ARMANDO P. Baluyut should have been alive today will be amazed at the stride made in local journalism. Baluyut A.K.A Arpiba to his literary colleagues and Apong Mandong to kins and friends was a former policeman from Bacolor town. He resigned as a copper and started publishing the newsweekly The Voice with no staff. Lincoln, his youngest son, will join him later and unburdened the old man. The publication saw its birth in 1955. Initially, the newsweekly was a tiring one-man job with him as editor-publisher, proofreader, advertising and circulation manager altogether. The lifeblood of the paper was the judicial notices which he shared with Luzon Courier which was published by the late Tomas San Pedro.
I belong to the second generation of reporters in Pampanga, but in the fifties, there were only a few media persons in the province. The digital age would come so much late that those newsmen in those years contend filing their stories through long-distance calls to the newspaper desks in Manila. No fax machines, no iPads and no cellphones yet. You have to have so much patience in making the calls. And the other option is to travel to Manila from your base of coverage.
In those years, the most popular newspapermen in Pampanga were Silvestre Songco, Lino Sanchez Sr. , Tomas San Pedro, Macario Fabian, Hector Soto, Marcelino Pangilinan, Butch Maglaqui and my brother Greg. Newsmen based in Camp Olivas were the more popular and influential considering their proximity to and their state of rubbing elbows with the military top brass. It was also in those years when the Philippine Constabulary had four zones and Camp Olivas was the headquarter of the 1st PC Zone. There were only a few constabulary generals in the whole organization? Notable among those assigned in Camp Olivas were Generals Lucas Cauton, Rafael Ileto, Felizardo Tanabe, EmilioZerrudo, Tomas Diaz and Romeo Gatan among others.
I was a publisher-editor of the newsweekly Pampanga Examiner and no staff. It was a one-man job. It was that period when I was starting to learn the ropes, so to speak. The tabloid publishers like Baluyut, San Pedro’s Luzon Courier ( where Bren Z Guiao who became Pampanga governor started his writing career), Lino Sanchez Sr. Pampanga Tribune, Ram Mercado’s Star Reporter were displayed on most newsstands. Those were the interesting years. Only a handful of us. No hao siaos.
The local publishers like Apong Mandong and Tatang Tom had the unusual knack of knowing where to get financial support/advertising. Their invited columnists were the ones espousing causes and undertaking individual crusades. In my case, I was not contented being a correspondent of a national newspaper and one of Apong Mandong’s columnists. In between newspapering, I engaged myself in other ventures and became a radio commentator of the two radio stations in Angeles City, the Puyat owned DZAB and the DZYA, owned by the late Boss Danding Cojuangco.
Ram Mercado was my regular partner in covering the beat or whatever you may call it, and he has this to say of me in one of his writings. "Max didn’t read the news in whatever accent, neither did he recite Pampango poetry. He was a hard-hitting, thunder and lightning commentator."
At that particular period in Pampanga, the national law enforcement agencies tagged Central Luzon particularly Angeles City as a hotspot. This was the period when the Huk movement was at its strongest. And it was in Angeles City where I based my editorial operations. As a young newsman full of idealism I got into trouble either from the dissident groups, the military and from local politicians. Those events any newsman will experience will make him or her hard-boiled. Luckily there are still some among the present crop of local journalists.