A Witness to History

RH goes on air


On July 15, 1939, at exactly 6 in the morning, announcer Hal Bowie took his seat before a microphone in a little studio at the top of the H.E. Heacock Building in Escolta, and bid his unseen audience “Good morning!” Thus was born the fourth commercial radio station to operate in Manila.

American businessmen had introduced radio to the Philippines in the 1920s as a commercial enterprise that would promote their consumer goods to Filipinos. Department store owners led by Isaac Beck and Samuel Gaches, recognizing that Filipinos were adapting more and more to American ways, rode on aggressive advertising and the prevalence of the big band sound to entice their clientele into the stores and straight to the cash registers. Beck used his own initials in establishing KZIB, while Gaches put up Radio Heacock, or KZRH.

The Japanese Occupation

As the shadows of the Second World War loomed over the horizon, radio highlighted the conflicting ideologies of the so-called Japanese “Co-Prosperity Sphere” as against the democratic ideals embedded in the forbidden programs aired by defiant Resistance forces on their underground stations which broadcast on different frequencies to avoid detection. Radio became an important source of news and information.

KZRH Station Manager Bertrand Silen was appointed Chief Coordinator of Information by the American High Commissioner. But instead of destroying KZRH equipment as the USAFFE had done to the other stations to prevent their use by the Imperial forces, Silen’s staff brought a shortwave transmitter to Corregidor and built a makeshift radio station, which General Douglas MacArthur christened as the Voice of Freedom.

It was on this station that 3rd Lt Norman Reyes read the official announcement drafted by Capt. Salvador P. Lopez that Bataan had fallen.

Japanese forces eventually found equipment hidden in the basement of the Heacock building in Escolta, and used these to continue broadcasting as KZRH. It was here that General Jonathan Wainwright eventually announced the USAFFE surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army. The call letters were changed to PIAM (Philippine Islands-AM), and the station bombarded listeners with music, language, literature, and even calisthenics — the Nippon way.

Silen’s staff – considered the best in the Far East – found themselves either in Bataan, at the internment camps of Santo Tomas and Los Banos, within the guerilla movement, or simply felled by enemy bullets. But plans for the rebirth of KZRH upon liberation were kept alive.

Rising from the ashes

MacArthur’s return and the American declaration of independence for the Philippines signaled the postwar reconstruction of Philippine radio.

Ambassador Joaquin Miguel Elizalde, together with his brothers Manuel and Federico, bought KZRH from the Heacock Company. With Silen’s help, they acquired equipment from the National Broadcasting Company in New York to establish operations of Manila Broadcasting Company at the Insular Life Building, which was sandwiched by Plaza Cervantes and Plaza Moraga.

KZRH was back on the air by July 1, 1946 – just in time to cover the inauguration of the second Philippine Republic, with Manuel Roxas as President. This foreshadowed things to come, for the station has since been at the inaugural of each succeeding Philippine president.

With Ambassador Elizalde subsequently being named Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the presidency of Elpidio Quirino, his brother Federico assumed leadership of MBC. An established bandleader and jazz pianist who had earned plaudits in London, Maestro Federico put a premium on good music, and big bands were asked to perform live over KZRH. Other programs centered on variety shows, comedy skits, and short newscasts.

In a few years, with Francisco “Koko” Trinidad as the country’s representative to the International Telecommunications Union, Philippine radio stations were mandated to change the initial letters of their call signs showing their separation from the American broadcasting milieu. Luzon stations were listed as DZ and DW, Visayan stations as DY, and Mindanao stations as DX. Thus, KZRH became DZRH – the first local radio station to broadcast simultaneously on the AM and shortwave frequencies.

The Golden Years

As the country rose and rebuilt, Philippine radio experienced what are often referred to as the golden years. Music, theatre, language, and literature flourished hand in hand with the broadcast sector. KZRH, now broadcasting under its new call sign DZRH, gained popularity, companies began buying airtime. Corporate sponsors underwrote specific shows, and thanks to advertising, AM radio became quite lucrative that by 1956, the network moved to its own Radio Center along Taft Avenue.

But as businessmen, MBC executives also had to be sensitive to what their listeners wanted. Programming eventually shifted to include Filipino singers, musicians, and announcers, along with expressions of traditional culture such as the kundiman. Amateur singing contests, quiz shows, children’s programs, talk shows, and even on-air balagtasan by the country’s premier poets took root in the 50s and 60s.

Declaration of Martial Law

DZRH has witnessed Philippine history as it unfolds, while remaining faithful to the mandate of fair and responsible journalism.

President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law in 1972 effectively closed down the media and suppress dissent. DZRH was, however, allowed to continue operations, closely monitored by the military, the Broadcast Media Council, and eventually, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). Even scripts for radio dramas were scrutinized for subversive content.

Expanding into the FM band

Seeing the massive success of its AM radio stations, Manila Broadcasting Company believed it was timed to expand into the FM band with the acquisition of DZMB, Love Radio.

Love Radio is the flagship FM station of the Manila Broadcasting Company. Through the years, it has consistently ranked among the top FM stations in Metro Manila as well as in key provincial cities nationwide. Love Radio is known for its adult-contemporary music selection combined with witty talk and humor of some of the most popular DJs in the country.

The People Power Revolution

With the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr., radio was practically alone in presenting the true picture of an outraged Filipino people, and in 1986, DZRH was the only station that aired nationwide a detailed account of the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos. All hands were on deck, including MBC chairman Fred J. Elizalde, who took the wheel with announcer Ric Radam in tow, fired simply by the commitment to deliver the news as it happened.

One Nation. One Station.

DZRH embarked on its “One Nation, One Station” initiative, expanding its coverage to an unprecedented 97 percent of the Philippine archipelago. It was a vision that broke conventional wisdom in radio, and what MBC chairman Fred J. Elizalde called the most daring effort ever undertaken in the local radio industry.

The company invested in 17 new transmitters manufactured by Broadcast Electronics USA, which were strategically positioned in key provincial cities all over the country. The main station, then located at the FJE Building along Esteban Street in Makati, would beam signals to an orbiting Palapa B-4 satellite, which would then send signals down to the 17 relays scattered all over the islands. With this massive technology leap, DZRH brought digital quality sound without interference and losses even in long-range transmissions to far-flung towns and barrios.

Yes The Best

Manila Broadcasting Company launches Yes The Best.

Dubbed at “The Millenials Choice,” Yes The Best serves Filipino listeners by espousing a happy, positive outlook in life. In homes, in public transportation, and on mobile phones, the continuous support of listeners for its music programs and the street-mart jokes of its DJs makes Yes The Best one of the top stations is the country.


Our community, our radio, Radyo Natin

At the turn of the century, the Manila Broadcasting Company embarked on yet another pioneering endeavor – Radyo Natin, a 100-station FM network, bringing a mix of highly-localized programming and stereo quality contemporary music to markets once believed too small to be serviced – unnoticed, until the birth of the Radyo Natin network.

From audio to audio-visual, the birth of DZRH News Television

The launching of its own cable TV station – DZRH News Television – which is accessible on over a thousand cable networks throughout the archipelago, has also contributed to the station’s visibility not just here but also in other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Easy Rock, Just the Rite Rock

Manila Broadcasting Company launches Easy Rock.

On the road and in offices, Easy Rock is, by far, the most popular radio stations for listeners looking for smooth, relaxing rock that accompanies all the tasks that are part and parcel of the workday. Listeners tune in to East Rock to enjoy the classics that bring back memories of their growing years and to experience the modern slow, rock tunes that tug at the heartstrings and provide a complete soothing listening experience.