March 10, 2020

Some Thoughts on Media Work

Speech at the Globe Media Excellence Awards Appreciation Lunch

23 October 2015, N Hotel, Cagayan de Oro city

Thank you very much for that kind and generous introduction. It actually made me seriously reflect on the power of media, and of my own identity which I have begun to lose, since my son, Karlos, began working as a photojournalist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler.

Let me share with you some personal experiences that demonstrate the power of media. After Typhoon Pablo, I got a call from the office of a Cabinet member. After some exchange of niceties and after relaying to me the greeting from the Secretary, the caller finally told me the reason for the call – pwede daw ba ceasefire na muna? It was then that I realized that they mistook me for my son who had been writing about the  issues on emergency disaster response.

Very recently, after the kidnapping incident in Samal Island, I got a call  from the Norwegian Embassy. I got excited because I thought they were interested to support our peacebuilding work. It turned out that they wanted to ask me for some details and off-the-record info about the kidnapping!

One of my favorite anecdotes is my close encounter with Mayor Duterte in Davao. We accidentally met one night at his favorite hangout. After I was introduced to him and after a perfunctory handshake, he started to leave. Then somebody told him that I am the father of Karlos Manlupig. After hearing this, he joined us again to have a longer conversation with me, and a longer singing session that lasted until way past midnight!

Such is the power of media.

Seriously now, let me begin by sharing with you some of my earlier romances with media.

My first “media work” (if we call it that) was as a newspaper boy selling The Mindanao Cross in the streets of Cotabato in the 1960’s. I eventually became its ghost editorial writer (yes, ghost, not guest)  in the 1980’s. When the publishers, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, would be too busy to beat the deadline, they would call me to write for them. To me, my most memorable editorial that saw print in The Mindanao Cross was the Pastoral Letter that I ghostwrote for the Archbishop of Cotabato Philip Smith stating the Church’s position to participate actively in the snap elections called by Marcos, contrary to some calls for boycott. I think it significantly shaped not just the outcome of the elections but our future as a whole. If those of you here who are old enough can recall, the first military reinforcement from Mindanao that flew all the way to Manila to support the rebel soldiers in EDSA came from Cotabato.

There were also some forgettable flings with media in the past: I used to be a stringer for the Philippine News Agency (PNA)  in the early 1980s. My first news article that came out in national dailies was about the pilgrimage of Muslim Filipinos to Mecca. It was also my last.

I was a newsreader in the only TV station in Cotabato for a month. I also used to host a radio program over two radio stations of NDBC (DXMS and DXND) called ” Ang Simbahan Ngayon” or Church in the Modern World. It stopped airing after about a year as I noticed that even my friends would not listen to it. They would tease me to change the title of my radio program into “Ang Sementeryo Ngayon” making fun of my boring sleep-inducing monotone.

My first real training and experience in journalism came when I was chosen to be the Editor-in-Chief of our high school organ in the 1970s. I now find it quite ironic (and embarrassing) that I once admired then Martial Law Information Minister Kit Tatad, after listening to him talk about the true, the good and the beautiful in the so-called New Society,  as a keynote speaker during the National Secondary Schools Press Conference. I was so inspired that I wrote a feature story with the title: “Smells like hell. Tastes like heaven” which gave me that year’s Feature Writing Award.

More seriously now, I would like to sincerely acknowledge and thank you, our friends in media, for your accompaniment through the years.

Since Balay Mindanaw began its journey about 20 years ago, you have been with us…

– as we worked in solidarity with the Lumad farmers of Bukidnon in their struggle to take back the farmlands that righfully belong to them,

– as we picked up the advocacy work for Federalism which was started many years ago by great Kagay-anons and Mindanaons such as Canoy and Pimentel,

– as we began our mission of living and working with the farthest rural barangays in Mindanao, journeying with the people as they pursue their own mission of transforming themselves into empowered, sustainable and peaceful communities,

– as we began treading the unfamiliar path of peacebuilding through peace process mediation, working with both the government and the rebels, helping create safe spaces for dialogue in areas affected by violent conflicts, and as we promote peace education and peace journalism,

– as we began to help each other in the aftermath of Sendong devastation, eventually emerging from the disaster with a deeper and more urgent sense of mission as we get inspired by our mantra – We refuse to be victims. We choose to be resources – as we now work with the disaster-hit communities in Davao Oriental, Agusan Sur, Surigao Sur, Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Panay, and recently in the evacuation centers and lumad communities hit by violent killings and the subsequent displacements.

– as we continue to constantly reinvent ourselves to be always relevant and sustainable.

Through all these, we are fortunate to have earned your support. We are particularly grateful for your help in spreading the good news of the transformative victories of peoples and communities working and helping each other, and of our efforts at exposing, opposing and transforming injustices and structural violence in our society.

We continue to invite you to hold our hands as we pursue of vision of achieving Equity, Development, Peace and Resiliency in Mindanao, the Philippines and the World.

Daghang salamat…

Maayong adlaw…

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