July 13, 2024

The “Opposite Connection” column of lawyer Benedicto “Benny” Torralba Carantes came out as usual during the paper’s Sept. 19 issue – submitted before the weekly deadline, written in longhand on several pages of yellow paper without fail, complete with margins, erasures, and scrawls only the editorial assistant who encoded it would decipher.
Nobody knew it would be the column’s last issue, bringing grief and utter loss for its writer’s legion of avid readers from all walks of Baguio life.
Carantes, erstwhile Baguio City chief prosecutor better known for having maintained a huge following for his “Opposite Connection” column in the Courier, passed away on Sept. 20 due to pneumonia. He was 79.
He was born on Dec. 24, 1941 to Pedro P. Carantes Jr. and Catalina A. Torralba in Kapa-ngan, Benguet and settled in New Lucban, Baguio City. He studied at Saint Louis Laboratory School, Saint Louis Boys’ High School, University of the Philippines, and Saint Louis University.
He finished Bachelor of Laws in SLU as cum laude. He started practicing law after passing the Bar, and worked as second assistant city prosecutor from 1987 to 2002 and as chief city prosecutor from to 2002 to 2007.
He was the chair of the committees on civic affairs and community extension services of the Baguio Centennial Commission, which was formed to prepare and spearhead the city’s celebration of its 100 years.
Carantes started writing for the Courier in 1980 and would later become one of the paper’s most popular columnists. Reading about his weekly pouring out of thoughts and sharing of tidbits had been a tradition for many Courier subscribers through the years.
He was known to readers for his witty, creative, and entertaining way of writing, usually with drops of sarcasm and criticism that helped shape public opinion on certain issues or controversies in the locality and even those pertaining to national and world histories and current affairs.
His unique knack for using figures of speech in describing situations and driving home a point, especially about personalities, may have earned him both friends and foes, but always gaining respect either way.
In his write-up entitled “Baguio Midland Courier Builder” for the paper’s 99th Baguio Charter Day anniversary issue, Carantes shared his thoughts about people who read his column.
A part of the piece goes, “People read my column only out of curiosity, but over the years I soon acquired a readership, not that I wrote great or anything close, but what I had was imagination, and even today, I like to think it is my imagination that keeps my imagination alive.”
“I like to think too that I have a feel for the people’s pulse, and I am able to articulate their sentiments.”
In the same article, he said the newspaper that exclusively carried his column “has become a guiding light for the people of Baguio as they can better manage their lives that hopefully, would also inspire the city leadership to do better or at least improve public service.”
“The Midland Courier,” Carantes continued, “is the watchdog of government, ready to pounce on any public official who betrays people’s trust. More than anything, the Courier exposes those who picture themselves as paragons of virtue, and yet live secret scandalous lives, slyly pilfering public funds.
To be sure, the Courier is not a saint. It is a god to whom readers pay homage every Sunday, and while the Courier is not exactly infallible, it is, to the highest degree, fair, honest, fearless, and free.”
In leaving behind sons Marc Benedict and Melphether, relatives, colleagues, friends, ka-brods, kakailyan, and countless readers, Carantes is joining his wife whom he would always refer to as “his Minda,” the name that usually graced his columns through anecdotes of their early years up to his days of mourning, and on days he sorely missed her when she went ahead of him a few years back.
Unlike in his column’s conclusions that he would usually end with greetings for current occasions and important events, or remind everyone how many days are left before Christmas and New Year, or make postscripts for obituaries, how people around him leave one after the other, or make jokes about who between him and his close friends will soon meet their Creator, Carantes did not give a hint that his Sept. 19, 2021 column would be his last, and that he would be departing the very next day. Not even a punctuation symbolizing goodbye.
Just the same, his “final conclusion” to life is no less powerful, and will serve as a lasting “connection” to his readers. – Hanna C. Lacsamana