Call ABS-CBN employee Martina Madrilejo the outdated slang "OP" or "out of place," but growing up, she didn’t have access to the usual, universally popular channels most kids her age tuned in to then. While others had a more Westernized TV, she had, well, ABS-CBN.
“My parents opted not to subscribe to cable television since they thought it might be a distraction from our studies. While others had Hannah Montana, Rugrats, Looney Tunes, and the like, we had Princess Sarah, Cedie, and Judy Abbott to teach us the values we needed to learn,” she tells ABS-CBN Lifestyle.
Marts mentions how these and the Kapamilya network’s hit fantasy shows Dyosa, Kampanerang Kuba, Super Inggo, and 100 Days to Heaven taught her important life lessons she wouldn't have picked up elsewhere. “ABS-CBN has always been a part of our home and our country’s culture. We’re just some of the many Filpinos whose hearts have been touched and values have been shaped through their shows.”
[related: In Focus: How ABS-CBN's Shutdown Represents A 'Chilling Effect']
For the avid Kapamilya viewer, working in the company later was thus a dream come true. The 23-year-old had her internship on ABS-CBN Red Alert in 2016, which later sparked her interest in TV production. She then worked as the same show's researcher in 2018, and worked her way up to become one of the multimedia and segment producers of Kuha Mo under ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs.
“I was able to fulfill my college dream in two years’ time. I still find it surreal how my colleagues put so much trust in me,” Marts says. “I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for their constant guidance and support.”
However, when the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied the franchise application of the media giant last July 11, Marts saw her storytelling ambitions shatter.
“It was painful to hear the numbers. Only 11 congressmen believed in ABS-CBN even though we have always been there to serve our kababayans? There were a lot of questions that were popping in my mind until I realized that I was already crying,” she recalls. “It was too much for me. We are writers—but in that moment, we were at a loss for words.”
The ABS-CBN franchise denial, stresses Marts, “is a denial for the people to get credible information, a denial for Filipino families to be entertained, and a denial of dreams for the younger generation." These days, her fears and constant worries over her career have been keeping her up all night.
“To work in ABS-CBN has always been my dream—and to say that I should just look for another job, is to say that I should just look for another purpose, another passion. It doesn’t work that way,” she highlights.
[related: In Focus: How ABS-CBN's Biggest Rival GMA & Its Artists Decried Franchise Denial]
Marts credits ABS-CBN for shaping her to become the person she is today.
“I wasn’t completely aware of my surroundings back then. I was a kolehiyala who was sheltered by my family. My exposure to struggles was quite minimal,” she shares. “With every story I’ve gathered from different oculars and shoots, I realized how ABS-CBN has instilled its values in me. ABS-CBN has taught me to become resilient, humble, teachable, to excel in everything I do, and to have malasakit for other people.”
Marts could go on and on about the many things she’s grateful to ABS-CBN for. But to put them all in a nutshell, she’s thankful to have witnessed how the word "Kapamilya" is truly evident in the network. While the media industry can be a challenging place to be, she calls herself lucky to have found a family in her own work environment.
“Amidst all the stress, the overwhelming deadlines, the pressure of going through a lot of process before airing, I found my second home,” she says, thanking her bosses and mentors Nico Regino and Jeff Canoy. “Yes, our work is hard, but as cliché as it may sound, it has been so much easier because we’re together. I know I’ll never get the same kind of family in another company. I wish this family could stay forever… please make this family stay forever.”
[related: In Focus: ABS-CBN Newsroom In Emotional Whirlwind Over Franchise Denial]
Marts has a powerful message for those like her greatly affected by the ABS-CBN shutdown.
“In order for a case study to be compelling, he or she must have a bubog in life. To all the employees of ABS-CBN, this is our bubog. The denial of the company’s franchise is our bubog.”
“No matter how many times they try to shut us down, we shouldn’t be silenced, we shouldn’t give up. Have courage. No matter what the challenge is, no matter how painful it is, have courage,” she says. “Someday, we will be back on air again, and it's the story of the employees’ resilience that will be told. Mahigpit na yakap para sa higit na 11,000 na manggagawa ng ABS-CBN, at sa lahat ng mga sumusuporta dito. Hindi tayo pasisiil.”
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Photographs courtesy of the subject