.
This was every field reporter's dream, after all, since the position carried with it greater visibility and prestige and of course bigger pay.
Ces told us the decision would be made by top management, most especially the SVP for News, a position that was still vacant at that time because Dong Puno had accepted Malacanang's offer to serve as Press Secretary. She did acknowledge that the closest contender for the job was Ghel Santos-Relos, a Radyo Patrol reporter and former co-host of an ABS-CBN cultural show with Jim Paredes.
As it turns out, recent events have overtaken that session with Ces because recently we learned that "Pulso's anchor slot had gone to Relos and the position of SVP had gone to "World Tonight" anchor Angelo Castro. Ces will continue to host the newsmagazine, "Pipol" every Tuesday on ABS-CBN and "Business Nightly" on the ABS-CBN News Channel.
On top of these on-camera assignments, Ces will be named director of a new Business Group that will handle the economic reportage of ABS-CBN, Studio 23 and the News Channel. She will report directly to the SVP. As such, she will be able to develop new projects designed to improve the business coverage of the ABS-CBN conglomerate.
The new job only strengthens Ces position as one of the few broadcast journalists with expertise in business. Since she joined ABS-CBN, Ces has created a niche for herself as THE business reporter. She started out as a news reporter for Channel 4 during the waning days of the Marcos dictatorship in 1985. She remembers her stories were oftentimes edited so they sounded more positive.
Four months into her job, she got married to sculptor Rock Drilon. She admits they were both on the rebound when they tied the knot 14 years ago. His girlfriend had left for the US and she was heartbroken. Their union resulted in four boys. The eldest is 13 years old while the youngest is six.
Her biggest scoop at PTV-4 was her coverage of Gringo Honasan's arrest during his days as a rebel. That was her first on-camera exposure and it attracted the attention of ABS-CBN News. Eventually she moved to the Lopez network, where she found herself covering economic news. Because of her extensive experience in economic reporting, ABS-CBN gave her a weekly show called "Usapang Business" which she co-hosted with David Celdran. Despite its high ratings, it was scrapped because the show didn't get advertising support. When the network developed a new magazine program that concentrated on personality profiles, they turned to Ces to host the show. Her business stories were transferred to the ABS-CBN News Network on cable where she did nightly reports.
During our session with Ces, we grilled her on what went on behind the scenes at ABS-CBN News but she was the loyal trouper, not revealing what would create a negative impression of her home network. We did manage to elicit from her just how competitive the situation was at her studio and the power play that sometimes tended to distract from their main job of news coverage.
We started by asking about the departure of Dong Puno.
They say a lot of people in the newsroom are relieved now that Dong is leaving. Are you?
No, I'm not relieved. I feel a little sorry for him. (laughter)
Because he's going to move into such a difficult... Of course, you can never be sorry for Dong because he can fight his own battles, but it's a tough job.
So what prompted him to go there, from one snake pit to another snake pit? (laughter)
Kaya nga di ba sagot niya sa akin kagabi, I interviewed him in "Pulso," "Alam nyo naman ako, kayang-kaya ko yung mga yan..." It was his farewell newscast in a way, he sat as a guest. Sabi ko nga, "We were a little soft on him yata."
You're concerned about him in what way?
What a time to join the President, although they say it's good because the President will value you more when you're with him, parang ang dami-dami niyang kaibigan pag good times, di ba? Eh ngayon medyo mabibilang na lang siguro.
Pero you don't see people in the newsroom jumping for joy? (laughter)
Of course, they don't show it, if they do, they do it naman siguro behind closed doors. (laughter). I told him "People will think that you're backing out from your fight here in ABS-CBN, I think that's no secret naman that there's... if it's a power-struggle or if he makes decisions that are not popular or hard..." But sabi nya, "No, on the contrary, it just so happens..."
How's your relationship with Korina? People are saying that you're at odds with each other?
Really? No, she's my kumare nga e?
But kumares do fight. (laughter)
Yeah, but I can't say na we're really close, but we get along. We have lunch once in awhile, she's invited me a couple of times to her house... But I guess in the newsroom it's really difficult to have a best friend, a really, really close friend.
Why is that?
Especially among talents, we're competitors eh.
Even if you work for the same network?
They pit you against each other even if you don't really intend to, you go after the same story, after the same people in the same network, shows compete among each other.
Do you think that's healthy?
In a way it is healthy kasi you compete, I mean, you foster competition, but it's also unhealthy because you always have to watch your back, parang Rod Reyes, parang Malacañang din. (laughs) But, ganon eh. And I don't think it's not only because it's an ABS-CBN newsroom, I think in any workplace naman di ba?
But they pit you against each other.
I think there was a time before we had a quarrel. It was because of something I was supposed to have said that I didn't say, and... ganon eh.
How did you patch things up?
She realized that I didn't say such a thing. I said she was palengkera daw supposedly (laughter) which I never said. Syempre we were friends and I can tell her, let's say, if I have some criticisms or some... constructive criticism naman. I think it stems from the time she was suspended from "Hoy Gising!" and I watched the show and I said I think it was a little bit too much and yun nga nag-usap na kami...And then dumating sa kanya na sinabi kong palengkera sya and syempre magagalit sya. She didn't check with me and then she realized later it was a misunderstanding.
You said it's hard to have friends in the network because everybody's your competitor, does it mean you don't have people whom you do things with, you talk about family with, share lipstick with?
We don't have time eh, [but] I have my staff in "Pipol."
Not with talents?
We do, you know, when Korina started doing "Pulso," we'd meet more often because late night and I do "Business Nightly" at 10, then I cross over to ABS-CBN to do other things for "Pipol" and we'd chat in the makeup room, so I don't know why there's intrigue.
[You talk] about makeup?
Mga ganun--damit, makeup, love, whatever, things girls talk about, but if I have, let's say, a big problem, there's no one in ABS-CBN that I'll run to first, ganun siguro, yung hindi mo unang tatakbuhan pag may problema ka.
But outside of the business?
Ay oo, I have friends from way back in college pa that I see often.
Is crab mentality very strong in ABS-CBN?
Hindi rin naman. It's like in any newsroom, di ba? Wala ka nang ginawang tama, wala ba nun dito sa INQUIRER?
Not that much in other networks?
Actually, I saw Mel in Gawad CCP, sabi niya it's so peaceful in GMA. (laughs)
Or yun yung edge eh, nandoon yung edge, and I think management likes it din in a way parang, you know yung taguan ng tapes dyan, minsan ang hirap manghiram. (laughter)
Taguan ng tapes? You mean sariling library ang hirap manghiram?
Naglalangis din kayo sa mga librarian?
Oo. Pero it's probably why ABS-CBN is on top, di ba? Because you compete among yourselves, even the ratings, pag nakita yung ratings at ikaw yung pinakamababa kawawa ka sa meeting.
But isn't that bad for broadcast journalism? You care more about the ratings than reporting the news accurately, etc?
Yeah, in a way it's bad. Of course it's bad if it is the primary focus.
At ABS-CBN, aren't the ratings the most important thing?
Well, I guess bottomline yon, but I guess nasa sa iyo na yun if that's what you're going to aim for as a journalist, you can have your own stand. There are people who say, "Why are you doing that? Di naman magre-rate yan." "Why? He's an interesting person." When we came up with "Pipol," the concept and everything, hindi naman ratings yung nagda-drive sa akin but it's a check na rin kasi you want substance, you want to go after the story but you have to be balanced. So we have a celebrity para merong rating but the other two stories ibigay mo na yung lahat, you really pursue a story that you really want to do.
How's "Pipol" doing now?
It's rating very well, the commercial load makes Gabby (Lopez) smile. In our planning meeting, we were just supposed to come up with alternative concept or format for a new show in case maka-cancel ang "Usapang Business." It was rating respectably but the load was bad, hindi kami sinusuportahan ng advertising. I really don't know why. I left my staff to meet by themselves and decide what they wanted to do kasi you can defend your show or opt to change it, sabi ko let's just say goodbye because it's so hard to operate and work if they are not really happy with what we're doing.
How do you fare against Che-Che's (Lazaro) show?
We're rating higher, but Che-Che, institution na yan eh, and the fact that you can continue airing... 10 years na ba sya or more siguro, that's something, and she has a steady audience.
What was the coverage that you are most proud of?
I think when Joe Pring was assassinated because I was able to report on radio right away, which is why all the TV stations were there and kami kinuha yung camera namin, I think I'm proud of it because I was able to keep my wits. I was able to report right on dzMM, Jay Sonza and Mel (Tiangco) were on board then, despite na na-threaten yung life ko... it's really hard to maintain your composure, nakatutok na yung baril doon sa cameraman ko and I was flat on the floor.
That was the first thing that came into your mind, to report about it?
Yeah, I was so nervous. Pinapatay sa kin yung radio kasi nabuko na naka-on. What I did, I saw everything na even before they shot Pring. Of course I didn't know... I thought there was a fight or something. I saw people with guns and I told my cameraman, "Bumaba ka, i- shoot mo" and I reported it through radio...
Nakita ng hitman yung radio?
Hindi, e di putukan na, ako talagang dumapa, yung cameraman di ko na alam kung anong nangyari, he was shooting. Kinuha yung camera.
Buti yung radio mo di nakita.
Yung nakadikit sa kotse, in-on ko, while I was on the floor and he was saying "Akin na yung tape, ibigay mo yung tape," naka-press yun. I was pressing on it hoping that they would hear, but of course, there's just the noise because I was on the floor and siguro in my nervousness I let it go. Very frantic, "Yung radio patayin mo na, patayin mo na, ibigay mo na." I got up, the gun went off. (laughs) Oh my God! I won't even see what hit me. Then I stood up kasi nabuking na nga niya na I was there so I said "Parang awa mo na, huwag mo syang barilin" or something." "Ibigay mo nang lahat yan." And as soon as they fled, I said, "I-on mo na yung radio and i-report na natin yan sa dzMM. I felt so bad because our camera came after (Channel) 7, 9, lahat na nandyan. Yung pina-pump si Maj. Pring and they were trying to revive him and when I looked at him in the car, iniisip ko na sana camera yung mata ko.
Don't you miss that kind of excitement?
Yeah, I do.
Would you prefer being on the field?
If they would pay me better. (laughter) You know it's so bad that reporters are paid so much less than an achor, maling-mali, maling-mali yon eh.
Bakit nga ba ganon?
Actually, there have been attempts to narrow the gap, hindi kagaya sa foreign networks, if you're a correspondent in Moscow, OK ka. Here every reporter aims to be an anchor, , because of the pay. that's why nandyan na yung crab mentality na sinasabi nyo kasi pag may baguhan na pinaupo tapos ang feeling noong senior mas may karapatan sya, kasi ang gusto mo on-air talent ka talaga.
How does a mother of four deal with the hectic schedule of a broadcast journalist?
I guess I've sacrificed, you know. My kids don't get enough of me, they're closer to their father.
Do you feel guilty?
No, I learned that a long time ago. Sabi ko yung guilt na yan useless feeling, ba't pa ako magwa-wallow dyan. For instance, all my four kids I always make sure na nagpa-pump ako ng milk, kahit saan ako nandoon, meron akong ice box, yung ganon, you try to compensate na lang.
So you never stop [working]?
Oo, mawawala lang ako ng two months, but up to full term I cover, madadali lang naman kasi ang pregnancies ko, walang morning sickness...
If you had known that you would be one of the major players in broadcast journalism, would you have decided not to get married?
I think I got married early.
Twenty-three, impulsive ako eh. But looking back now, I have no regrets, it turned out na buti na lang. We worked hard at our marriage eh.
Pang-ilan bang boyfriend mo sya?
I had only naman three serious, Rock was the third. On the rebound si Rock. (laughs) Ako din naman on the rebound, pareho kami. (laughs) His girlfriend left for the States and ako naman I was really heartbroken. The first year was so difficult kasi the ABS-CBN staff was very lean so if you're covering the Senate, you cover it until the sessions ends. Now, may shifts ang mga reporters. Sabi ko nga, you're so lucky because if you need to leave the Senate, you leave and somebody will take over.
One of the dangers of being a journalist is, you become jaded after a while kasi you see all kinds of things. Do you see that happening to you?
Noon... when you feel that it's happening, you try to shut it off. I think I felt it noon when I was really out in the field like noong kino-cover yung Pinatubo, parang lahat naman sila refugees, parang wala ka nang sympathy and I felt so bad.
Like when you bumped into that Pring story, the first thought was "I'm a newsman, I have to report this," instead of "Uy, may nabaril!" An ordinary person would say, "Uy, may nabaril!"
Dream naman ng lahat ng reporter to stumble on something like that and I've been lucky, marami nang beses. And I think kasi masipag ako, ang aga kong umalis non. May breakfast forum, ako ang pinakamaagang aalis, otherwise, iba na rin yung nakakuha non, and yung kay Gringo naman late na kong umuwi. My crew didn't want to go. Sabi nila, "Ay kuryente yan!" Sabi ko scoop tayo pag ano... it was already 9, late na, we were tired. I was blessed with those things. (laughs) Yun yun eh, di ba? Being at the right place at the right time.
If you were married to another guy, do you think you would be as successful?
No. I wouldn't have been able to pursue my career...
Is your husband loyal to you?
He's an artist, he works at home. Nata-typecast naman siyang house husband. (laughter).
Doesn't he get jealous?
Si Rock? My God! He's so secure.
You're not selosa?
Ako, hindi kasi ako nagpapakita.
When do you get jealous, when you see him flirting with other women?
Well, that can be irritating. I just let... syempre kasama naman yun. You know what, one thing that I find in a way, somehow strange, he'd always want me to meet his girlfriends. (laughter) Parang "You'll be friends, when she comes to town, we'll go out to dinner."
Yeah... (laughs) One time in New York pa ha? Nag-exhibit sya doon and I was pregnant, I felt so ugly. (laughs) You feel ugly di ba? That was my second child. Then yung former girlfriend naka-boots, naka-leotards, whatever getup, na ang ganda-ganda nya, (laughs) na New Yorker pa so talagang feeling ko (laughter)... and I was in a maternity dress, pero syempre no, ba't ko naman ipapakita. And Rock never even found out na I felt so bothered.
You should counter by inviting a former boyfriend.
Well I did, and then later he said "I think this is not a good idea. (laughter)
Do you two still have time to really get intimate with your daily schedule?
Yeah, in the bedroom (laughs)
If Marge were here, she would have asked "How's your sex life?"
It's good. (laughter) Rock would... well, I don't know if he's happy. (laughter) I mean, ay naku this is so personal but I guess there was a time in our marriage na I equated kasi sex with pregnancy so parang sunod-sunod, parang for awhile... Eh di ba artist pa naman, I don't know... but the sexual energy is something that... and my energy talaga is buhos sa trabaho eh and parang "Pregnant, I don't wanna get pregnant," yung ganon. Eh lagi akong tinutukso na "Buntis ka na naman, ano ba yan!" to the point I gave away my maternity clothes, as if it would stop (laughs) then I have to make bawi 'coz I got pregnant again (laughs)
Rock is a very loving husband?
He's very sexual, syempre...
His sexual energy is high.
Yeah, I think there was a point in time when his paintings were very erotic.
So there was a time you equated intimate relationship with pregnancy, so parang huwag muna?
Yeah, parang ganon na nga (laughter) Pero you know it's amazing, I'm sure married couples have this problem, too, they're not just being honest. (laughter)
So kailan natapos yung phase mong yun?
Tapos na. (laughter)
Now you have a healthy sex life.
Rock would want a healthier... (laughter)
Men always want a healthier sex life.
Kasi I don't use artificial contraceptives.
If you're afraid of getting pregnant, why don't you use contraceptives?
Well, I smoke so I don't want to take a pill because it doubles the risk eh. I'd rather smoke than take the pill (laughs) How bad no?
You have a joint account?
He has his own, I have my own. But we have a joint checking.
May prenup ba yun?
Wala (laughs) Diyos ko! Ano ba naman ang ipi-prenup namin. (laughter) When we got married we didn't even have a car, we really started from scratch.
Who earns more? Both are working...
We never really... (laughs), it's not an issue, it used to be an issue but we've settled it.
Who makes major financial decisions?
We discuss things, but Rock is bolder. (laughter) He's bolder in making financial decisions like purchasing things we aspire for, its for the family naman, not his...
Where do you invest your money?
We really want to buy a lot that we canbuild our dream house on but we haven't acquired one yet. We're paying for three condo units, we're thinking para tig-iisa yung mga anak namin, 'coz we live far eh, so tig-iisa, so isa pa pero parang heavy. (The one we have now), we own it. I inherited it from my parents, my dad built it way back, it's a 20-year-old house.
What is it that you still want to be?
Lately, I was a judge kasi sa CCP, Annual Film Documentary Contest and I thought, in ABS-CBN kasi walang documentary mentality, every week we have to churn out stories, there's no time really to sit down, take your time on a really worthwhile project because of the deadlines. The contest opened my eyes because when I was previewing the finalists, ang daming stories na sometimes [tungkol sa]community lang nila, and ang ganda-ganda ng approach. I want to help develop on Channel 21 first, maybe support independent filmmakers. I really don't know how to go about it [but] I brought it up na with management na we'll air first the winners of the contest on Channel 21, 'coz we have all the airtime anyway. What I want to do which I haven't proposed yet is to develop an arm that will somehow support young or independent documentary makers, without being part of the ABS-CBN system.
Among the personalities yo've covered, who do you find most interesting?
Sister Christine Tan, recently lang, in a way I was a bit... 'coz she's known also as... she can be masungit di ba? But she opened up naman and it was a good interview. Her brother nga was saying na siya he can just write a check and that's his way of helping, pero siya she really lived with them, she lived among the poor.
Have you ever interviewed the President? What were your impressions?
(Long pause) (laughter) Very charming, he can charm you, pero kapag business talaga... kasi when I interviewed him it was for "Usapang Business" and he was jumbling some terms. You know what he meant but he didn't say it in the right way. Aminado naman sya na hindi siya economist... kasi di ba business has its own jargon. He kind of jumbled it up but you know what he meant, he just said it differently.
Anong policy ng News Department in terms of covering the Lopez companies?
I think Geny (Lopez) said it before, you can run critical stories but make sure you get their side. I think they'll appreciate it if you tell them that there is this story and we're airing it tonight...
Were you able to handle Lopez stories before that was negative?
It happened naman, many times.
And what did you do with that story?
We write it pero minsan may restraint yung editors, they clear it first, but I guess they're just being prudent naman. It's not because you want to cut it or not air it at all. You just want them to be informed.
So there was no story that you wanted to run but the Lopezes said don't run it?
I can't recall... This is what they do, kunwari may issue yung MWSS, they made us go to a briefing in Maynilad to give their side. And remenber when you bannered that Behest loan... pwede naman naming i-grill yung mga executives dyan eh, they just want everybody to be informed of their side. Wala namang requirement na "You write this..." I guess we're also frontline when people ask kasi as journalist also...
How do you evaluate your performance as a newscaster? What do you think are your strengths and your weaknesses?
Well in business I think, in the industry, in the broadcast at least, I think it's very difficult to find someone who can do what I do because I've covered the business beat for seven years.
Who are your idols?
(CNN correspondent) Christian Amanpour. I like (Washington Post owner) Katharine Graham.
Do you have any ambitions of being involved in news management?
Actually, I would like to. I recently asked permission to join the in-house management course, more really to help me in business and editorial judgement but I thought I could hit two birds with one stone, I could also benefit from the training... kasi one thing I realized when the "World Tonight" was axed and then when we let "Usapan" go, I thought the "World Tonight" would go on forever. I mean, news doesn't go out of fashion, but it's the format that does so parang show biz. Sabi ko nay, parang walang security in a way. May 7, 2000
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