Leading in humility and Serbisyong Totoo.
There are a lot of adjectives to describe Marissa Flores as Senior Vice President of GMA News and Public Affairs, but ‘humility’ and ‘Serbisyong Totoo’ (public service) may be the closest words that resonate to everyone who had the privilege of working with her in the past three decades.
Her leadership has led GMA’s News and Public Affairs group to become the country's most awarded and most credible broadcast news organization – both on air and online. Her team has produced some of the most groundbreaking programs on Philippine TV, from news to documentaries, investigative programs, news magazine, and even reality shows, game shows, talk shows, and drama series.
And as Flores begins another chapter of her life and retires from the Network, some of the country’s top broadcast journalists, as well as her colleagues, share their heart-warming thoughts about the person whom they fondly call ‘MLF.’
She always had a ‘North’
For Jessica Soho, aside from ‘a strong and solid trail of winning and good programs,’ Flores’ most important legacy is her values and character.
“Values that reflect not only in the quality of the programs we have in News and Public Affairs but also in how we conduct ourselves personally and professionally,” says Soho. “ doing what’s right, working hard, being honest, and treating people kindly and fairly.”
Flores, Soho says, always had a ‘North.’
“Malinaw sa kaniya kung ano ang tama kaya tama rin na sa kaniyang pamumuno nabuo ang mga tagline na “Walang kinikilingan, walang pinoprotektahan, walang kasinungalingan” at “Dapat Tama”.
“She has always been humble and unassuming. Sa aking palagay, ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit siya nakabuo ng mahusay na team. She was able to draw out the best in her people and has always allowed them to shine. Under her watch, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho has maintained its position in the top three programs in NUTAM since pre-pandemic. 24 Oras emerged in the overall top five programs in 2020 and has consistently been in the top ranks to date. For January to September 2022, the top three programs of the network in NUTAM are all produced by News and Public Affairs (NAPA): 24 Oras, Lolong, and Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (Based on Nielsen Phils. TV Audience Measurement). Our other programs in NAPA are also at the top of their game and even consistently win awards for the network, both here and abroad.”
‘No one is left behind’
Vicky Morales also admires how Flores has always been hands-on. Morales remembers how she and Flores spend the wee hours in the morning exchanging hard copies of the script for I-Witness in 1999.
“I had just joined I-Witness as one of the hosts. Madaling araw ko na usually natatapos sa office yung pagdraft ng scripts para sa episode. At dahil wala pang yahoo o gmail dati, gigisingin ko si MLF ng mga 3am para i-proofread ang isinulat ko. Ilulusot ko yung script sa bakod sa labas ng old newsroom, tapos sasaluhin ni MLF sa kabila kasi malapit dun yung townhouse niya dati. Tapos ibabalik niya sa akin ober da bakod uli.”
Being on Flores’ team means no one gets left behind. “She taught us how to be fair and tough, yet kind and compassionate at the same time. She led with integrity and never left anyone behind, even during the most challenging of times,” shares Morales.
“I will also never forget how, after every remote coverage, she would text warm words of thanks for the hard work. These little gestures of appreciation always provided an energy boost. Nakakapawi talaga siya ng pagod para sa amin,” she adds.
She believes in you
“Kapag naniwala sa ‘yo si Ma’am Marissa, paninindigan ka niya hanggang sa huli. Siya ang naniniwala sa akin na mula sa radyo ay puwede akong mag-telebisyon,” says Arnold Clavio, referring to his first TV program Brigada Siete.
“Siya ang naniwala sa akin na kaya kong gumising ng umaga (Unang Hirit), at na mas guwapo ako kay Edu Manzano (for Emergency).” Clavio further adds, it was Flores who believed that he can have a talk show, hence the birth of “Tonight with Arnold Clavio,” and that Arnold can stay up to provide viewers news every night. “Siya ang naniwala sa akin na kaya kong magpuyat ng may responsabilidad (Saksi)”.
“Kaya it’s crystal clear, I AM NOTHING without Ma’m Marissa. Thank you for believing in me at dahil sa paniniwalang yan, napasaya ko ang mga magulang ko at ang pamilya ko.
Flores, he says, taught him how to love one’s job. “Dapat buong-buo and your work will love you back.”
“Tinuruan niya rin ako papaano irespeto ang paniniwala ng iba. Na walang monopolya ng kaalaman. At kung pagsasamahin ang lakas ng isipan ng bawat isa, ito ay magreresulta sa mas epektibong at mabungang pagsasama.”
“In a way, Marissa Flores represented a counterculture in television. In an industry full of egos, she had next to none. She had a simple lifestyle, kept a low profile, and rarely even wore makeup. She wasn’t into selfies,” shares Howie Severino.
Flores’ example kept them grounded, he adds. It reminded them of what really mattered.
“It was not fame or fortune, but a steady application of bedrock values. Foremost were honesty and fairness. If you broke any rules, you’d hear from her in a firm but unthreatening manner. No matter how grave the violation, no one was shamed, especially in front of others. I’ve never heard her raise her voice, and say a mean thing about anybody, even privately,” adds Howie.
“In an environment that could have been toxic and cutthroat, she sought to create a humane place, where people cared about each other and helped one another when in need. Safety was a constant concern. From this wellspring of humanity, one drew inspiration to strive and serve.”
‘Do what is right.’
“In many moments of management crisis over the years — everything from on air disasters to harassment cases to outright corruption, you name it, we’ve faced it — I would come to her office, sometimes in shock, sometimes in tears, asking what I should do,” says GMA’s First Vice President for Public Affairs Nessa Valdellon.
“Her response was always something along the lines of ‘Find the truth’ or ‘Tell the truth.’ Always ending with these words: ‘Do what is right.’ In a wide variety of situations, this consistent advice never failed.”
Valdellon also shares how Flores showed her unwavering support to them. “She loved our crazy ideas. She encouraged our forays into digital news, immersive graphics, reality series, game shows, talk shows, anthologies, historical dramas, soaps, films, podcasts, and all the social media platforms that cropped up over the years.
“She was proud of our every achievement. She took us to task, but kindly, for our many mistakes. She was the kind of leader who cheered on the sidelines so that we could take the stage and shine.”
“Hers is a quiet brilliance because at her core, she is a journalist, and has remained so through the years,” says Senior Assistant Vice President for GMA News and Public Affairs Digital Media Jaemark Tordecilla. “Her first priority is always getting the facts right and telling the truth, her biggest concern is how our productions would be of service to the people.”
Jaemark reveals how Flores empowered him to lead the Network's digital news team: “She was never one for motivational speeches, but her guidance was there at every step: encouraging me, challenging me, and allowing me to take up the space as the digital person in a traditional television organization. She did it not just for me, but for my whole team.”
From being a documentary and special reports researcher to becoming the head of GMA Network News and Public Affairs, Flores ends a chapter of her Kapuso life with much respect and love from everyone – on air and off cam.