February 25, 2024

The Baguio Midland Courier is now a year past its diamond jubilee and is one of the most enduring and multi-awarded community newspapers in the country. We cannot but feel nostalgic about this weekly journal having had long years of association with it as a reader, newsboy, columnist, and a contributor.
In its diamond jubilee issue, we wrote about our newsboy experience selling this paper every Sunday morning. But more than selling “Midland”, I had known its founders and have been associated with their children and their relatives, early in my youth, as a school boy from elementary up to college, my juvenile years and young adult life. So close was my association with the Hamadas, Cariños, Okubos, and Afables that I would call the elders my uncles and aunties, manongs and manangs, not only out of respect but also by a sense of affinity.
I was born in the same year that the Baguio Midland Courier was founded by brothers Sinai and Oseo, and their sister, Cecile.
Uncle Sinai was the first editor-in-chief of the paper. In his student years at the University of the Philippines, he was the editor of The Collegian, the student paper, and was recognized as an eminent literary writer. His works “Pliant as the Bamboo” and “Tanabata’s Wife” were included in the “Introduction to Freshman English” – a UP students’ textbook for English subjects.
Uncle Sinai was a lawyer and when our bosom friends Bembo Afable, Manny Mayo, and I, who were classmates at UP Law, passed the Bar, uncle Sinai invited the three of us to form a law firm, and Bembo and Manny accepted.
I joined my father, Pedro, in his law office, although we helped each other out on certain cases. Uncle Sinai continued to serve as EIC of Midland until he turned it over to his son, Steve, also a bosom friend in our college years and beyond. Steve also maintained a desk at the office, which also served as the meeting place of former UP College “barkada” composed of Baguio boys, including Peppot Ilagan, Bo-o Evangelista, DomC Cimatu, and Freddie Conchu, among others.
Uncle Ossie served as the business manager and had succeeded in expanding the pages of the Midland from a four-page community paper to an eight-page, 12-page, 16-page, then more pages, through his business acumen that spread, not only all over Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet, but all throughout the municipalities of Benguet, then to the other provinces in the Cordillera.
Thus, uncle Sinai had to gather news stories to draw the interest of the people in the Cordillera and soon also the province of La Union. In fact, for some time, Midland also published The Lowland Courier.
Uncle Ossie developed close connection with the business communities in Baguio and Benguet, civic and religious organizations, as well as with the American, Chinese, Indian, and Spanish communities. He was very outgoing, attending meetings of many organizations, played golf at John Hay, Baguio Country Club, and The Mansion.
His son, Ferdinand or Nanding, was my classmate at the Baguio Central School and Baguio City High School, and he would at times bring some golf clubs which we used at the driving range at the Baguio Athletic field, along with his cousin and our classmate, Roberto “Boy” Pagano.
One of my first clients as a lawyer was Nanding who retained me as legal counsel when he and manang Emy, wife of the late manong Oscar Hamada, built the Hamada Building along Mabini Street and conducted business there.
Soon Midland did not only contain news but sections on sports, health, and other human interest features. Business establishments, especially newly opened ones, would turn to Midland because of its wide circulation and readership.
Job openings were also advertised on the help wanted section where jobless and fresh graduates would find possible work. The obituaries also occupied many pages, what with the photos of the dearly departed also given space. Some persons would open to the obituary pages of the Midland first before reading the front page news, to see who died during the week.
For some years, it was only the Midland that published obituaries with photos.
Uncle Ossie was active in civic clubs, having been a member and officer of the Baguio Lions Club, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Baguio-Benguet Council, the Baguio Red Cross and such other organizations. He was the “go-to guy” when fund raising activities were needed by civic and religious organizations, because of his effective persuasiveness.
The paper also initiated donations for victims of natural calamities in and out of the city, the accountings of which were openly published including the donors’ names and amounts contributed duly acknowledged. The Hamada Restaurant, which serves Japanese cuisine at the Baguio Country Club, was named after uncle Ossie.
Auntie Cecile was assigned as a writer at the launching of the Midland. She wrote under her column “In and Out of Baguio” which she maintained until she passed on. She was a colorful, cheerful but feisty writer who defended the rights of indigenous peoples, the poor and oppressed members of the community and was very critical against unjust laws and pronouncements of government, especially its overdevelopment projects that destroyed Mother Earth.
Auntie Cecile opened a bookshop which she named The Atu Bookshop and being a bosom friend of her son, Bembo, who was studying in UP Diliman, she would ask me to tend to the bookshop and specially in the evening when the Baguio Toastmasters Club would hold their weekly meetings and so we had to make space for their meetings, including a snack counter and a bar where I would serve the members beer. It was a learning process for me, including styles in delivering speeches. Auntie Cecile tapped me to do research works like the kinds of ground coffee and the sources of the coffee beans being sold at the Baguio City Market.
Auntie Cecile’s son, Bembo, was like a brother to me as we were “inseparable” during our college years, except when he had to finish his undergraduate course in UP Diliman. We had so many adventures and misadventures. We joined the UP Summer Playhouse and were members of the first UP Baguio Debating Team composed of Bembo and Steve, Pepot Ilagan and I. Our coach and muse was Professor Pinky Catbagan, who was later on appointed dean of the school.
At the Summer Playhouse, the group joined in the idea of making a play from an article which we read in Life magazine. Peppot, Bembo, and Steve put our ideas together to come out with the play “The Hippie and the Red Guard” at the Summer Playhouse. We also teamed up to organize and hold the first Motocross-Mountaincross Event in Baguio and Benguet with the assistance of Ken Falco and Butch Chase.
When Steve assumed the editorship of the Midland, Bembo and Steve asked me write a column which I did and named it “Grassroots”. Being then a barangay chairman and was elected by the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) as additional member of the Baguio City council, I mainly wrote about the activities of the ABC and the activities and projects of the different barangays in Baguio, including their problems on public utilities, transportation, and peace and order. The barangay was the basic government unit created under the Local Government Code to bring government service closer to the people – the grassroots.
That is why when I was already a member of the city council and then a judge in the city, Auntie Cecile would still call me and even introduced me to her friends as “my bastard son”.
Most often, Auntie Cecile would invite me to some social functions and I would bring a bottle of Jack Daniels, one of her favorite drinks.
The Midland has greatly impacted my life through my exposure as a columnist and my association with the founders who set the ethical standards of community journalism with its declaration: “fair, fearless, friendly and free”.
In my law practice, including my years as member of the city council and in the judiciary, I had been exposed to many temptations for corruption, bribery, dishonesty, and disloyalty but I never wavered in sticking to my oath of office because of the teachings of my God-loving parents and my association with the Baguio Midland Courier.