Falling in love with radio, again

By: Angelica D. Mitra - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 03,2023 - 08:00 AM

I grew up listening to the radio. Not just any radio—but a huge stereo with dual speakers and cassette slots that was very much loved and cherished by my grandfather.

I have vivid memories of coming home from high school, with my pen and notebook in hand and sitting by the side of the speakers, patiently waiting for the afternoon music show. I would patiently wait for the DJs to announce the Top 5 songs of the week and would even write them down in my notebook. Even now, I have a copy of those lists. I would sit in awe of the DJs’ quirky remarks and witty comebacks. Maybe this is when my love for music started. Maybe, this seemingly mundane experience shaped my life more than I care to give it credit to. I took a broadcast communication course in college and joined a radio organization. This was the best part of my day then.

I eventually went to college and had to stay in my dorm on weekdays. By then, smartphones were everyone’s top and sole source of entertainment. I still listen to the radio as my not-so-latest phone still supports the feature. Years passed, music platforms emerged, and people’s preferences for entertainment simply changed. And frankly, how can radio compete with the highly addicting, ultra-engaging, and latest apps like Facebook (Meta) and Instagram? It doesn’t just cater to people’s increasingly lower attention span, it very likely even caused it! My newer smartphone still has a radio built in, but it was hidden in a folder along with the other apps you usually ignore. As a broadcast communication student, of course, it is a sin to even think that radio is dead, but in my heart of hearts, I knew it was.

The pandemic happened, meaning most people, including and especially my age, in their early 20s, had to go back to their respective provinces and hometowns, as work from home and other remote options became available. And just like that, life was somehow back to normal and never the same again. Once more, my Lolo’s radio wakes us up in the morning, but not the good, romantic kind I remembered it to be.

At 84, my Lolo started losing his hearing, so his morning radio habits felt more like a jolt—a warning of an impending danger even—than a pleasant nudge on the shoulder or gentle forehead kisses. Living in the province with neighbors a few feet away and my Lolo being a resident there most of his life, this was no problem for the neighborhood. But for us, who wake up early to attend online classes or remote work, this was a nightmare. Every minute of sleep is more precious than gold, and for it to be stolen by the loud radio made us resentful of the very medium. I even remember angrily turning the radio off to the horror of my Lolo, because it was just too loud!

I, then, turned 25 and decided to move out and have my own apartment. Then one morning—a morning like any other morning—I was suddenly confronted with the silence that no music, podcast, or dog barks can suppress. Could it be sadness, loneliness, or fear? All I know is I missed home, my family, and the radio on full blast.

Maybe it’s reminiscing about the past, maybe it’s an old habit that refuses to die, or maybe it’s the communal experience that I miss. Radio continuously evolves. It adapts to the changes and keeps up with the changing times, without losing sight of its core. Radio is togetherness. It’s doing chores and occupying the same space with family members, seemingly locked in their own worlds, and then laughing together at the announcers’ jokes. It’s entertainment that begs to be shared and experienced, something we all should do more often these days. This often underappreciated medium has been the companion of my grandparents and many grandparents before them, and their entire lives have been shaped by this audio device.

I recently bought a radio, a small, battery-powered, portable one with both AM and FM channels. Sure, it is far from the gigantic speakers I’m used to that literally tremble if you turn it up high enough. And no, it is not the highlight of my week anymore, but it will do for now. I have reinstated the habit of switching it on early in the morning like my grandfather does, and I am getting used to the radio static and DJ’s voice as background noise. I am learning to take it slow and appreciate the art of telling stories and stirring emotions through this medium that’s as old as time. And I can say now with certainty that radio is not dead, and it never will be.


Angelica D. Mitra, 25, is a writer from San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

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TAGS: AM, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, FM, lolo, pandemic, radio, sleep
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