Journalists and the City-A A +A
My Palm Notes
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Or is that too remote of an eventuality? I don’t think so. If we are to trace our country’s history (and even those of other states), some scribblers’ articles helped rescue our nation from the hands of tyrants.
Dr. Jose Rizal’s literary works serve as examples. Need we mention Noli Me tangere and El Filibusterismo which were instrumental in fighting oppression suffered by Filipinos during the Spanish era?
In the US, modern day journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposed the so-called Watergate Scandal that led to the resignation of late US President Richard Nixon.
You see, journalists do not only tell of the news. They also influence people and decision makers. This is probably the reason why the journalism profession is called the Fourth Estate (the first three being the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary).
Journalists do not only narrate events but they also write to help reconstruct society.
In Pampanga, we may not have a Rizal, a Woodward and Bernstein. But we do have writers and members of media who help shape the future of the province. I can list some of them like college mentor Bong Lacson whose hard-hitting column articles would almost instantaneously prompt action and reaction in order for both government and the private sector to do well. Philippine Star columnist Tatang Dick Pascual objectively writes his opinion on many national issues affecting the country.
The same could be said of Tatang Max Sangil who has gone back to his first love of writing (for this paper) concurrently with his commentaries on DWRW’s public affairs program Talakayan, along with Perry Pangan. To name a few.
There are also some journalists who may have found different careers but had also contributed significantly with their writings when they were still connected with media outfits.
Journalist-turned-diplomat Elmer Cato helped usher in a new era in local media profession with his introduction of a classy, elegant, yet uncompromising weekly newspaper The Angeles Sun.
Although defunct now, The Angeles Sun was innovative with its newspage design, layout and even approach to stories and opinion articles. When it was introduced in the early 1990s, it set the bar on newspapering and regional journalism on higher level.
One notable newsman during that time was Jay Sangil who is now about to complete his three terms as Angeles City Councilor.
Sangil was a correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer from the late 1980s. He started early in the journalism profession, probably in his late teenage years. He did more than just write articles of national significance such as Pinatubo’s eruption and the eventual lahar flows in the city.
While his contemporaries in the city went abroad with their parents and, thus, abandon Angeles, Sangil stayed on in the city that promised nothing in the 1990s but gloom with the disaster and pullout of US troops from Clark.
Unknown to many, some of Sangil’s news reports were instrumental in saving Angeles City from being entombed by lahar and volcanic debris that flowed through the Abacan River.
One of them was a banner story really mobilized government resources – Malacanang, decision makers, manpower and equipment.
If I recall it correctly, sometime in the dark days right after Pinatubo’s major eruptions in 1991, Sangil was asked by then vice mayor Edgardo Pamintuan (the mayor then was Tony Abad Santos) to accompany him in conducting ocular inspections.
One inspection was held right after the June 15 typhoon where heavy downpour and volcanic debris caused the Abacan Bridge to collapse.
On the southern banks of Abacan River by Marisol side, Pamintuan saw how devastated the city was and how threats of impending lahar flow could bury the city in subsequent rain and storm run offs.
Sangil, together with other members of media like DZMM reporter Rod Hizon (who also eventually became a Board Member in Bataan) remembers how they looked like zombies as they were also covered by ash falling from the skies.
In that particular inspection, he recalls Pamintuan ominously commenting “mangamate tamu keni nung ala tamung gawan aksyun at paralan.” (We are all gonna die here if we don't do something)
Sangil readily acknowledged the city’s need to elicit action through the power of the pen.
Pamintuan’s utterance was reinforced by Sangil’s observation that there was but one bulldozer that was clearing Abacan’s bed of debris. It was observed then that there was hardly intervention from national government to protect the city from walls of lahar flows.
So, that prompted Sangil to dutifully write an article titled something like “Cory orders massive intervention” (something along that line) which bannered in PDI. True to his calling and actual circumstances he has observed, Sangil presented facts as they were in a way that manifested responsible reportorial skill.
He reported how mudflows (the exact term he used which eventually was substituted in the newspapers by “lahar” as introduced by geology expert Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo) cascading from the slopes of Pinatubo could bury the low-lying areas of the city.
What happened next?
Sangil’s article became the focal point of discussion in one Cabinet meeting of then President Cory Aquino that was hastily called in view of the disaster at hand.
The PDI issue that carried his news article was passed on to each cabinet member, with then DPWH Secretary Ping De Jesus being ordered to send more bulldozers and trucks to desilt Abacan river.
DPWH responded by sending dozens of bulldozers and other heavy equipment to push aside tons of volcanic debris to Abacan’s banks. That intervention allowed lahar to freely flow in the river channel and thus prevent it from spilling to populated areas.
And as the phrase goes, the rest was history. That article, along with others that followed, helped save the city.
Sangil may not have won any award nor given a plain recognition by anybody for his articles that elicited actions. I don’t remember any private or government entity handing him any plaque of plain certificates for his efforts.
But more than the plaques he should have gotten for himself (as would journalists in other countries for their contributions to their communities), I believe that his efforts were partly acknowledged by the people of Angeles City when they elected him to office in 2004.
And to me, as a journalist myself, that is one ultimate recognition.
In Sangil’s case, he was elected for three consecutive terms. That, somehow, more than made up for the recognition.
Sangil’s association with public servants goes way back. In Pamintuan’s case, it did not start in Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption where media played key role in the rescue, relief, resettlement and rehabilitation.
His friendship with the now wonder-working-mayor of Angeles could be traced back from the dark days of the city when assasins’ bullets felled many human rights lawyers and activists in the 1980s.
He was with Edpam during those days, together with Cato and other members of media.
He was with Edpam too during EDSA revolution days when Marcos dictatorship was toppled.
Looking back, EDSA was to become quite symbolic for the two leaders, with their names on that famous uprising that saved the country. (ED Pamintuan. SAngil Jay).
I would not be surprised though if this partnership is pushed for the 2013 elections. With due respect to incumbent vice mayor Vicky Vega, with whom EDpam partnered with three years ago, SAngil is a dark horse in the vice mayoral race who might just be favored to tandem with the re-electionist mayor.
More on that in my next column piece.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 16, 2012.