ON November 2, All Soul’s Day, members of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, converged at that part of Burnham Park they called “Camp Peppot.”
Two trees, which BCBC members planted decades ago, were uprooted by a storm in that area and they thought of replanting. But it wasn’t yet time for reforestation.
Instead they planted candles on the chess table in the area.
Four BCBC members died this year – Cesar Reyes, Ernie Olson, Jerry Mayona and former City Prosecutor Benedicto Carantes – with two who were officially victims of COVID-19.
BCBC president Aldwin Quitasol noted that All Souls’ Day is also the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The United Nations General Assembly passed the resolution in 2013, designating the date as a reminder of continuing attacks against journalists.
This year, the UN decided to highlight the psychological trauma that journalists suffered during the pandemic and the other battles they faced.
Quitasol also beat a native chicken for the ritual to honor the dead and their memories.
“What we did a while ago was to remember and pay our respects to our colleagues who died years ago and to those who died during the pandemic,” Quitasol said.
“We offered prayers and tribute to our comrades who fell victim to violence…. We asked for protection for all those who continue to do their work despite the threats they face,” he added.
It was indeed a harrowing time for Baguio journalists.
Two of the major news outlets based in the city – the Northern Luzon bureau of ABS-CBN and Sunstar Baguio – had to close because of government repression and economic hardships.
“The closure of the two outfits is a big loss. They were the most active in [gathering news] and had a wide reach and circulation in the region. Some smaller outfits and broadcast stations also relied on them for additional stories and information,” said Frank Cimatu, Baguio chapter president of National Union of Journalists in the Philippines.
“In Baguio, the work from home policy forces some photographers and TV reporters to stay in their houses. This is out of character because they should be reporting on site,” he added.
This is not all that the Baguio media have had to face.
They also had COVID-19 to contend with.
At least 12 Baguio media contracted COVID-19. Many were forced into quarantines that caused loss of man-hours.
Many of the media outlets had to streamline their staff and many were actually laid off. Many also lost side jobs because of the economic lockdown.
Also, Cimatu said that many were still red-tagged by government forces and many, despite the limited coverage, were sued for cyberlibel.
On happier days, the BCBC would gather at Camp Peppot to hold their annual Lucky Summer’s Visitor Program. But for the past two years, there were hardly any visitors to the city.
If ever the media gathered now, it would be for funerals.
The city has loosened its visitor’s policy but the promised economic hope remains to be seen. “Indeed we are living a hard life,” said Cimatu.