PBS in the Philippines on Shortwave

During its more than three quarters of a century of on air shortwave service, PBS, the Philippine Broadcasting Service has always been quite tenuous, even at its very best.  Radio Philippinas, the shortwave service of the Voice of the Philippines, has at times been dependent upon borrowed facilities and donated equipment, sometimes quite old, and sometimes no longer reliable.

On September 4, 1947, the United States government signed a document on behalf of the Voice of America for a new and somewhat temporary relay station at Malolos, some thirty miles north of the national capital Manila.  VOA  took out a lease for five buildings at the Bulacan Trade School, mainly imported Quonset Huts, and a total of five transmitters were installed; two @ 50 kW mediumwave, and three shortwave for international coverage.  At one stage VOA operated a Manila address at 964 Taft Avenue.

Early photos of the Bulcan Trade School, with radio towers just visible in the background.
Photos: https://www.oocities.org/peyspipol/feat8.htm

The three shortwave transmitters at Malolos were two RCA units, Model number M1733OA, at 50 kW each each with dual channel operation.  The RCA serial numbers were No 524 & 527, and there was another RCA 7½ kW Model ETA MI725, No 4654.  A total of ten rhombic antennas was installed, and programming was beamed to China in Chinese and English.

When in use with the relay of VOA programming, the shortwave transmitters were identified in VOA scheduling as Manila 1, Manila 2, and Manila 3.  When they were on air with PBS programming, they were identified on air as PBS Malolos.

A set of temporary co-ordinating studios for PBS was installed in an already available public building in Manila, on the fourth floor of the Ramon Roces Building.  Occasional additional programming was prepared in the United States by United Nations Radio in New York.

In the era immediately following the end of World War 2, the shortwave scene in the Philippines was so convoluted and mixed up, with so many stations relaying the programming from other stations, and utilizing a strange mixture of various designated callsigns, that it is almost impossible to trace who was who back at that time.  (However in fairness to the postwar Far East Broadcasting Company in Manila, it should be stated that they generally operated their network of mediumwave and shortwave stations in conformity with their registered callsigns.)

When conditions began to return to somewhat normal during the latter part of the 1940s and into the 1950s, the registered callsigns for PBS shortwave were listed in the DUH series.  Consecutive callsigns identified consecutive shortwave frequencies, as DUH2 on 6170 kHz, DUH3 on 9570 kHz, DUH4 on 9615 kHz, and DUH5 on 11840.  These four DUH callsigns identified the usage of shortwave channels as was the custom back then, not the usage of the specific shortwave transmitters.

The change for the initial prefix for radio station callsigns in the Philippines from the K prefix to the D prefix occurred unexpectedly and without prior announcement on January 1, 1949.  This sudden move caught the international radio world as an unexpected surprise.

A listener in New Zealand received this verification from DUH2 in 1972. Note the list of FM & MW/AM outlets shown. © Chris Mackerell Collection, Radio Heritage Foundation.

In 1954, the powerful new Voice of America relay station at Poro Point, some 150 miles north of the national capital Manila was taken into service, on both mediumwave and shortwave.  However at this stage, the VOA usage of the six year old Malolos station, Manila VOA, was retained with its regular scheduling of VOA programming.  In addition, PBS programming on shortwave continued from Malolos according to their prior scheduling.

However a huge new VOA shortwave relay station was taken into regular service at Tinang, some 50 miles north of Manila in 1968, with ultimately a dozen huge transmitters at 250 kW each.  In addition a total of 31 curtain antennas was installed.  At that stage, the VOA usage of the now twenty year old somewhat temporary station station at Malolos was discarded, and whatever was left of its serviceable equipment was donated to PBS.

In 1967 for example, PBS was listed with two hours of daily programming on callsign DUB4 with 5 kW on 3286 kHz.  During the next year (1968), PBS shortwave was shown with callsign DUB4 now on 3156 kHz together with callsign DUH2 on 6170 kHz, maybe with 50 kW or whatever was available.  Two years later again (1970), after VOA Tinang was activated, PBS was shown with 7½ kW on 9580 kHz, and maybe with 50 kW on 11950 kHz.

These days (2022), Radio Pilipinas PBS is listed with a nationwide network of two dozen or more mediumwave and FM relay stations.  Their programming on shortwave is provided by VOA at their huge relay station at Tinang.

The current scheduling for PBS shortwave via Tinang is as follows:-

Filipino Service

17:30 – 19:30 local, 01:30 – 03:30 UTC
9.960 MHz, 12.120 MHz, 15.190 MHz

Japan, Russia, China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa

English Service

02:00 – 03:30 local, 10:00 – 11:30 UTC
12.010 MHz, 15.640 MHz, 17.820 MHz

Radyo Pilipina’s programs can also be heard via live audio streaming in the internet from 11:30 pm to 12:00 noon of the next day PST.

Yes, PBS Manila on shortwave issued many QSL cards, though at times somewhat spasmodically.  Their QSL was generally an oversized card, with handwritten details confirming the reception of their programming.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of July 24, 2022

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