I-Witness premiered on Philippine television at the turn of the millennium. It was a time of uncertainty in a changing world, and GMA News and Public Affairs saw the need to tell stories of truth through the documentary format. Twenty years since, I-Witness has become one of the leading TV documentary programs in the country, with over 1,000 life-changing stories that have pursued the truth about Filipino values, culture, current events, and the human condition.
Last October 25, the hosts of the pioneering and longest-running documentary program — Kara David, Sandra Aguinaldo, Atom Araullo, and Howie Severino — renewed their commitment to the Kapuso Network in a contract signing attended by no less than GMA Network Chairman and CEO Atty. Felipe L. Gozon, President and COO Gilberto R. Duavit, Jr., Senior Vice President for News and Public Affairs Marissa L. Flores, and First Vice President for Public Affairs Nessa Valdellon. Senior AVP for Public Affairs Clyde Mercado and I-Witness Program Manager Joy Madrigal-Monzon were also present.
Atty. Gozon underscored the legacy of I-Witness as one of the country’s top-notch TV shows. “Ang I-Witness ay talagang premium program sa Public Affairs kaya naman nagtatagal nang 20 years at sangkatutak na awards ang nakukuha niyan. Kaya naman we are very happy na we are continuing the excellent tradition of I-Witness,” he said.
Duavit praised the award-winning documentary program, saying that I-Witness has helped the Network cement its status as the most trusted news organization in the country. “Naging reputasyon na natin na nangunguna tayo sa mga ganiyang uri ng programa kaya patuloy naman ang pagturing sa atin ng mga ganitong programa sa Pilipinas. Sa pagkakataong ito, I’d like to thank Sandra, Howie, Kara, and Atom sa patuloy nilang pagtataguyod ng hindi lamang ng ganitong klaseng programa kundi sa kalidad ng features na ginagawa nila,” he said.
Throughout its run, I-Witness has earned the respect of journalists and viewers all over the world for its dedication to face challenging truths. It won the Philippines’ first George Foster Peabody Award in its inaugural year, with GMA News Pillar Jessica Soho’s groundbreaking stories, “Kamao” and “Kidneys for Sale”. The program won a second Peabody in 2010 for Kara David’s “Ambulansyang de Paa,” making it the only program to win two trophies from the prestigious award-giving body. I-Witness has continued to be recognized internationally with awards from the ABU/CASBAA UNICEF Child Rights Award (“Selda Inosente” and “Bata-k,” Kara David; “Batang CP,” Jay Taruc), the New York Festivals (including “Askal,” Vicky Morales; “Sabah: Sex Slaves,” Maki Pulido; “Boy Pusit,” Sandra Aguinaldo; “Ganito Kami Noong Martial Law,” Howie Severino), and the U.S. International Film and Video Festivals (“Buto’t Balat,” Kara David; “Iskul Ko No. 1,” Sandra Aguinaldo; “Busal,” Howie Severino; “Silang Kinalimutan,” Atom Araullo, etc.), among others. It is also a regular winner in local awards such as the Catholic Mass Media Awards, the PMPC Star Awards for Television, the Gandingan Awards of UP Los Baños, and more.
I-Witness’ greatest strength, however, lies beyond critical acclaim. The program’s longevity has allowed its hosts and viewers to continually follow the narratives of subjects who have touched lives across generations. On its 20th anniversary, the I-Witness hosts learn how conditions have changed, if at all, in some of the program’s most memorable stories since they were first told.
Kara, known for her compassion and empathy towards the youth, travels to three provinces to reunite with former subjects, once children who have had to bear the incredible burden of poverty and dangerous labor at a tender age. Now that they are teenagers and young adults, how have they risen above the struggles that plagued their childhoods?
Meanwhile, Atom faces issues in housing head on, nearly 40 years since the establishment of the National Housing Authority. With rapidly increasing urban development, how have the less privileged residents of Manila survived despite lacking one of their most basic needs? I-Witness searches for answers through the lives of those who first faced this struggle many years ago.
Sandra has led I-Witness in confronting issues on education, from the triumphs of exceptional schools and teachers, to glaring concerns in access, quality, and resources. This year, she and her team question the state of Philippine education today, through the stories of a school in a conflict-ridden community and a young woman who continues to change her family’s life through education.
Last, but not the least, Howie, who has advocated for environment protection through many of his documentaries, returns to Isabela more than ten years since first witnessing attempts to end illegal logging in the province. In a time of global warming and the ruthless depletion of natural resources, the state of the largest protected area in the Philippines reminds us of an urgent issue that concerns us all.
I-Witness airs its 20th anniversary specials all Saturdays of November, beginning November 2, with a special feature on past and present hosts of I-Witness and the remarkable stories they have followed through the years.
Don’t miss I-Witness, Saturdays, after Studio 7 on GMA-7.
Photo and press release from GMA Network.