Kathleen Okubo, veteran journalist from the Cordillera region, dies at 71

Sherwin de Vera

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Kathleen Okubo, veteran journalist from the Cordillera region, dies at 71

PRESS FREEDOM FIGHTER. Kathleen Okubo briefs Baguio media on case developments and urges press to continue demanding justice for the victims during an annual commemoration of the Ampatuan Massacre.

via Northern Dispatch

Kathleen Okubo was deeply rooted in the Baguio press and contributed significantly to the Cordillera media community

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The Cordillera press mourned the loss of Kathleen Okubo, a stalwart of community journalism and a survivor of martial law, who died on Sunday, April 7, after a long battle with several illnesses. 

Okubo, who celebrated her 71st birthday on March 25, was deeply rooted in the Baguio press and contributed significantly to the Cordillera media community.  

Her father, Bernardo, oversaw the printing operations of the Baguio Midland Courier, which was founded by her uncle, Sinai (Yoshinai) C. Hamada, in April 1947. Okubo embarked on her journalistic journey as a cub reporter for the paper, and her first article – a coverage of a school event – was published in 1964. 

Affectionately known as Kath among friends and colleagues, she was a founding member of the Cordillera News Agency and later contributed to establishing Cordillera News and Features (CNF). Following CNF’s closure in September 1989, she played a pivotal role in launching Northern Dispatch (Nordis), initially conceived as a news packet. 

She was instrumental in Nordis’ transition from a mimeographed dispatch to a community paper in 2002. She served as its editor-in-chief for almost a decade until her retirement in January 2019. Despite stepping down from her editorial role, she contributed as a columnist and editorial consultant until 2022. 

“May Kathleen’s warrior spirit and the power of her pen continue to inspire journalists and the media community of Baguio City and the rest of the country. As Northern Dispatch grieves with her family, we celebrate her relentless pursuit of truth and unwavering spirit to serve the marginalized,” the outfit said in a statement announcing her death

Kath also played a crucial role in establishing the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines chapter in Baguio-Benguet and the now-defunct Ilocos Sur formation. 

Martial Law survivor

In her memoir on Martial Law, published in Panaglagip, she reflected on her experiences, saying that writing about the turbulent times became her most significant contribution as a member of Kabataang Makabayan. “It only seemed natural that I do so,” she remarked. 

During the Marcos dictatorship, Okubo was among the hundreds of Cordillera activists detained. Her first arrest occurred in 1973 in Pangasinan, where she was organizing youth and students while contributing stories for local papers under a pseudonym. 

After her release, she was required to report weekly to Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet. She immediately returned to her studies and worked as a part-time reporter. 

Under Corazon Aquino’s presidency, Okubo faced multiple threats from the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA). The CPLA and military accused her of aiding the communist movement through her reports on human rights violations and abuses in the region. Kath was detained twice during the Ramos administration for the same allegations. 

Before her retirement in December 2018, Okubo was honored by the National Correspondents Club of Baguio, in collaboration with other media institutions, with the Distinguished Gintong Tala Luminary Award in journalism, recognizing her significant contributions to the profession and community of Baguio. 

In her acceptance statement, Okubo acknowledged the challenges of transitioning the weekly paper to an online platform but remained optimistic about its potential. 

“Our paper remained true to its objective of covering people’s issues and struggles. Despite the challenges, the staff and correspondents delivered stories that mattered to the people… as we develop our online platforms, with hopes to resume the printed copy in the near future,” she stated. –

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