Benedicto Torralba Carantes:
WHEN OPPOSITE CONNECTIONS DRAW LEGION OF FOLLOWERS
On Sept. 20, Atty. Benedicto Torralba Carantes, former chief city prosecutor and revered Courier columnist bid farewell to his legion of followers. He was 79.
In the world of journalism, his untimely passing came at a time when readers were looking forward to his next piece in his much sought-after Opposite Connection column.
Along with the countless and nameless readers and supporters of the Courier, our thoughts and prayers are with the members of the Carantes family, who, despite their loss, are beaming with pride and honor to have shared the life of one of the best sons of Baguio, who was also one of the scions of the original Ibaloy settlers of this mountain resort.
Over the course of writing his column for more than 40 years, Carantes had gained strong followers for his no-nonsense commentaries and insights, mostly on news and current events and other pressing issues not only in the localities but also in the national and international scenes, which were written in a way well-understood even by average readers.
Undoubtedly, Carantes had greatly helped in shaping the socio-economic and political landscapes, not just of this city but also of nearby provinces, as he had his way of making those who hold key positions in government and private sectors to be accountable for their actions through his columns
His excellent command of the English language and his vast experience as a practicing lawyer and eventually as a prosecutor made him a cut above the rest.
Readers warmed up to anecdotes of his life, and saw through his columns the story of how experiences shaped him to be who he was – delightful notes of being that boy next door in the New Lucban neighborhood, his engaging stories of his travels, travails, and troubles as a typical Ibaloy who grew up in the city. He had serious topics that dealt with politics, economy, social ills, including military and law enforcement affairs, and about his classmates in the “flying school.”
He was a fixture in the neighborhood. He would be seen at a table at the frontage of their house, unwinding at the end of the day, waving to neighbors passing by, or entertaining prominent guests discussing serious matters or simply bantering with friends. Despite his stature, he always remained that boy next door. That alley will never be the same again.
It is puzzling why he was never bestowed the Outstanding Citizen of Baguio award in the field of journalism, what with his excellent journalistic acumen. But his trail of readers have nominated him several times as “Columnist of the Year” in recognition of his excellence in civic journalism through his long-running column.
As a columnist, he had earned enemies, especially when his topics bordered on ethnic and political affiliations, among other sensitive issues, like occasional sexist remarks. But he was always ready to make amends within the bounds of his principles, if needed be.
Unbeknownst to many, he wrote his columns over the past 40 years in cursive which his sons, Marc Benedict or Melpether, would later encode before rushing it to the Courier during presswork. But of late, when his sons were unavailable, he still made sure to beat the deadline. Oftentimes, he would share how he dearly missed his wife, Minda, who had left for the great beyond ahead of him.
Even with the decline in newspaper readership seen in the last decade, his column maintained a strong following, with faithful readers eagerly scanning the pages of the Courier for his latest piece.
It is unfortunate that his passing came at a time when his commentaries on the current national leadership and upcoming national and local elections would have mattered a lot in shaping opinions, as he had done through his columns for the past decades.
Would his passing signal the slowly vanishing era of commentary/opinion journalism in the local scene, or can his staunch stance on issues that matter find an equal in this highland city?
By now, we imagine he would be in the company of other fellow great Baguio journalists and lawyers who went ahead of him to meet the Supreme Editor in the great newsroom in the sky.
By and large, Carantes, along with the great founders of this paper, moved minds and hearts, within the tenets of journalism, with words that gave color, relevance, excitement, and direction to community life across generations in this highland region.
But more importantly, Carantes shared the view that journalism is what maintains democracy. It’s the force for progressive change.
It is our hope his dream for a better city, churned out in thousands and thousands of handwritten words while he lived, will continue to linger long after he put the period he ended his last written sentence with.
Vaya con Dios, Señor Benny.