Master of paying it forward

I have known Noel Zarate for over a quarter of a century. The Famas award-winning composer was once elbow-deep in the music industry. He has since metamorphosed into (with apologies to James Brown) the hardest-working man in sports broadcasting. Name the league in whatever sport in the Philippines and neighboring countries, Noel has called it. From FIBA tournaments to the ASEAN Basketball League to the PBA to volleyball and other sports, our beloved “Airman Moreno” has been on the microphone, either as a world-class coliseum announcer, or as one of the best anchormen in the industry. Music’s loss has been sports’ gain. Everyone wants to work with Noel. Truth be told, he was this writer’s original choice for ANC’s Hardball 13 years ago, but circumstances did not allow it to happen.

Beyond his kilometric list of accomplishments, Zarate has also become the master of giving back to the industry that has enriched his career. For close to two decades, he has pioneered the sports broadcasting workshop in the Philippines. He gathers together the best of Philippine sports broadcasting, and asks them to share their experiences and the reality of the industry with those who aspire to join the profession. Hundreds have attended those learning programs. The list of successful graduates who have made names in broadcasting are now familiar faces who are gainfully employed in ABS-CBN, PTV, GMA 7, ESPN 5 and the regular broadcasts of the PBA and international sports coverage.

Now, Noel is completing the circle. He has organized the NEWBIES Broadcasting Academy “Broadcasting 1.0” workshop from Nov. 2 to 4 at the Development Academy of the Philippines along San Miguel Avenue in Pasig City. It will be the first workshop of its kind, wherein most of the speakers will be working sports broadcasters who graduated from Zarate’s previous workshops. The workshop fee is P 8,000 inclusive of food. Twenty-one of the 36 available slots have already been taken.

The workshop opens with former Ateneo de Manila Communications Department chairman Sev Sarmenta, who mentored both Zarate and this writer, followed by Rizza Diaz on live event reporting. ESPN’s Magoo Marjon will tackle sports anchoring, while ANC’s Migs Bustos discusses analysis.’s editor Sid Ventura will explore writing, while director Coy Yupangco talks about production and Chuck Araneta tackles podcasting. Workshop master Zarate will teach, in his own words “everything else”. This roster is only a sampling of past and current speakers of his workshops.

Why is this experience of value? Firstly, schools in the Philippines do not prepare one for a career in sports broadcasting. There is no way to know how the industry works, and if one has the skill set to make it. Everyone thinks it is easy. Those in other professions who’ve tried it admit to how challenging it is, particularly live events coverage.

Secondly, there is no way for existing sports broadcasters to get better. Twenty years ago, this writer, Sarmenta and the late Butch Maniego concurred that the only way to improve was to study overseas, in universities in New York, California or Oregon with sports broadcasting courses. However, it would mean having to leave the Philippines for at least two years, and being unable to work to support one’s self.

Third, there are very few formal settings for sharing experiences and best practices. Sports broadcasters attend pre-production meetings, cover events or do their shows, then disperse. When they do congregate, it is in social settings, not to learn from one another. Fourth, Noel creates a safe, relaxed environment for his students, a refreshing change from the traditional pressure of the classroom. In addition, participants get to ask questions that are answered from real-world experiences, which accelerate learning.

One thing you can say about Noel Zarate’s workshops is that they work. Just ask the working professionals speaking at the NEWBIES workshop, and other graduates like Boyet Sison, Mark Zambrano, Sweeden Velado, and many others. They are proof that learning from those who’ve gone before is an effective means of continuing education. And Noel Zarate is the master of paying it forward.

Those interested in attending the NEWBIES Broadcasting Academy “Broadcasting 1.0” workshop may contact 0908-2168835.