'Probe's' Robert Alejandro fuses art with TV Reporting
(August 31, 2002, Philippine Daily Inquirer)
by Ronald G. Mangubat
The "PROBE Team's" Robert Alejandro never imagined himself to be a TV reporter.   In fact, his five-page curriculum vitae is devoid of any broadcasting background and only lists his professional affiliations with the art world.

A former art director at McCann-Erickson Philippines, Robert's work revolves around designing book covers, doing graphics, art design and renovation for theme parks, malls, bars and restaurants.  Describing himself as a shy loner, this UP fine arts graduate would rather tinker with his computer and be absorbed in his universe of colors, paint brushes, pencils and sketch pads rather than deliver his spiels on camera.

But when he found himself doing just that three years ago, he took it as a divine cue and taught himself to learn and enjoy the art of TV reporting. 

For Robert, everything happened by accident.  A few years ago, Probe's "Five and Up" children's program featured him as the artist and son of the owners of Papemelroti chain of stores who designed children's books.  A few weeks after that, he was invited to be a guest host in another program, "Gameplan", and later, was offered to be an on-cam reporter for "The Probe Team".

"I was very hesitant to do it at first because I was not interested in television, my Tagalog was very poor, and I'm shy," Robert reminisces.

When shooting time came, and Robert found himself in the company of Che-che Lazaro, Karen Davila and Love Anover, he virtually froze.  "Sabi ko sa sarili ko, anong ginagawa ko rito?  During the take, Karen would encourage and instruct me and say, deliver your lines with conviction, Robert and I'd go 'Oh my God, ano ba 'tong napasukan ko?"

And true enough, when he first watched himself on TV, he felt like throwing up.   "Walang halong biro, pero nag-turn talaga ang tiyan ko," he laughingly recalls.

This "baptism of fire" only lasted for awhile, and Robert soon found himself enjoying his work.  He likes the travels that go with his job, and has become more comfortable appearing beforea scene from the Streetkids story the TV cameras.  His innate curiosity has also resulted in a number of good interviews, eliciting praises not just from the show's producers, but from the viewing public as well.

It was however his drawings that drew favorable feedback from "Probe's" viewers.  During location shoots, Robert brings his pen and sketch pad, sits in one corner and draws a striking scene.

"At first, we didn't think of including my drawings in the show but sometimes, the camera would capture me sketching and the audience got curious.  So after getting some positive feedback, the producers decided to show it.  And I told them, since I'm a novice reporter, pag-drawing lang talaga ang alam kong gawin ng magaling."

TV Shoots
Robert's artworks are expressed in different media.  There are pens and pencil sketches, watercolor paintings, and charcoal and crayon drawings that he painstakingly rendered during his memorable TV shoots.  Samples of his subjects include child sampaguita vendors (a favorite "Probe" story of his), a lighthouse in Capones island, Zambales, underwater scuba-diving scenes, a baby ostrich in Cagayan de Oro, portraits of children in Agusan, etc.

Viewers say these artworks added more impact to "Probe's" episodes because Robert's images enhance the tone, hue and drama of the stories.

And with the program's tight editing and panache in story-telling, the fusion of Robert's artwork and his reportage truly becomes a moving audio-visual experience.   Currently, these artworks are being exhibited at the Papemelroti Cafe on Roces Ave., QC and have been generating visitors from various walks of life.

The consummate artist is now part of the local TV world and has found himself already being recognized in public places.  "At first, I don't know how to react because I'm really shy, but my parents told me to smile and say hello to the people.   Otherwise, I might be branded as suplado."

This new celebrity status, however, does not stop the 38-year old artist from doing the simple things he loves, like taking public transportation, riding the MRT, going to malls and watching movies.  "I love my freedom at ayoko ng naka-kahon.   I'd rather quit my job than change my current lifestyle, " he avers.

Hard work
His stint with "Probe" is hard work, but Robert enjoys every minute of it.  He says he has grown a lot and gets high from their out-of-town shoots.

"I tell you, this thing that Che-che has been doing is just like a ministry.  There's no economic value but the things that I learn from the stories that we make and the goodness of the people I meet really touch my soul."

Robert cites a small fishing village in Bataan as an example of a story that moved him: "Pinangangalagaan nila talaga yung mga turtle eggs at humanap sila ng other source of income para lang ma-preserve ang buhay ng mga turtle.   Mahirap sila but they're doing good work. Itong mga ganitong kwento yung kailangang isigaw mo talaga sa bayan at sabihing maganda at magaling ang ginagawa nila."

Through his travels, Robert has also proven that the Philippines is one extraordinary beautiful country.  "Sobrang ganda ng ating bansa.  At mababait ang mga tao, lalo na sa probinsiya.  Ang nakaka-depress nga lang, marami ring problema ang bansa natin, at wala tayong political will," he sighs.

Aside from these discoveries, Robert is also slowly getting interested in the art of video production.  He explains: "As an artist who creates and works with visuals, I also got fascinated with post-production work.  I'm praying about this and I believe that since God put me in 'Probe', I don't think it's just for reporting.   Who knows?  I might venture into other fields."

For someone whose work portfolio includes the design of Alabang Town Center, Metropolis Star Mall and the Ayala Museum, Robert remains surprisingly simple.   He has no vices, doesn't like to go to parties, and refuses to attend art exhibit openings.

"I'm really an introvert who just projects as an extrovert when I'm on cam," he says in jest.

His close friends compare him to a Polyanna who always says good things about people and doesn't engage in malicious talk.  When asked if he has an artist's temper and tinge of madness, he jokes, "Hindi pa ba crazy yong wala akong bisyo, di mahaba ang buhok ko at wala akong balbas?"

He advises parents who have children with artistic tendencies to encourage and praise their kids.  "Kasi when I was a child, I'd draw on the walls of our house, pero kahit minsan hindi ako pinagalitan.  My notebooks would be filled with my doodles, but I never got reprimanded.  So I was encouraged more to express myself through drawing."

Simple things make Robert happy.  A smile, a friendly call, and positive words even from strangers make his day.  "Minsan, when I get sad over a lot of things, mayroong stranger na bigla na lang lalapit sa akin at sasabihing ang galing-galing mo sa 'Probe'.  That brightens my day na.   Lalo na pag sinasabihan ako ng ang galing mong mag drawing ha?   Solved na ang araw ko!"

This fusion of art and TV reporting makes Robert Alejandro's life extra-meaningful these days.



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