June 17, 2024

In 1939, Atty. Sinai C. Hamada gained national prominence when he represented a native of Benguet named Cayat in the landmark case entitled People vs. Cayat (G.R. L-45987).

The case is about a criminal indictment against Cayat, a native of Baguio and Benguet who was apprehended by the police for having in his possession a gin bottle containing liquor.

This might seem ridiculous, but at that time there was a law, Act 1639 that penalizes natives who drink or possess intoxicating liquor other than those which are locally fermented.

The law applies only to natives who were called “non-Christians,” to which Hamada identified himself with.

In his time, Hamada had seen enough discrimination and degradation against his people that he sought to question the constitutionality of the law. He contended in his arguments that the law was unfair, prejudicial, and discriminatory to members of the non-Christian tribes as it violates their right to the equal protection of the laws as guaranteed by the Constitution.

His argument fell on deaf ears. Cayat was convicted. Nevertheless, as an unsolicited concession, Hamada was praised by the Supreme Court and gave him full credit for guiding and ushering the natives of Baguio towards a “virile, up and coming people eager to take their place in the world’s social scheme.” Such pronouncement was frustrating, nonetheless.

It was in this state of frustration that Hamada took it upon himself to prove that natives, like him, can rise to the same level of competence as their oppressors. That they can be at par, if not even better than any race who looked down upon them with racial prejudice.

EDITORS PAR EXCELLENCELawyer Sinai C. Hamada (left) was the renowned editor-in-chief of the Baguio Midland Courier in the post-War period before he was succeeded by Cecile C. Afable, who was also known as the grande dame of the Baguio media community — Art Tibaldo archives

To achieve this, he had to find a way to unify his people and keep them abreast about the developments that are happening within the confines of their territory. What better way to achieve this than to create a media platform that is easy to understand and easier to disseminate. Thus, was born the Baguio Midland Courier.

The first issue of the Midland Courier was published on April 28, 1947. The newspaper was sparse and consisted only of four pages. As per the webpage of the Midland Courier, there were 200 copies initially printed and while perhaps, the circulation was limited, it got the ball rolling, so to speak. Years of planning and patience had it gain excellence as well as prominence.

The birth of the Midland Courier was a trailblazer. Some sort of a coup de grace. It pioneered the print media here in the Cordillera and even as national dailies competed with its readership, it maintained its status as the primordial chronicler of people and events in Northern Luzon and sometimes, even beyond.

It has covered an array of topics that are relevant to the daily lives of the residents of Baguio City and its adjoining provinces and municipalities. It has attracted among its news reporters and column writers some of the best journalists and authors this side of the country. It remains steadfast and consistent in its motto of delivering fair, free, friendly, and fearless news.

In the history of its existence, the Midland Courier has had its share of pitfalls. On more than several occasions, its continued publication was threatened with closure.

Foremost was during the Martial Law years when the first Marcos administration dictated what and what not to publish. Censorship was at its worst so much so that many publishing houses closed and locked down, some voluntarily and most forcibly.

Such scenario was not in accord with what the outfit wanted to advocate. There was nothing fair and free in a publication that was under duress from the government.

Still, the Midland Courier persevered and waded itself to clear water. It is among the few newspapers that survived the Martial Law.

Through it all, there were other local newspapers that went on print, trying to compete and get a chunk of the Midland Courier’s loyal readers. They tried to imitate with no success. Of course, the difference is, the others do it for profit while the Midland Courier does it for truth.

Then, there is the advent of the computer age. The development of gadgets with its built-in addictive nicotine called Wifi, effectively discouraged people to read.

Yet, the Midland Courier continues to attract and compete on the social media stage. This is because the paper has evolved into a well-rounded reading material that allows those who scan through its pages to be informed, entertained, intrigued and educated. Stories and items published therein sometimes make people happy, sad, angry, or worried. They are absorbed in its pages that they see themselves in the characters and events being portrayed.

There is no end to what the Midland Courier has to offer. Like a movie that is full of twists and turns, the plot of its existence thickens. Many more generations shall benefit by the information, stories, and entertainment it will provide. This is its greatest legacy. No longer are residents of the Cordillera discriminated or degraded by a common oppressor. Still and somehow, the Midland Courier shall continue to foster and promote the vision of its founders, Atty. Sinai C. Hamada and his brother, Oseo, to look upon the future with hope, freedom, and justice for all.