99th Baguio Charter Day Anniversary Issue
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Should BMC start tweeting?
by Fiedes Doctor

Tama na ang dakdak. Let’s do something!” That would be a reader’s tweet on a regular weekday—if we were tweeting.
And this would have been our reply: “Right on!”

Baguio Midland Courier
hasn’t caught up in the tweeting craze yet. In the meantime, we open dozens of envelopes and emails every week for the Week’s Mail, Speaking Out, and Animated Me columns to read our readers’ reactions, rants, and raves.

We prefer paper that has left somebody’s warm hand with a signature at the bottom of the page. We like reading complete sentences and paragraphs, feeling the writer’s heart poured out in so many words.

OK, Baguio Midland Courier is very traditional and sentimental, an “old man,” for you Internet junkies. But happy, nonetheless, because we are hearing from our readers.

Giving birth to a voice
Week’s Mail is as old as the newspaper itself. It started with a handful of letters from concerned citizens from the neighborhood to now, 62 years later, from as far as the Middle East. We’ve had letters in cursive or typewritten, before the computer became accessible to the average Cordilleran. 

Issues tackled were the usual suspects: politics and corruption, criminality, justice and fairness, and “sins” committed by practically everyone—from the president of the Philippines to the unwitting jeepney driver.

“If President Arroyo is not removed, our country would go to the dogs,” says an avid letter writer, whose cursive has finally progressed to the typewritten word. She adds, as an afterthought: “Well, our country has already gone to the dogs.”

Mahiya naman po kayo,” says one letter writer, venting about homeowners who continue to “engage in initiating gambling.” Another airs his “bad experience” with “a fixer” in one government office.

Details of these issues have changed through the years, but the sentiment remains the same: to make Baguio and the Cordillera, its environs and its people, a little bit better—and to protect it at all cost.

The Speaking Out column was birthed in October 2000, to give voice to the Cordillera youth. The silent generation and the baby boomers have been hogging the week’s mail for decades. It was time to allow the younger generations—the X and the Y—to speak out.

What is in their mind? What grieves their heart? What are their passions?
The articles poured in bunches as word got out that they now had a platform to share their opinions without fear of criticism or reproach. Favorite topics included President Arroyo and former president Estrada, as always, and other politicians and officials of the land. Tackled, too, were corruption, education, environment, and justice.

The section Animated Me was an offshoot of the Speaking Out. Instead of social ills or political woes, some submissions were personal stories like lost loves or lost jobs, or a tribute to parents.

So this is what they treasure and value, we thought. Thus Animated Me was born on July 2001, as an avenue for the youth to share their lives, also without criticism and reproach.

Now, by demand, Animated Me is open to all ages. Like we always say, everybody has a story.

Sharing lives
“What if I was doing things wrong? What if the things I value and spend so much of my time on are not really important?” a young writer asks in the Animated Me section. “How will I know if I’m really happy?”

“‘Siguro mas okay kung
friends muna tayo...’ I heard it once,” says another writer. “Honestly, it did not change anything. I am still hurt.” 

The writers make a brave attempt to be vulnerable to a public they do not know. They communicate, sometimes anonymously, their analysis about everything
and anything. For so many years, the Courier was their mouthpiece as they questioned their existence, or God’s, their values, the authorities, their culture or
society. They went back to pasts that haunt them, or looked forward to a future that might be.

And people listened.
“I didn’t expect there would be someone so touched as to have her reaction in print. For that, Aurora, thank you so much,” wrote Clarita Sumahit, one of Animated Me’s most regular contributors, about a reader’s written reaction to one of her essays.

Mom Claire, as we came to know her, was a respected teacher in the community. Her stories spoke about faith and hope and zest for life in the midst of fighting the grip of cancer that gave her only six months to live.

She, as well, was inspired by others. “The pain that my affliction would make me feel later on as my disease progressed could not compare with Laura’s burden whose husband is afflicted with a disease,” she wrote in 2005.

“They are admirable. They contribute to my courage to go on living with joy and thankfulness in my heart.”

For years, she shared glimpses about her fight, or a grandson’s basketball game, until there was no more. She passed on recently, her words—and her life—forever etched in the Courier’s pages.

She is one of many testaments that the Animated Me has evolved into more than just a platform for self-expression. It has become a living thing, growing with our readers and writers, as they become each other’s source of strength and inspiration.

“This paper could link together total strangers to draw courage from each other’s bitter experiences in their fight for life... helping them bear their agonizing load,” Mom Claire once said.

Talking shop
The Week’s Mail also links complete strangers, though not as cordial and sympathetic. More like annoyed, agitated, and angry, especially if corruption and prejudice is blatant.

The Cordillerans are forgiving, at most, but not on some points that poke their principles.

“Garbage, trash... scattered everywhere! Is it too hard to comprehend the city’s campaign on the proper disposal of garbage?” says a resident frustrated with others’ non-compliance.

Mahiya naman po kayo!” says another to fellow homeowners involved in gambling.

“Do the people of Baguio a favor, resign!” an irate writer tells DPWH officials. “Resign because the people have suffered from your misguided actions! Resign so we may be assured that the taxes we pay do not fall into the hands of incompetent government agency heads!”

Their brows are knitted in dismay, their fists curled to a ball. Hear them gritting their teeth and pounding the tables? Such is the passion of our readers, replicated in almost every mail.

In 1953, letter writer Alfredo Lamen caused a stir when he published a controversial quote from Carlos P. Romulo’s book “Mother America,” supposedly defining Igorots as “our wild tribes” and “not Filipinos.”

“Let the public be the judge,” he challenged, which was then very important and crucial. Romulo was courting votes to win the Philippine presidency.
On the same page was Romulo’s letter to Lamen, saying his observations “may have been open to misinterpretation.” He nevertheless apologized and promised to make the necessary correction. “I deeply regret it,” he says.

Fiery letters poured in for several weeks, quickly dividing the writers into two camps: he either misrepresented the Igorot or he was, unfortunately, misinterpreted. One thing was certain, Romulo did not win the vote.

Half a century later, the Week’s Mail continues to provide a chatroom for heated discussion, especially whenever ethnicity is at stake.

Comedienne Candy Pangilinan’s “Tao po ako, hindi Igorot” remark, made at the heart of the city, brought a barrage of letters again. Some condemned her to persona non grata status, others asked that she be given “a second chance.”

“What she has said is not something to be ignored. It is not simply racial discrimination, but racial murder,” says one writer.

Pangilinan has since publicly apologized, showing sincere remorse for the lapse in judgment and offering the services of her popularity.

The dynamic exchange among readers will go on until all angles have been covered and every emotion expressed. Until another issue crops up. Then it begins again.

The Week’s Mail is probably the most widely read section of the Courier because of this. There are regular writers and there are favorite targets of contention. The opinion swap keeps everyone anticipating the next pertinent compliment, suggestion, or complete water down remark.

And the one-week wait makes it better than Twitter.

Change we need
The writers that contribute to the Speaking Out section are patriots hiding behind distressed jeans. They are young and hip, or could be geeky and boring. But regular people, nonetheless.

They play video games, hang out at internet cafes, watch movies, listen to their iPods, chat, and tweet. But when something stabs into their consciousness, they speak out.

“It gives me great fury and immense anxiety,” a writer says about the disturbing conditions a teacher has to endure to do his/her job. Low pay, no school supplies, 70 students, minimum benefits. “Does the government really care? I don’t think so.”

“Why do people want to become politicians? Why do they want to become the congressman or the president?” asks another frustrated writer. “To help the poor? To initiate change? To make the move for a more responsible and more accountable government?”

The writers lash out most times, but in the end, they only want one simple thing: change–in ourselves and in others.

Dina Marie Delias, one of the earlier and regular writers of Speaking Out, talks about her apprehensions as a youth. “Am I and fellow Gen-Xers ready for the challenges? Do we have what it takes to cope with the problems of society?”

She gives a rundown of social adversities: gasoline prices, the devaluation of the peso against the dollar, the rising prices of basic commodities, political issues and national security, the depletion of our natural resources.

“Will things get better or worse?” she asks. “I feel trepidation, yet I know what must be done.”

According to her, this means becoming “a conscientious voter, an active environmentalist, a reliable professional, and a worthy Filipino who takes meaningful action to help our country.”

Another writer sums it up: “All that is left to do is... yes, hope.” 

In 2000, Kim, Jung Ki (Joey), a Korean national, came to the Philippines filled with dread because of negative news about the country. What if he is “bullied by gang members on the streets” or “left for dead by some heartless robber?” he says in his Speaking Out essay. Add to that the humidity and pollution of Manila, the first city he saw.

This perception changed when he set foot here, in our Baguio City.

“There were bright stars in the sky, almost like a fireworks display,” he says. “I have never seen anything like it! Everything was so beautiful!”
The idea of Speaking Out is for the youth to share what grieves them so that the older generation may know. Underneath the scathing remarks is belief that this country “ain’t so bad” and that it can “rise like a Phoenix.” 

If a foreigner can see the beauty of our country, we can, too.

All for community
Should the Courier start tweeting, then, just because everybody does?

Not yet.

Furious thoughts and fierce hugs found in the pages of the Week’s Mail, Speaking Out, and Animated Me are not possible with just a few tweet phrases.
The Courier is not just a bearer of news, or opinion by an elite few. It is a virtual dap-ayan where every Cordilleran—by birth or affinity—from Session Road to Washington, D.C. can converge and debate or share life together. Our readers and writers have made this happen.

It’s all about community. And LOL. (That “lots of love” for you, tweeter.)

Supplement Articles
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:: 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
:: Behind the scenes: searching the Midland Archives
:: 62 years of important events in the city
:: My hometown
Baguio City

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