Baguio City

Baguio media icons’ drunken exploits that enthralled the city

Frank Cimatu

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Baguio media icons’ drunken exploits that enthralled the city

BAGUIO MEDIA. Members of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club pose for the cameras during a gathering.


Baguio's media story is told through the history of the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, spanning six decades of camaraderie, resilience during martial law, and enduring through modern challenges such as the global pandemic

BAGUIO, Philippines – When two or three weekly Baguio mediamen are gathered in whoever’s name, liquor is sure to be in the midst of them. Only the venues changed.

Sixty years ago, Baguio writers who were correspondents of Manila-based dailies were drinking at the defunct Session Cafe when they decided to form the Baguio Correspondents Club.

Among the founders was Vinia Masadao, who, according to her nephew, was drop-dead gorgeous and devastatingly witty.

Hilarion Pawid, the only survivor of the founding group, said the group headed by Tito Carballo, a correspondent of the Evening News, would meet on Friday nights at the Session Cafe and invite a guest to talk about the burning news of the day. 

Pawid said they later moved to a radio station along Harrison Road where the BCC had a one-hour program entitled “What Now, Baguio?”

“The weekly program drew crowds from various sectors of the community, including government officials who, when time permitted, raised their own questions and opinions,” Pawid said.

“Scheduling guests and discussants became a concern as national officials, including cabinet members, requested time to dwell on raging national and local issues,” he added.

The others were correspondents of the Manila Times and the now-defunct Manila Chronicle, Evening News, and Philippine News Service


Competition was fierce then. The late Gerry Evangelista Sr. said that if one wrote a scoop, he would head off to one of the movie houses and wait for their colleagues to look for him with their flashlights.

There were also at least five local newspapers at that time in 1964. The biggest was the Baguio Midland Courier, formed in 1947 by wunderkind Sinai Hamada, which remains the longest continuously printed weekly in the country. 

“The venerable Sinai Hamada, the founder of the Baguio Midland Courier, spelled out the ethical guideposts for responsible community journalism: fair, fearless, friendly, and free,” wrote the late Mondax Dacawi.

“Lakay Sinai, who also edited The Collegian student paper of the University of the Philippines, lived up to these standards he set. He wrote fearlessly with form and substance about issues then in the Cordillera, some of which remain issues of today.” 

Of course, the best Sinai anecdote was what Mondax recounted: “One time, I was told, Sinai dozed off while writing his editorial. No one on the staff dared to wake him up. The printer, fearful then-Benguet governor Ben Palispis would be bristling if he didn’t have his copy at breakfast, roused him up. The editor, who was known for his wry humor, looked at what he wrote, punched a single key, and pulled out the manuscript. Except for that period he just added, the piece was complete just before he fell asleep.”


In 1972, BCC accommodated radio announcers and so it became the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club (BCBC) and was registered on June 19, 1972. 

A few months later, martial law was declared. The BCBC leaders, including Peppot Ilagan, DomC Cimatu, Del Claverall, Mondax Dacawi, Bembo Afable, Kathleen Okubo, Steve Hamada, and Nathan Alcantara, were former student activists who had to lay low for a while. Eventually, they made the Baguio media scene one of the fiercest, when many others decided to toe the line.

Some of them made a college paper, The Baguio Gold Ore, into a critical but popular weekly at that time.

The BCBC was also instrumental in forming the “Republic of Asin,” where police and military officials held weekly truce with left-leaning personalities at the Asin Hot Springs. 

It was also at that time when BCBC launched the Lucky Summer Visitor Program where they would encamp in one of the pocket forests of Burnham Park during Holy Week. They would select first-timers to Baguio and give them the royal treatment. And while the whole nation would be murmuring their pasyons, the Baguio media would be having muted concerts around the bonfires.

The unofficial BCBC headquarters transferred from Session Cafe to Dainty Cafe and Mandarin Cafe. At night, the second floor of Dainty’s Cafe would be closed except for the BCBC old guards who would be commandeering the big round table while gin and gossip were passed around. 

On December 31, 1999, Dainty Cafe ceased operating and Mandarin Cafe closed a few years later. A new batch of BCBC also took over the Baguio media scene. The media would transfer across the road to Luisa’s Cafe and Rumour’s Bar. Sometimes, they would go to Cafe by the Ruins where Cecile Afable and Baboo Mondonedo held court with their Jack Daniels and tapuy.

The Underwood typewriters would be replaced by laptops; telegrams, and phones replaced by fax machines and later the Internet. 

More challenges

Gin, which helped lower the life expectancy of Baguio mediamen, was replaced by beer and wine. But some things remained the same. Politicians in Manila who find the media there too fractious would hold press conferences in Baguio to make it to the headlines. The BCBC remained the umbrella group for the Baguio media.

There was a time in 2010 when all the officials of the BCBC and members of their outfits were hauled to jail over a libel case filed by an Iloilo-based publisher. Although many of them were able to post bail, they all decided to spend a night in jail in a drunken party with other prisoners.

Fire, Flame, Bonfire
BONFIRE. The BCBC holds a farewell bonfire to honor members who have succumbed to COVID-19 in November 2021. courtesy of Monch David

During the Duterte administration, the then-President’s bone-headed media policy and the COVID-19 pandemic almost did the Baguio media in, but the BCBC survived. 

This year, the present crop of BCBC officials decided to plant trees at the Busol Watershed to revive another of its projects, the Eco-Walk, where BCBC members would invite schoolchildren to the diminishing watersheds of the city and tell them the importance of nature through stories.

The Eco-Walk, initiated by Mondax and others of his generation, went on to win environmental awards and inspired a generation of Baguio children.

For as long as there are stories, bonfires, and alcohol among the pines, the spirit of BCBC will remain in the midst of them. –

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