June 14, 2024

With social media long been allowing anyone connected to the Internet and subscribed to online platforms to get the latest news and current events, hot off-the-press copies of Baguio Midland Courier available in newsstands on Sundays for 75 years and Saturdays since after the pandemic have remained a source of reliable information, updates, and events in the “wonderland of the Cordilleras and the riches of Ilocandia”.

For its loyal and avid readers, nothing beats the satisfaction derived from leafing through the pages of the physical copy of the newspaper, a habit developed through 77 years of Midland Courier’s uninterrupted publication.

The habit involves reading the paper section by section and from page to page, devouring every bit of information, but not necessarily front first towards the last pages.

To each of its reader, Midland Courier serves different purposes: knowing the latest news, getting hooked by human interest stories, weighing in issues and forming opinions, finding a job or availing of a service, getting a slice of life, celebrating new life and victories, or learning about a member of the community going ahead of them to the great beyond.

The Obit page

Reading Midland Courier does not have to be from page one to the last page. Some read it back to front, opinion pages first, or scan the front page for a more comprehensive reading for later.

Interestingly but not surprisingly, others would go directly to the lovingly designed announcements in the Obituary section of the newspaper. Some losses would actually land on the front page as stories, and including notable departures has also become a tradition in the paper’s annual Nominations list.

Midland Courier readers place practically all tidbits of information they found in the paper on equal footing, giving as much relevance to details about someone’s passing as they give to the hottest issues and events of the week, making the Obit page an indelible part of the paper even when the passing of someone, regardless of age or social status, could now be readily announced on social media.

For 77 years, these pages have bannered respect for one’s birth, life events in between, the celebration of a life well spent, and holding memories dear years after, which is the very sense of a “community”, and for which the Midland Courier stands for. 

BEARER OF OBITUARIES — The Baguio Midland Courier has always been the go-to newspaper for the Baguio community and beyond to get updates on issues, trends, and even on people who passed on through its obituaries section. Here, retired U.S. Submarine Veteran 85-year old Juan Cuenco Mabesa, Jr. scans through the obituaries section of the community newspaper in one of his morning routines upon visiting Luisa’s Cafe, which he does when he visits Baguio City. — Ofelia Empian

BMC as the voice of the community

Sixty-six-year-old Cornelia “Coney” Padinay is one of those long-time avid readers of the Midland Courier who admits rather proudly that a day or a week would not be complete without reading a copy of Midland, then and now.

Growing up in the mountains of Camp 3, Tuba in Benguet where public transportation were hard to come by along Kennon Road in the ‘70s when she was a high school student, Coney remembers Midland being the only local newspaper that reached their area.

The paper, which her father always bought and brought home, helped her develop the habit of reading which she carried with her when she went to Baguio to continue her studies.

It was then when she started buying a copy of Midland herself as much as her allowance would allow her. On days she cannot, she went to an inn at Lakandula Street owned by a cousin to read the newspaper the facility offered to its guests.

She continued with the habit when she landed a job as a clerk at the Office of the Provincial Governor of Benguet under then Gov. Ben Palispis. She remembers being in awe upon seeing in person her favorite columnist, the late Atty. Benny Carantes when he visited at the Capitol, as well as former Midland editor in-chief Cecile Afable.

“Those times, Midland was the only newspaper available, but even when other newspapers came in, I still read only Midland,” Coney shared.

She likes the paper because it serves what she needs, primarily news from the different provinces in the region that keep her updated. But Coney also finds it amazing and made her all the more love Midland for its knack to voice out what she thought must be written about.

“Iniisip ko pa lang, na itong pangyayaring ito ay dapat mai-report, naisulat na agad ng Midland,” she said.

This includes issues from which readers may draw their own opinion or stand. “When I believe something should be published to reach concerned authorities, Midland puts in writing in its editorial. So it really feels it is the voice of the community, because it makes the sentiments and thoughts of readers like me heard.”

Coney maintained the “Midland habit” towards her journey as a public servant. After her stint at the Benguet Governor’s Office, she was employed at the Civil Service Commission in 1989 until she served as its director for Benguet in 2013, and until she retired from public service in 2020.

PROVIDER OF INFORMATION THE PUBLIC NEEDSThen and now, Cornelia Padinay said Midland Courier is the only local newspaper that she reads because it provides news and updates from Cordillera provinces which the public needs to know. As someone who reads the paper from cover to cover, she added its Obituary Section also serves as a venue for bereaved families to express their gratitude and appreciation to those who condoled with them in the time of their grief. — Hanna C. Lacsamana

A platform to verify a community member’s passing

Coney is among the “backward” readers of Midland, which simply means she turns to the back pages first, particularly the Obituaries section, before reading the news pages.

For her, the Obituary page keeps her informed about who died, which she finds helpful especially if it is someone she knew.

“Doon ko nakikita ‘yung mga kaibigan o mga kakilala ko na wala na pala sila. It’s a sort of an ‘announcement board’ and for that, I believe it is one of the important sections of Midland. May mga pagkakataong obituary ang unang binubuklat ko before going over the other pages. Nakasanayan ko na sa likod ako ng newspaper nag-uumpisang magbasa because I am curious sino na ba ang mga nauna sa atin. Especially at my age right now, I believe it is normal to be concerned when I see a friend or a classmate on these pages,” Coney said.

She also has a social media account and she knows announcements about someone’s departure can be done through social media, but the newspaper remains her constant source.

“It validates someone has died. If someone is not sure if somebody already passed on, the doubt is resolved once it is published through Midland’s obituary as it confirms one has already passed on, even though it can be also validated later on through friends or relatives,” Coney said.

Even when she has adapted to the digital world and at times read Midland news online, Coney prefers reading the actual copy because “there is more to read in the physical copy”. For someone like her whose eyes now get tired easily, it is easier and better to read the paper than through a gadget.

More than announcing someone’s death

Coney added aside from being not content unless someone’s passing is published on Midland, she appreciates its obituary section for being a venue for a bereaved family to express their gratitude to those who condoled and helped them get through the difficult time of grief.

She believes the tradition of giving a bereaved family a platform to reach out to those who were with them during such time is something that cannot be fulfilled entirely by using the social media, because not everybody is online and would miss knowing about the family’s gratitude.

“It is like there is something missing if we do not formally announce it in the paper, as well as in the radio, considering that we might not have been able to keep track of all those who came to a wake to condole with us, so we wanted them to know through the obituary page,” she said.

A habit that binds a family together

As much as Baguio educator and breastfeeding advocate Di Anne Mendoza remembers, it had been a habit for her grandmother, Baguio City High National High School Economics teacher Encarnacion Pimentel, to buy a copy of Midland every Sunday for the entire family to read.

“It’s like a routine of the family to buy it, from my lola to my mom and to me who grew up with her. My grandma loved to read and catch up with what was happening in the city,” Mendoza said, as she shared her the story of her grandmother, who passed away at the age of 93 last year.

And the first page she turned into, indeed, is the Obit, to know who they have lost this or that week, which Di Anne attributes to her grandma’s thinking about her age and who among her friends or co-teachers went ahead of her.

She would tell the family about the “news” and bring them to visit that departed’s wake to pay their last respects, or call the family through the landline to express their sympathies. This has been the habit until Di Anne’s grandma passed on.

Grandma Enca, being an educator, loved to read, and she saw to it that she read the paper from page to page, especially the write-ups about Di Anne’s advocacy for exclusive breastfeeding, which served as pride and honor for the family as it led to the establishment of the multi-awarded Breastfeeding Care Center of the North that serves as one-stop shop for breastfeeding moms.

“It is an invaluable thing that she imparted to us, her love for reading Midland, which cannot be surpassed by any online platform because it has become a family tie that binds us together, and the reason why until now every Sunday we have to buy a copy. It has been our tradition,” Di Anne shared.

She and all the grandchildren of lola Enca have also adopted the habit of checking the Obit page first, before anything else.

“For me, a death being published in Midland is more about maintaining the connection among the members of society of Baguio and reading it regularly can be said to be the way of life for a true Baguio resident,” Di Anne said.

The Obit page designer

Like the news pages which follow the layout standards of the paper, the Midland Obit pages also adhere to certain styles in keeping with the nature of obituaries. For 31 years, the Obit pages have been handled by Midland senior computer layout artist Joel Co.

As the one solely responsible in laying out obits, Co has seen through the transformation of its designs since he started as an encoder and later designated to lay out obits up to the present.

Designing an obituary is not as easy as it seemed. Co said standards have to be followed so that the design is appropriate for the deceased person, used according to the wishes of the bereaved family. He sees to it suitable designs and wordings are used as a show of respect and to keep the dignity a person deserved, as the announcement of their passing is made public.

Co, after finishing a secretarial course at 19, decided to take up a degree to meet the requirements of his job when he became a layout artist, and completing it while working at Midland to support his studies.

“Before, when there were no sophisticated computers, layout software, and Google yet, we used to start from scratch in coming up with an obituary material. Obits have also gone through the cut-and-paste process. Through the years, arranging this page has also evolved but still keeps the standards of the paper,” Co said.

Midland as government partner, supporter of life

Both Coney and Di Anne have volunteered the fact that Midland played important roles in their respective careers.

As head of the CSC-Benguet, Coney acknowledged Midland as a valued partner of CSC in its Anti-Red Tape Act Watch campaigns, not only in terms of news reportage but also in ensuring government agencies comply with its programs against red tape.

She appreciated the support of the paper when it accommodates CSC press releases about civil service exams and other details which greatly help in disseminating reliable information and guidance about the agency’s programs.

Coney said the Midland staff also covered CSC ARTA Watch activities, joining inspections of concerned government agencies themselves and coming up with reliable reports to help in making public servants on their toes.

Di Anne said Midland has played a big role in the establishment of Breastfeeding Care Center of the North. Being a mom who had difficulty breastfeeding her child after she gave birth, she searched for specialists that could help her. She discovered there is such a thing as a lactation massage, but it was only available in Manila.

She happened to meet a breastfeeding counsellor who visited Baguio and sought for help, and was awed by the fact there indeed is a way to help moms like her who are having difficulty breastfeeding.

She decided to organize a workshop by inviting a breastfeeding counsellor and placing an ad at Midland to reach out to advocates and those who are interested to be trained.

“I met the moms and others interested to be a breastfeeding peer counsellor, who have been responsible in coming up with this center after reading about our call through Midland. We were strangers, but by responding to that ad, we got connected and we were brought to where we are now since we founded the center in 2018, and recognized many times for empowering and arming mommies with breastfeeding skills and knowledge,” Di Anne said.

As she continues with the center’s advocacy, Di Anne can’t help but note the connection her grandma opened for her when she developed the habit of reading the Obit pages of Midland to her advocacy. “In obituaries, we talk about death. So I am thinking the legacy of my grandma is letting us know about the paper through its Obit page. Ironically it helped us breastfeeding advocates connect, and now we are working on the birth of new lives, the crucial first 1,000 days of babies,” Di Anne said.