LAST week, appropriate pagan and Christian rites were performed at the Lualhati compound prior to the formal turnover of the Philippine Information Agency-Cordillera office keys to the caretaker who represents the Presidential Mansion. We had mixed emotions as we beat the gongs and partook of our last feast around the Dap-ay and Ifugao hut that was promised not to be dismantled by the Office of the Executive Secretary. As my wife and her PIA team says, "Let it go and let it be."
For seventeen years, I was part of PIA and my career as a government information officer spans to over three decades starting as television video editor at the former Maharlika Broadcasting System's Newscenter-4 few months before the 1986 snap elections. With my basic knowledge on film production as a MOWELFUND scholar and UP Film Center early participants, I learned the rudiments of the U-Matic 3/4 inch video format as an apprentice at the Ch-4 editing suites until I was able to edit news clips for the engineering services two floors below the newsroom at Bohol Avenue in Quezon City. Well, what happened to EDSA in 1986 from the people's uprising to Marcos' exile to Hawaii is now a vital chapter in RP's political history that has likewise accordingly "reformed, restructured and renamed" many institutions in our land.
The city of Baguio also renamed Malcolm Square to "People's Park" and when the operators of the Old Pagoda souvenir shop decided to leave Baguio, the place was erstwhile named as "People's Center". In fact, I even had a one-man-show of sorts there with my artworks that include a contraption of a double faced head mounted on a turn-table disc that moves to-and-fro depicting the slow-paced court hearing on the death of Sen. Ninoy Aquino by the Agrava Commission.
I learned later that members of the intelligence community had me in their surveillance list as they thought my work had something to do with subversion or meant to entice people to go against the administration. This was bared to me by the late Cesar Murla, one who knew what it is like to be a true Baguio boy.
Since President Aquino turned over MBS Ch-4 to the Lopezes of ABS-CBN as its original owner prior to its sequestration during the Martial Law years, I found myself jobless since being a newbie from the north is not a good character reference under the new set-up. I instead left Manila and resorted to few income generating activities like operating an air-gun shooting gallery at the Burnham Carnival. After three weeks of earning more than I used to, a misfire by a curious non-client lodged a lead pellet into my forehead just an inch above my right eye. A bit remorseful, I abandoned the carnival venture with a three-stitch scar on my face.
Confident with my media background as independent filmmaker and news photographer, I signified to join the Baguio Sub-Office of the NMPC that was then housed at the Old Auditorium within the Burnham Park area. I was told that NMPC fits me better because of my skills in visual arts being a fine arts graduate. I was hired on a temporary basis because of the unfolding events that Corazon Aquino's revolutionary government is facing at that time. The word "people" became a byword in many programs of the new government and the NMPC Regional Office-1 based in San Fernando, La Union renamed my new office as People's Information Center.
The exact place that is now gaining much mileage in terms of quad-media publicity is next to Burnham Park's skating rink where the Old Auditorium used to stand. Said place is where my career in public service started back in October of 1986 when the (NMPC), the City Planning Office and the City Library occupied the old structure. Although almost dilapidated, I spent over three years there as Public Assistance Desk Officer.
Soon after Corazon C. Aquino sat as President of the revolutionary government, she issued Executive Order No. 1 and EO No. 2 creating the Presidential Commission on Good Government or PCGG and freezing all assets and properties of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his wife, Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, their close relatives, allies and dummies as among the primary official acts. President Aquino also issued Proclamation 3 as a provisional constitution. It adopted certain provisions from the 1973 Constitution while abolishing others. It granted the President broad powers to reorganize government and remove officials, as well as mandating the president to appoint a commission to draft a new, more formal Constitution. This document, described above, supplanted the "Freedom Constitution" upon its ratification in 1987.
A breakaway rebel force led by Fr. Conrado Balweg of the Lumbaya Command of the New People's Army came in terms with the new government as the Cordillera Peoples liberation Army (CPLA) and the historic peace talks between President Cory and Balweg's group took place in Mt. Data on September 13, 1986. In the months that followed, I was sent by PIA's Regional Operations Secretariat (ROSEC) head Charles C. Leung to assist the Cordillera News Agency in documenting the consultations that followed in Bauko, Mt. Province and in Abra for the Manabo Pagta the following year for the firming up of agreements by the Cordillera people with the Aquino administration.
On December 24 of the same year, President Cory Aquino signed Executive Order 100 creating the Philippine Information Agency that shall provide for free flow of accurate, timely and relevant information and to assist people in decision making and identification of opportunities to improve quality of life and enable citizens to participate meaningful in the democratic processes.
1987 was a tough year for me as I needed to pass my civil service exams for a permanent position in government. Along with old-timers, I was considered new applicant to positions created under the new setup of PIA. I even enrolled and took few communication subjects from Saint Louis University just to upgrade my academic background because my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas is unlikely for public information.
About a week prior to the Philippine Military Academy graduation, I was coordinating for media accreditation with the superintendent's office and looking for Col. Eduardo Purificacion at the grandstand when the ill-fated bombing took place damaging the covered stage and injuring officers and men of the academy. I was just within the vicinity and I witnessed the pandemonium that occurred praying that the wounded personnel survive the tragedy. Mang Senyong, PIA's driver who was waiting for me nearby said "Ay Agii! Art pati Nissan Patrol lumagtu ey" saying that our SUV was also rocked by the blast. More supporters of Aquino government were then fielded and Excelsior Cabauatan Dangilan became my erstwhile boss in the new region that is now batting for an autonomous form of governance.