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Behind the scenes: searching the Midland Archives
by Leia Castro

In the previous months leading to the city’s centennial, I was neck deep in research at the Baguio Midland Courier office. In my hands were a vast resource of knowledge, the opportunity to open which was at my will and whim. Standing there in the archive room of Midland copies dating back to 1947, I had to be the envy of every researcher who wants to delve in Baguio’s past.

Why was I scanning the archives anyway? I was looking for previously written articles which could be reprinted for this 100th Baguio Day Supplement of the Courier. I was on a quest for hidden treasures of knowledge, a mind-filling adventure, though back-breaking at the same time, as the copies were heavy and had to be dealt with utmost care.

A throwback to low-tech times
I went over almost every page of our archives since 1949. There are years of Midland print compilations that are missing, although almost everything is stored in microfilm courtesy of Ateneo de Manila University.

The pesky microfilm viewer, however, wouldn’t focus for long. A special technique has to be used, taught to me by Diane Garas, our keeper of the keys to the archives, in order to read the microfilm properly. Plus, whatever information you get should be copied by hand as the malfunctioning viewer wasn’t equipped with a photocopier. “Don’t worry kadi, we’ll get a new viewer with a copier,” our publisher Dr. Charly Hamada tells me. He too values the archives and being able to retrieve them easily.

Viewing the old issues was easy, compared to the thought of making the Midland in the ‘olden times’. We in the news room and even the advertising people couldn’t imagine being thrown back to the time when there were no computers, and each story had to be made using the lino-type for the text and the pick-up type for the titles and other fonts. One of our long-time machine operators, Lawrence Bagsiao, explained the difficulties of using the lino-type and letter press machines then. “Sometimes, we finish printing by Monday and not Sunday,” he said with a laugh. The pictures even had to be sent to Manila to be processed. The off-set printing press we use now, coupled with computers, cameras, and digital functions make our lives easy.

The first colored ad I found in the archives was for the American film “Quo Vadis.” It was printed in a full fly leaf page. By the looks of it, it was virtually hand painted. Other ads were also cartoonized and painstakingly drawn by hand, like parts of the Midland movie guide, which was fun to read, especially since the seven movie houses then showed back-to-back or double features, unlike today. The cartoon ads on sales in the big department stores then, like Pohoomulls, Bheromulls, Bombay Bazaar, Assandas, and Tiong San were also interesting. There, products were not shown as pictures but as drawings, so you see illustrations of panties, pomade, fishnet stockings, Vonell shirts, and the like which you can buy for as low as 10 cents. 

From a four-page weekly in 1947 to becoming eight pages, 12 pages, and the regular 40-plus pages at present, the Midland has been printed week in and week out. Making the 40-plus page weekly now is a whole lot easier because of technology. Every time I complain about how hard it is to make the paper, I just think about how they did it decades before and a smile crosses my face. We truly are lucky now.

Midland as a ‘chronicler’
While journalism school teaches us not to rely on secondhand sources such as newspapers for information, former colleague Mike Ang from the History department of the University of the Philippines Baguio once told me that newspapers, especially those published 50 years ago, become primary resources, especially in the case of Baguio City which does not really have a public chronicler.

Midland being 62 years old this year has become, in the words of one of the three witches – Virginia Oteyza de Guia, “an unofficial chronicler” of Baguio City. She said, “Midland is not only a ‘chronicler’, it is also a source of history.” Speaking of the three witches, I found the etymology of the “three witches” in some lore published in one of the old issues of the Midland. It said that three witches once predicted the fate of a king, so much so that everyone had to fear them and believe in what they say. Much like what our present-day three witches: Aunties Cecile Afable, Leonie San Agustin, and Gene de Guia do for the officials of Baguio City, now if only they listen to the ladies well and hard…

A word of caution though, our publisher says, the news that is published in the Midland is news according to the staff members of that particular year. Objectivity should not be included as among the characteristics of a news report, Philippine Daily Inquirer North Luzon editor Rolly Fernandez tells his students. “You can never be objective, all writers will always have a bias in choosing and writing the news.”

So I proceed with caution, looking at the pages, reading the stories, and choosing reprints (some of which you will find here in the Supplement Issue) always bearing in mind that although I am looking at 62 years of Baguio’s history here, it still is not the full story. For full stories or background knowledge on the stories, you have to go back to the source, and ‘take advantage’ of them—especially if they are living, breathing, yet bordering on going to the unknown
Unfortunately for me, my parents had not yet been born in the 1940s, and my grandparents living near Baguio have long passed away. I have to look for the ‘grandparents’ of others to regale me with stories from the Baguio of old. I wonder if their own children or grandchildren ever ask them stories from the past, or if they shun these stories as some archaic never-ending tales of senile men and women.

I found recurring surnames among the writers and contributors to the Midland. I surmised that maybe this and that were the ancestors of this and that now. I ended up having lots of questions in my mind. There are a lot more pages to re-read. It was like reading Baguio’s history of 62 years and beyond. Predictions then about waste management, squatters, water, planting, and even global warming are coming true now. A true blue city development plan aside from the Burnham blue print which is now outdated, as well as a new City Charter was very much needed in the past, as it is now, and will be needed in the future. Busol was then, like now, a problem for the city. Squatters, encroaching the watershed, were already a big problem of long-time mayor Luis Lardizabal way back in the 1960s.

A treasure trove of facts
Remember the “You know you’re from Baguio if…” list? Well it was composed by a lot of taga-Baguio who grew up here in the years pre-dating the 1990 earthquake. One thing mentioned there was the existence of a zoo at the Botanical Garden and that a big python escaped from its cage. I thought all along that it was an urban legend, as did many of my batchmates. I was born in 1982 and I grew up near the Botanical Garden finding it full of bayyek and nothing more. Of course, the idea that it was once a zoo couldn’t quite capture my imagination. But a zoo it really was! Complete with bears and snakes as seen in pictures published in the Midland Courier. It is only apt that it becomes now the Baguio Centennial Park for it is truly ours, truly made by Filipinos. Even then, Botanical Garden or Imelda Park held a special place in the hearts of our leaders and even First Lady Imelda Marcos who funded many projects in the city.

Other amazing facts to read are the fund-raising events headed by Midland led by business manager Oseo Hamada. Where funding was needed, there he is along with Midland editor in chief Sinai Hamada and staff members G. Bert Floresca, G. Pawid Keith, Juan Valdez, and even Cecile Afable. They raised funds for the Athletic Bowl, for Burnham Park, for the Fire Department, for scholars, for the blind children, for the disaster hit areas, where funding was needed, there they were along with their corresponding civic groups and supporters. They were successful in raising funds because people responded—from the locals to the national officials and even big businessmen and old families in Metro Manila. Be it P1 (which was already a big amount then) to P20,000, all donations were published in the Midland to acknow-ledge their donors.

The Midland Courier is also famous for its obituary with pictures. The first published obituary with picture was that of the mother of our publisher, Virginia Hamada in 1977. To this day many different papers, even national papers have followed the picture obituary started by Midland. For many readers, the obituary comes as the first thing to read in the paper “Adda ngata am-ammok nga natay?” was the mindset. No, it isn’t a morbid thought, it just shows a community concern for someone who passes away. A picture in the obituary is a family’s way of grieving or of making it up to the dead relative or to ask other people to pause and remember a loved one long gone.

The Midland and other papers
Many midland staffers in the past have gone on either to become politicians or put up their own papers. What was worth noting especially in the archives is to see old school papers of Baguio Tech now University of Baguio, Baguio Colleges Foundation now University of the Cordilleras, Eastern Philippine Colleges now Baguio Central University published as supplementary issues in the Midland. In a sense, it was a paper within a paper.

The Mountain Province Teachers also had their own publication coming out regularly in Midland as well as the Lepanto Mines during its heyday.

It was apparently a selling strategy of the Midland then. More readers were reached or became interested in reading the paper if their school or company’s own paper was inside its pages. In turn, the schools also paid a discounted rate for having their paper published and distributed along with the Midland. It became a true community paper!

The schools eventually acquired their own printing machines and went on to publish their own papers independently. The Gold Ore of then-BCF even became a full blown community paper, a weekly staple bought alongside the Midland in decades past before it folded up.

Midland, which has always used English as its medium also had an Ilocano counterpart, called the Lowland Courier. It was based in La Union and was edited by Abe Belena some time in the 1960s and 1970s before it too folded up.

That’s where the word ‘Midland’ term came from, to differentiate it from the highlands and the lowlands. It was right smack in the middle of the Northern Luzon Island.

I cannot offer to have people come to the office to read the archives along with me. Some of the pages have turned to dust. The print outs are fighting a losing battle against age and preservation, although they are neatly kept in the newly renovated Midland offices.

Many have requested to look into our archives. Sadly, we cannot offer them for viewing as the pages are delicate. However, copies of the archives are sent yearly to Ateneo and the Philippine Press Institute. Our website also contains archives since May 2007 and hopefully, computers and the Internet will not let us down.

Suffice it to say, the reprints we have in this issue will hopefully give you an idea of what we have in the treasury of our archives. Happy Reading! : )

Supplement Articles
:: Which Baguio Centennial?
:: Baguio Midland Courier Builder
:: The 4 Fs across
the times
:: Kennon’s own report on the famous zig–zag
:: What if Baguio settled for a railroad
:: A look into Baguio’s transport system
:: Baguio: A Citadel of Learning
:: Growing up in early Baguio
:: Early recollections
:: Baguio’ cool climate keeps tourism, economy vibrant
:: Development of Burnham Park is city’ concern
:: Remembering the lessons of the past for the future: The Baguio City Market
:: Look, young man, on this tree city, now
:: The Anatomy of Squatting in Summer Capital
:: Baguio’s Many People
:: Bring Baguio Home
:: The Cordillera Warriors
:: A native–born scans: The Future of Baguio
:: Cement Pours into Baguio
:: A futuristic master plan for Baguio
:: Should BMC start tweeting?
:: 62 years of important events in the city
:: My hometown
Baguio City




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