June 14, 2024

The Baguio Midland Courier was born by about two months ahead of me. Hence, I do not have any memory of this paper until I became conscious about its existence when I became a part-time newsboy about 10 years later. I first started selling a national daily and soon a fellow newsboy and classmate nicknamed “It-tong” invited me to sell the Midland Courier on Sundays.
How I became a newsboy is an interesting story in itself, but suffice it to say that during those years, boys our age were allowed or even encouraged by our elders to earn money to add to our student’s allowances which is also an early lesson in the value of labor.
So many weekend vacations, holidays, and summers were spent learning how to increase my earnings by saving on profits to add on to capital, finding new routes to pass – shouting the names of the newspapers and/or magazines on hand, getting new customers or “suki”, knowing the best places to sell at certain hours of the day, etc.
Soon, I would browse over the news, as well as the advertisements, especially what movies were showing and their next attraction.
I would never miss reading the interesting and insightful editorials of uncle Sinai and the wit and humor of auntie Cecile in her column “In and Out of Baguio”.
In fact, just by reading the news articles written by Gus Saboy, Isidro Chammag, Bert Floresca, Juan Valdez, Gabriel Pawid Keith, to name a few, were already lessons in English which was and still is the second language in Baguio City, where the U. S. government sent the Thomasites principally to spread the English language.
But my actual involvement with the Midland Courier was during the Martial Law years when I was invited (“coerced”?) by Steve Hamada (son of uncle Sinai) and Bembo Afable (son of auntie Cecile) to write a column. Both Bembo and Steve were my college “barkada” along with Peppot Ilagan and Manny Mayo who were in the nucleus of the KM in Baguio after a meeting with Joma Sison was held in No. 40 P. Burgos Street residence of auntie Cecile.
Steve Hamada was asked by uncle Sinai to take over the editorship of the newspaper. He was an advertising executive in Manila and had to give up his job to follow the call of a father.
Bembo Afable, who was at that time, the Benguet provincial attorney, told me that we have to support Steve by joining him as columnist. I was then a representative of the Association of Barangay Councils to the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Baguio. Bembo’s column was “Rhyme and Reason” and I named mine “Grassroots”.
The barangay is the lowest form of government, thus, it is the grassroots in the level of governance, hence, the byline of my column. Bembo and I were also among the neophytes in the law profession then.
Uncle Osie warmly welcomed me to the Midland Courier with a firm handshake and a warm smile and an advice to do well. In the course of time, uncle Osie would tell me in Ilocano “Del, di mo nga ibibatan ta column mo, ah.” To which I would tell him, that I won’t, but which promise I failed to keep because of frequent out-of-town activities that I attended for different civic and religious organizations.
When I began to write the Grassroots, I referred to the first editorial of uncle Sinai where he wrote: “… More expansively and ambitiously, however, we shall strive to be read wherever men are fair-minded; they are fearless, but friendly and free.”
The “four-point program” of the Midland Courier has always been the guidepost in my life – as a newsboy, a columnist, student leader, lawyer, civic and religious leader, government employee, environmentalist, and as an ordinary citizen.
Like the Midland Courier, we were not born of hate, thus always fair-minded; we are fearless in the search of truth; we are friendly and giving of ourself – sharing all our God-given talents and blessings to everyone in need; and free – not beholden to anything or anyone but our Creator, whom we profusely thank for having lived in eight different decades (prayerfully, more), in two different centuries and two different millennia.
To have lived my life along with a very prestigious multi-awarded newspaper that is a Hall of Famer in the Philippine Press Institutes’ Annual Community Press Awards is, indeed, something to be proud about.