Friday, November 7, 2014

Under the Sea.
By: Adrian Herico, student-producer
Episode aired last October 15, 2014
Guest: Gregg Yan, Communications and Media Manager, WWF Philippines

This episode was something that was almost wasn’t supposed to be but I’m very thankful that it was, because not only was it education in practice-the practical part of a broadcast journalism class with script writing and being in a studio-it was also an opportunity to, as far as our discussions and imagination goes, to dive into the world of marine life. Coral reefs that is. It was a production marked by challenges, but there is that satisfying and uplifting feeling you get once all the effort by everyone involved comes into fruition in the form of the show running like clockwork. And then you realize that a few days back it was all just words floating on your computer screen with nothing but the vision of how the program runs as your guide.

A few days before the airing of the episode, I was called by Prof. Rara that our guest, Mr. Gregg Yan, might not be able to make it to the show as he would be coming from Iloilo and that his flight has been cancelled due to bad weather. Coupled with my misunderstanding (mea culpa) of how the pre-production is going to be done, I was more than anxious of writing the script of the whole program along with considerations on how will I produce it since although I’ve taken a radio broadcasting class before, it was years ago so I was a bit intrigued and challenged at the prospect of doing a real, live radio episode that’s going to be broadcasted on air and in the web. Plan B didn’t sound enticing either with the catch that I and Prof. Rara would talk about a given topic for an hour if I don’t manage to snag a guest. I hoped for the best.

Then Gregg Yan came at around 12:30 P.M. before the program, which I immediately recognized since I’ve done a background profiling of sorts seeing his works and pictures on the internet. We spent the remaining minutes leading to the program talking about interests and school background, which I found rather easing as he and I were somehow acquainted with each other before the program began. Come program time and for the first part of it, I tried to recall everything I’ve been taught at my previous broadcasting class and composed myself to be as natural as if we were just having a conversation.

Gregg, for the second half of the show just exploded (or unraveled, for a better term) his knowledge of coral reefs and the marine life within them that for the moment being, I felt that I was back in snorkeling the azure waters of Boracay and Puerto Galera, fish teeming around and all sorts of shapes and sizes of marine animals swam to and fro in the myriad of shapes of the coral reefs. He knew the topic first hand since he has hands-on (no pun intended) experience on the research and conservations efforts regarding such marine formations, being a scuba diver amongst his other activities that takes him to the mountains or the jungle.

Did you know that coral reefs are not actually stones or rocks, but the remains of coral polyps who build up calcium carbonate skeletons when they die, and the living coral builds on top of them? Or that they come in an assortment of colors depending on the protein they eat from the plant organism that live inside them? Also, they need very specific conditions in order to survive, such as the right water temperature and ocean acidity, or the presence of water turbulence and a relatively nutrient devoid environment in order for them to thrive. That makes corals the pickiest animal in terms of habitat due to these many conditions, but the diversity of life within them makes up for their relatively small presence on the ocean.

Overall, it was an enriching experience, and by the closing minutes of the program I felt that I could have gone for hours talking about the almost endless facts and issues surrounding the coral reefs. Coral reefs are more than just stony edifices that serve as the habitat for fish and other marine life, they’re living creatures that needs the utmost care in which they would not only affect the sea but people in general, due to the boon to fish stocks and tourism they provide, which garners millions, if not billions, of pesos in total worth. And for the Philippines, being an archipelago and a part of the coral triangle, they are an invaluable asset that is just too costly to lose.

Episode transcription:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Illusive smiles: The real story behind the dolphins of Ocean Park Adventure

Student Producer/ Co-host: Arra B. Francia
Episode: October 8, 2014
Guest: Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director, Earth Island Institute

Dolphins have this strange feature that makes them look like they’re smiling all the time. Miss Trixie Concepcion, regional director of Earth Island Institute Philippines explained this to Ma’am Khrysta and I during last week’s episode of Kwentuhang Pets at iba pa. Muscles in their mouth actually stretch till the sides of their chin, to help dolphins produce sounds to communicate with each other. So no matter what state you see them in, they’d always look up with a perpetual smile on their face.

Tonka was a dolphin. He was born in the wild about 18 years ago. He was meant to swim the oceans and explore the waters with his pod --- carefree and without boundaries. But with a terrible twist of fate that happened a decade ago, he was taken from his home and locked up inside an aquarium, only to entertain humans who amused themselves with animal shows. And as if being taken away from your family and used by other species for fun wasn’t enough, pause right there. It gets worse.

On September 17, Tonka, the last of six false-killer whales in Ocean Park- Subic was declared dead because of an alleged intestinal problem.

Tonka’s case reflects one of the many cases of the terrors behind animal captivity. Since its establishment in 2001, Ocean Park has already witnessed the death of six of its false killer whales, four bottle-nosed dolphins and one sea lion.

An administrative order issued to the Department of Agriculture in 1992 bans the “taking or catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting and exporting of dolphins” in the country. The animal facility, however, justifies its possession of these marine animals by exporting them from the annual Japanese drive hunt. In 2007, a total of 1, 623 dolphins were caught for human consumption and for resale to animal facilities like Ocean Park. You could hear the indignation of Miss Trixie’s voice while relating this to the listeners of the radio show. Not only do humans once again assert their power as the higher species, but they also exploit the weakness of animals in such drive hunts.

Being usually nonchalant about matters like this, I felt like my eyes were seeing these animals for the first time. I always say that I love animals. My family actually owns two dogs and seven cats right now. But the love I felt was reserved for my pets alone. While doing for the radio show, I was finding out more about the animal kingdom than I ever did in my life. It is hard not to get enraged when you read the news about rabbits being skinned, monkeys pierced in their eyes with high heels and dolphins being taken out of the wild for animal shows.  Though I know I won’t be a vegan or an animal activist after the show, my compassion for these animals has taken on a different level.

Now all I can imagine is how Tonka was still smiling at the last moments of his life. It’s a cruel trick played by nature, mastered all the more by the brutality of some people. If Tonka was able to show what he really felt, I’m sure it would have been the face of absolute terror and misery, not gladness.

From left to right: Student producer Arra, Ma'am Khrysta and guest Trixie Concepcion in the DZUP studio discussing the issues on animal captivity.

We pose for a group photo after the episode.

***In case you missed this episode, click here for the transcript to know exactly what we discussed and here for the audio recording.
Happy listening!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dog training with love: force-free dog training with Coach Francis Cleofas

Producer/Co-host:  Corina Ivy Cabotage
Episode: October 1, 2014
Guest: Francis Cleofas, Cleofas Dog Training Center

Last October 1, I had the chance to talk to Dog Coach Francis Cleofas, a renowned dog trainer and one of the country’s dog behaviour consultants, about force-free dog training.

Force-free dog training is a type of training where the owner is taught about his dog's psychology, therefore, maintaining a harmonious relationship between the owner and his dog. What is interesting about this type of dog training is there are no harmful devices and methods used, only a clicker, a small device with a button, which is pressed to associate the dog with the clicking sound. The clicking sound serves as a ‘trigger’ in the dog, which is the cue the dog follows. By far, the clicker method is the most efficient and harmless way of dog discipline.

According to Coach Francis, there are several dog training theories, but he only had time to discuss two. The dominance theory, which is also called the traditional way of dog training, believes in the dominance of the trainer over his dog. The theory was formed by scientists studying a certain pack of wolves, and they found out about the prominence of an ‘alpha’ wolf in every group. The alpha wolf acts as the leader of the pack, and every member follows him. In the dominance theory, the trainer or the owner acts as ‘alpha,’ and the dog must follow.

The dominance theory is where the abuse comes in. If the dog fails to follow the trainer, it gets verbal and physical punishment. The dog may be given a tight or a spiked collar as punishment. This is traditional, and almost no dog trainers use it anymore.

The other theory, also the most current and the safest type, is the force-free training or the ‘positive reinforcement theory.’ This theory doesn’t use any type of abuse and uses operand conditioning, wherein there is a reward for every positive or ‘good’ response from the dog.

Coach Francis reiterated two (2) types of reward punishment in dog training: the positive punishment, or ‘plus punishment,’ where the dog is given food, toys, or attention whenever the dog successfully complies to every command his owner or trainer gives, and the negative punishment, where the dog is deprived of food and attention – but only for a short time.

Apart from reward punishments, there are also motivations a dog needs – food, play, our care and praise, “life reward” – that keep him going. “Life reward” means that the dog can accompany you everywhere, because he follows every order. “You always and only reward good behaviours,” Coach Francis emphasized.

Voice modulation is also important in dog training. Since the dogs’ hearing is very sensitive, voice tone is modulated. Every change in voice pitch affects the dog’s actions, since every tone has a different meaning in the dog’s psyche.

By the end of the program, Coach Francis showed dog tricks his dogs can perform. One is the ‘sitting pretty,’ wherein the dog sits on her hind legs and waits for the cue from the trainer before doing certain acts. It was amazing how the dogs performed in sync with their owner.

I learned so much about dog training and about dogs in general. I encourage every dog owner out there to discipline their dogs through force-free dog training, since it is harmless, and it keeps both the owner and the dog happy.

This is my first time co-hosting and producing for radio, and it felt good. Coach Francis was a very good and informed talker, which is a good thing. I also liked the part when they brought Sophie and Serena inside the studio and showed how tricks are done. The experience was eye-opening, and it made me want to write about and fight for animal rights and welfare when I become a journalist in the future.

Dog Coach Francis with Sophie (black Labrador) and Serena (golden retriever):

Inside the radio studio, with me at the center:

Prof. Khrysta Rara with Sophie and Serena:

Sophie and Serena putting their pawprints on the guestbook:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meet AFP's Top Bomb-sniffing K-9, Endo

By Kiele Brawner, Student Producer
Episode aired last September 24, 2014
Guest: Jimo Mantaring, UP Student and Pet Owner
            Sgt. Marlon Agena, K-9 Handler and Sgt. Danilo Ta-a, K-9 Trainer
            Endo, Top Dog (AFP K-9 Unit)

I was having dinner with my family one Saturday night, when I got a text informing me that I would be the next student producer for Kwentuhang Pets ATBP. My mind started to race as I thought of what I had to do in only three days’ time—decide on a topic, contact guest speakers, and write the script.

I had been anxious of this radio production since our Broadcast Journalism professor announced it at the beginning of the semester, and it was no secret why— I still hadn’t outgrown my fear of public speaking. I took some consolation in the fact that they wouldn’t be watching me live and in person; still the thought of all the loyal Kwentuhang Pets and DZUP listeners hearing my voice was nerve-wracking.

Initially, I wanted the episode’s topic to be about animals in captivity. With the recent passing of Tonka, the last killer whale in Ocean Adventure Subic’s captivity, and the beginning of the dolphin-hunting season in Japan, I thought it would make for a good discussion. I was still strongly outraged from watching the documentary Blackfish, and I wanted to inform people of the harmful and deadly effects of keeping animals captive. However with no available guest speakers and not much time left, I had to consider other options.

What seemed to be a setback, appeared to be a blessing in disguise. By production day, we had the AFP’s top K-9, Endo, with us in DZUP together with his trainer and handler. The hour flew by as the members of the AFP K-9 team, shared their stories—from the everyday training in camp to their life-threatening missions all over the Philippines; delighting the listeners and the DZUP staff when they even conducted a bomb-sniffing test for us.

This episode on K-9 units definitely enlightened me, as I hope it did for the show’s listeners. I developed a greater appreciation for bomb-sniffing dogs after hearing the stories of how they, together with their handlers, risk their lives for the safety of ours. And of course, after seeing the charming Endo, so obedient and well behaved despite all the dangerous and life-threatening situations I can only imagine he’s been through.

Most people probably only encounter these dogs at malls and airports, just as I did before this episode. Some, maybe online in viral video clips and blog posts featuring dogs who finally are able to reunite with their handlers after a war. This episode of Kwentuhang Pets ATBP put those images in a local and more relatable perspective; it put a face behind the concept. Endo has white hair and his vision is starting to blur due to his old age. He is nearing retirement and he would soon step down. His glory days are almost over. Questions of where he would go, where he would stay, and who would take care of him were brought up in this episode’s discussion, as we found out that retired AFP dogs would usually live out the rest of their lives in a cage.

Prof. Khrysta Rara, who co-hosted the show, saw the opportunity to turn this situation into an advocacy. She expressed her concern, saying retired AFP dogs should be allowed to go home with their handlers to live out the rest of their lives in the company and care of a loved one. In an article she wrote on Endo (, she presented the idea and the possibility of civilians adopting these retired AFP dogs. Imagine my surprise when she told me that the head of CARA read her article, agreeing with and supporting her sentiments; and that a member of the Animal Kingdom Foundation legal council sent an e-mail regarding an Administrative Order currently in the works for these work animals.

The whole radio production experience was definitely a thrilling experience. After all, it’s not everyday that I can say I produced and co-hosted a DZUP radio show. And to make things more meaningful, it put the spotlight on some of our country’s everyday heroes and resulted in an advocacy. It’s great way to say thank you for the service of these K-9 units.

Missed this episode? Listen to it here!




By Khrysta Imperial Rara
Program Producer and Host
Kwentuhang Pets Atbp.

For the past two months now, the program has followed a new format. Students now come on board as weekly episode producers and co-hosts. These students are either enrolled in Broadcast Journalism or other electives like Reporting on the Environment. Every week, one student is tasked with conceptualizing an episode, finding guests, doing the research, co-hosting  and updating the blog. All of them find the experience daunting, to say the least. Some may have production experience, but most don't. They have to deal with unexpected problems like guests suddenly backing out at the last minute.

But all of them admit to one thing - THEY ALL ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE.

Learning is more effective if it is enjoyed. In this case, they learn the rudiments of radio production and co-hosting and managing the blog on a weekly basis. But more importantly, they learn about the issues linked to animal rights and welfare. They get to talk to experts in the animal industry. They become aware of animal cruelty. They don't become advocates but many become sympathetic to the cause of animals. They learn that true compassion should not be directed solely toward people.

All episodes have proven to be learning experiences for me. Some were more enjoyable than others because animals also came in as guests. We have had dogs and cats sitting in the announcer's booth listening to us and even interacting with us during live discussions. 

I enjoy working with my students because of the ideas they bring to the program. You have to be resourceful to find guests at the last minute. You need time to do the research. You have to have patience to follow up on the guests. You have to have guts to butt in and make yourself heard while your teacher and the guests are having an animated conversation on air. And you have to have the skill to blog about the issue and your experience.

They have all these and more.

All in all, I think it's a very good idea. Animals and students make a good mix. The result is always a good program for us and the listeners.

Happy listening, everyone!