Cecile C. Afable
The Grand Dame of Baguio media: This is how most dub her and set her apart.
The Baguio media community paid tribute to a great editor, a mother, a friend, and probably the city’s staunchest admirer and critic.
Malacañang paid tribute to her too.
“As our country celebrated Independence Day this year, we mourned, together with the City of Baguio, the passing of a true pillar of Philippine journalism – Cecile Cariño Afable. She showed all Filipinos – from journalists to regular citizens – just how it is to dedicate one’s life to improving one’s community. May her death rekindle the fire of good citizenship in all of us,” Malacañang said in a statement read by Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Up to the last days of her life, Cecilia Elena Cariño Afable was a working writer. She worked as if she would live forever.
But in June 12, she joined the Supreme Editor in the great newsroom in the sky at 10:40 p.m.
For many, that was also an end to an era defined by this extraordinary woman.
Cecile served as editor of the Baguio Midland Courier since 1984.
As news of her passing spread, those whose lives she touched could not help but share their memories of her. In her home city, she is remembered as the doyenne of Baguio media.
If journalistic performance alone would be the yardstick to measure success, Cecile is history all by herself, not only for being the oldest editor because she remained the BMC editor to her last day at 93 years old, but also for her many achievements throughout her life.
Cecile, born on Nov. 11, 1918, was the daughter of Josefa Cariño and Teruji Okubo, a Japanese carpenter who came to Baguio to help build Kennon Road. Her mother was the daughter of the great Ibaloi chieftain, Mateo Cariño.
She studied at the Baguio Central University and at the Mountain Province High School (now Baguio City National High School) before she took up Philosophy at the University of the Philippines as the first female Ibaloi to be admitted at the country’s state-run premier university.
Writer Linda Grace Cariño, Cecile’s niece, wrote that her aunt’s career as a journalist and social advocate began in the 1930s, with contributions to the Philippine Magazine and the Baguio Bulletin on folklore and Igorot identity.
She then joined her elder siblings, Sinai and Oseo Cariño Hamada, in founding the Baguio Midland Courier at a time when Baguio was starting to rebuild from the ruins of World War II.
The first four-page issue of Midland Courier hit the streets on April 28, 1947.
Her “In and Out of Baguio” column gained popularity for her uncompromising, straightforward, and oftentimes tough commentaries on individuals and institutions that are supposed to be working for solutions on problems besetting the city and the country, but fail to do so, as far as her views are concerned.
She also served as president and board member of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, the Young Women Christian Association, the Baguio Women’s Club, and the first BIBAK assemblies.
She likewise headed the founding Board of the Baguio-Mountain Provinces Museum and co-founded the Baguio Regreening Movement together with Bishop Ernesto Salgado and Dr. Julie Cabato, according to reports.
Cecile’s bandwagon with two more true-blue dyed in the wool Baguio girls – Leonora San Agustin and former city mayor Virginia de Guia – was solidified in the aftermath of the 1990 killer quake when they fought and advocated for a better Baguio, one that is free from urban decay.
The triumvirate of Cecile, Leonie, and Gene, earned them the moniker “Baguio’s Three Witches.” Leonie passed away on Nov. 29, 2011.
During Thursday’s Baguio media tribute to Cecile, her second child Fernando described his mom as one who was totally focused, very decisive, someone who cut through the crap, and one who had a complex personality that people got drawn to.
“She was an advocate for us early on, who tempered her children with real love. She kept driving people,” Fernando said.
“She told us not to be afraid of the dark,” he added.
Known as a wine-lover, Ma’am Cecile, according to journalist Nonnette Bennette, taught most of her underlings and colleagues as well how to be drunk and be able to work on a Monday when city council sessions are held.
“She taught us to be alive and alert, while intoxicated,” Bennette fondly recalled.
Kathleen Okubo, Cecile’s niece, said her aunt’s advocacies on various issues like the environment, culture, and education, reflected very well in her In and Out column.
Hers was a tongue as sharp as razor, in as far as her opinion pieces are concerned, and she showed her anger against those who would stifle education and information dissemination to the local people so that they could develop themselves.
But there’s more about her.
Behind her strong personality is a mother’s tenderness any kid would long for. Such gentleness is equally shared by members of the media who, in one way or the other, looked up to and considered her their mother.
Veteran journalist Ramon Dacawi said Auntie Cecile, (as most would call her), epitomizes the saying, “The softest heart builds the hardest shell.” This was in relation to her straightforward and tough commentaries on politicians, private individuals, and institutions that she considered to be compounding, and not helping solve the problems besetting the society.
Dacawi said despite the attacks, the motherly side of Auntie Cecile would still come out naturally, as displayed whenever she said, “Anak ko dayta,” even to the very person who is at the receiving end of her hard-hitting opinion pieces.
Lawyer-journalist Delmar Cariño, now the head of Benguet Electric Cooperative’s Legal Department, said Auntie Cecile would often share with him her disappointments towards a politician or a person in authority.
“She would often tell me to convey her message to the person whom she was criticizing and I would nod in agreement. However, I failed to convey those messages. The reason: I do not have the guts that Auntie Cecile had,” he said.
Cariño also cited Auntie Cecile’s last column, a commentary on Baguio City as a flat tire city, and one that has not been loved or loved at all.
Even in death, her energy will stay alive as this was a challenge thrown to those left behind to take care of the city she so loved. -- BMC News Desk