Issue of June 17, 2012

64th Courier Anniversary Issue
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Cecile C. Afable
by Patricia Afable, Andy Afable

…the sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.

--lines from William Wordsworth,
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

Cecile C. Afable, writer, social advocate, environmentalist, literature teacher, and grand dame of Baguio’s media circle, was born 93 years ago to Josefa Cariño of Baguio City and Teruji Okubo of Hiroshima, Japan. With four brothers, she grew up in Apdi, in a house built by her father, overlooking the Burnham Park. They were Oseo Hamada, Sinai Hamada (both by her mother’s marriage to Reukitse Hamada of Kagoshima), Policarpio Okubo Hamada, and Bernardo Yoshikazu Okubo. She attended the Baguio Central School, the Mountain Province High School, and gained a Bachelor of Philosophy at the University of the Philippines in 1938. She was the U.P.’s first woman graduate of Ibaloy descent.

Afable’s career as a journalist and social advocate began in the 1930s, with contributions to the Philippine Magazine and the Baguio Bulletin on folklore and Igorot identity. In 1947, as Baguio began to rebuild from the ruins of World War II, her brothers and she founded the weekly Baguio Midland Courier, Baguio’s oldest newspaper. Her column, “In and Out of Baguio,” now going for over sixty years, gained a loyal readership that regularly turned to it for critical (and humorous) social and political comment. Her late husband, Silvestre Ramos Afable of Balayan, Batangas, was the paper’s managing editor. She became the Courier’s editor in 1985, when she resumed writing after several years of silence during the Marcos dictatorship.

During Cecile Afable’s current term as its editor, the Baguio Midland Courier has garnered multiple national awards in editorial writing, investigative reporting, and for coverage of indigenous rights and environmental and other social justice issues. These commendations have come from the Philippine Press Institute and the Adenauer Foundation. An education and media award from the Management Association of the Philippines (2005) especially singles out her leadership in “indigenous cultural communities.” She has been judged one of four nationally best-known columnists by the Catholic Media Foundation.

A U.S. government Smith-Mundt-Fulbright fellowship in 1951 enabled her to study civic organizations and government social security programs in the U.S. and Europe. Upon her return, she served in President Ramon Magsaysay’s administration as Community Development Consultant and as technical assistant for “cultural minorities.” She is best remembered in the post-War Benguet community for representing the Itogon people’s protests against the plan for a third hydroelectric dam along the Agno River at Tebbo. During that decade, she ran for a seat in the Baguio City Council, for which she was a “prominent Igorot contender,” along with Eugene Pucay and Pedro Carantes.

In the 1940s to the 1960s, Cecile Afable not only worked as a journalist and teacher while raising three sons and a daughter. She also served as president or board member of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the YWCA, the Baguio Women’s Club, and the first BIBAK assemblies. Her environmental causes go back to that early period, for she led tree-planting programs with Girl Scouts all over the city and in Benguet. Along with her contemporaries, Virginia de Guia and Leonie San Agustin, she rallied women to participate in public life through these organizations.

She taught English literature, composition, and drama in the Balayan Institute (1946), at the Baguio Colleges (now University of the Cordilleras) (1947-1950s) and at University of the Philippines summer institutes. Through the first Baguio Colleges BIBAK in the late 1940s, she mentored many of the first generation of college-bound students from Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao, and Kalinga subprovinces. As they took up positions as educators and civil servants in the Cordillera region in the next decade, her former students welcomed their maestra on her travels to the highland capitals. In those early years, the young college teacher also regularly hosted students in her home on Padre Burgos Street, as they planned life careers, wrote political tracts, and most memorably to her children, rehearsed Shakespearean productions in full costume.

In the 1960s, Cecile Afable went into business and founded the ATO Bookshop and Art Gallery on Session Road. Wildly popular, this unique institution showcased indigenous art, especially weaving and sculpture, in addition to selling the published work of local and international writers. However, this sometime coffee shop, lending library, and art gallery generated such lively political talk that it attracted the attention of the Marcos dictatorship. Its book collection was confiscated by the military government, and Afable voluntarily toned down her political commentary.

While Cecile Afable withdrew during this period in the 1980s from many public activities, her civic and educational work continued. She served as Capitan of Padre Burgos Barangay, one of the most satisfying stints of her brief government service. She headed the founding Board of the Baguio-Mountain Provinces Museum, as it established its first artifact collections and exhibitions. As the destruction of Baguio’s watersheds received crucial national attention, she founded the Baguio Regreening Movement with Bishop Salgado and Dr. Julie Camdas-Cabato. The movement’s early projects raised funds for the fencing and reforestation of the Forbes Park watershed reserve, and it continues its educational role in raising awareness of the Baguio and Cordillera environment.

As she moved into the 1990s and into the present time, the public recognition of Cecile Afable’s many-sided career have taken the form of “lifetime achievement awards” from across a wide spectrum of Baguio and national civic institutions. During the 2009 Baguio Kababaihan Festival, the City Government of Baguio gave her the title “Outstanding Centennial Woman Leader”. As part of the first generation of Cordillerans to attend the University of the Philippines, Cecile Afable especially cherishes the plaque of recognition she received in 1998 from the Baguio City Women’s Board, which called her “one of Baguio women who has played a role in Philippine history and nation building.”

Cecile and Silvestre Afable had four children, Patricia, Andy, Bembo (d. 1987), and Yong Yong. Ten grandchildren and three great grandchildren have descended from these four siblings.
They proceed into the future with full hearts.

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PWU Baguio
Technical Education & Skills Development Authority – CAR
University of Baguio

Baguio Central University
Baguio Country Club
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Health – CAR
John Hay Management Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
New Media Services
Pag–IBIG Fund
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlungsod

Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center
Baguio Center Mall
Baguio Water District
Choobi Choobi
Congressman Mark O. Go
Councilor Leandro B. Yangot Jr.
Curamed Pharmacy
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR
Department of Science and Technology
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza & Solibao Restaurants
Gen. Benjie B. Magalong
GMS Technology
Governor Crescencio C. Pacalso
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Mayor Romeo K. Salda
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
Narda’s / Sunflower Ridge
Northern Luzon School for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori, Inc.
Philex Mining Corporation
Police Regional Office – CAR
Regional Development Council – CAR and National Economic and Development Authority – CAR
Regional Tripartate Wages and Productivity Board – CAR
SN Aboitiz
Tony Boy Tabora
Veterans Bank
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