From the playing field

>> Friday, February 19, 2016

Ramon S. Dacawi

BAGUIO CITY -- I was at the refurbished Baguio Athletic Bowl last Wednesday, no longer a stressed-out newsman covering the events but as a spectator. There was no deadline to meet, unlike in numerous sports events from the local “Palaro” to the national games, and while I felt relief, the itch was still there to formulate a “lead” that I used to do on my way from the playing field to the typewriter – and later, the computer.
Those were thrilling years when Joe Antonio,.my sports editor at the People’s Journal, egged me on, saying he himself began his career covering provincial games. Looking back to those years, here’s what I remember:
I’ve had my years of covering sports events up to the “Palarong Pambansa”. How I wish the younger crop of Baguio journalists would have the drive and passion to do so in their prime. Not as an excuse to see places, but an opportunity to witness and capture the thrill and drama of competitions.
Not an arm-chair coverage that depends on the results brought to the billeting quarters at the end of the day by coaches and athletes themselves. Not veiled plagiarism by way of rewriting and converting  the dispatches of a fellow journalist who actually covered and then passing these as one’s own. It’s honestly and actually getting the results from the field. It’s a labor of love.
It’s not all about winning and losing. Coverage goes beyond the daily medal count of gold, silver and bronze. It has something to do with recording honesty and fair play that are the marks of a Baguio and Cordillera boy and girl - in and out of the playing field.
The year skips me now, but my memory goes back to the final of the 100-meter dash for high school girls at the Benguet State University grounds in one regional competition. It resulted in a photo finish and the judges eventually declared winner the runner from Benguet. Baguio lodged a protest.
At the victory stand, the Benguet lass suddenly handed her gold medal to her Baguio rival and slid the silver around her neck. It was a gesture the venerable sports booster, Dr. Fernando Bautista Sr., wouldn’t let pass. He handed the girl a cash award, gripping her hand in a firm handshake.
The founder of the University of Baguio was as proud as any father would be over the winning feat of a daughter.
A few years later, while conducting a journalism training in Dalupirip, Itogon, Benguet, I was told the honest girl had married and was living nearby. I accompanied the students whom I assigned to interview her for a feature story.  Finding her holding her baby on her lap, I was sure the toddler got her mother’s athletic genes and would grow up to become another  winner.
Beside highlighting victory and fair play, media coverage can help rectify lapses in judgment, as councilor Peter Fianza pointed out in a measure he filed for including a media component in our sports delegations.
For one, in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan, when the Cordillera was still with the Northern Luzon Athletic Association, the late Baguio journalist Willy Cacdac composed for then city superintendent of schools Jose Olarte Sr.  a protest letter over the importation by a province of basketball players from another province and region.
At a “Batang Pinoy” edition in Bacolod, judges had to play the video recording by Peewee Agustin to overturn a referee’s spotty decision to give the gold to the opponent of Baguio taekwondo player Mark Bautista.
Still in Bacolod, then Cordillera regional sports supervisor Romeo Palod asked me to draft a protest against the elementary boys football coach of Iloilo who led his wards in chasing and abusing the Baguio boys who had just beaten them, 1-0. The losing team simply couldn’t accept their fate against the wards of coach Golocan.  
At a “Palarong Pambansa” in Koronadal, Cotabato, I had to point out to a recorder at finish that he had missed writing the names and clocking of two Cordillera runners who had just topped their respective heats on the track. As a rule, coaches and athletes are not allowed anywhere near the oval.
The recorder must have wondered why I was behind him, almost breathing down his neck. He checked my reporter’s ID before correcting the errors by omission in his entries.There were amusing and sad incidents. Midway into the “Palaro” in Gen. Santos City, I was typing out my daily radio dispatch when some Cordillera school officials came to bid goodbye
“Agawid kamin ta napasyar mi metten to Mindanao (We’re going home as we’ve already visited Mindanao),” one of them told me.
Time was when our athletes had to do with under- or over-sized uniforms, or running shirts that scratched and hurt the skin, giving credence to the suspicion that they were made of plastic material like “plastic abot-abot”.
Coverage then was far more stressful than today. Some officials were reluctant to let you peek into the results. Venues were not centralized that you had to daily commute to and from Gen. Santos City to Koronadal or from and to Naga City and Pili town in the Bicol Region.  You had to wait for the national media to write and send their stories before you could access  the limited typewriters, computers, fax machines and phone lines.
You also meet people who, despite their lofty positions,  treat you like a long-lost brother. We were preparing for home when a pick-up stopped by our school billeting quarters in Gen. Santos. Out came three security men with guns, followed by a diminutive yet authoritative figure who asked delegation officials where  he could  find me.
Before school supervisor Vic Panagan could figure out an answer, the man saw me. “Hindi ka makakaalis ng Mindanao kung di ka sasama sa amin,” boomed Manny Pinol. The seasoned sports writer and commentator was then the mayor of M’lang, Cotabato and would later serve as governor.
Manny dipped his hands into the pick-up’s open rear flatbed and fished out a bunch of chickens.
“Paki-pinikpikan n’yo  ito at  ipasyal ko muna ‘tong kapatid ko (Cook these  the Igorot way while I’ll tour my brother around),” he advised Manong Vic.
 “Ni, ammo na pay ti pinikpikan (So he also knows pinikpikan),” Mr. Panagan wondered aloud. (e-mail: for comments)


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