THE ILOCOS TIMES turns half a century plus two years in the service of the Ilocano, and it is fitting that we thank the family behind the institution.
While this paper is a family business, I don’t think its continuous operation is driven by profit. Community newspapers are not known as big earners. Truth to tell, many local newspapers in different provinces have folded up into oblivion on account of financial woes. In Ilocos Norte alone, a couple of weeklies have come and gone, and only The Ilocos Times remains legitimate and strong.
Members of the Ramos Family, I’m sure, make sacrifices to let this paper thrive. I assume there are issues when advertisements do not suffice to cover the cost of printing, even as the paper is sold at only seven pesos a copy, one of the cheapest in the Milky Way galaxy.
I can only surmise that this is so because the family treats the paper, founded by their late patriarch Efren O. Ramos, Sr. in 1957, more a mission, a vocation than a business.
A few people, in jest, refer to it as The Ilocos Sometimes, so I imagine there were trying years I do not know when, but definitely not in the past decade. Jun-b (Efren S. Ramos, Jr.), who has been editor since 2004, must be commended.
The online version, however, is sometimes not updated on time, so this may be giving Ilocanos abroad the impression that the paper does not come out weekly as promised, but it does.
Even as a child, I was already a loyal follower of this paper. There has always been this burning desire in me to know, to express, and to get involved on social issues, a desire this paper helps consummate.
My cousin Erme Labayog had also served as staff reporter for this paper in the late 90’s. It was intriguing to me because Kuya Erme’s undergraduate course was BS Mathematics. Individuals who are good in both numbers and words are a rarity. He was naturally gifted, and was glad to share that gift, but he had to quit writing when he took up law, and passed the bar the first time he took it in 2002.
When I decided to come home to Ilocos to work here, I decided to offer my services to this paper. Tata Pepito Alvarez, who also used to write a column here (Pardanon Samtoy), arranged a meeting between Jun-b and me. I showed Jun-b my writing portfolio, and then we had a short exchange of ideas on local issues. Right then, I knew he was an editor a very opinionated writer like me can work well with.
True enough, Jun-b has never meddled with this column’s content, and is lenient, too, with deadlines. For this issue, he asked me to submit earlier than usual, but my schedule this week has been nothing but toxic—I have been frantically correcting final exam papers, computing grades, distributing them, and being chased by those who got red marks, so I have to frustrate Jun-b, and his efficient associate, Michael Esmino, who does the layout, yet again.
Still, I write for my column every single week, and mainly because I have the paper’s readership in mind. It’s like a weekly date with readers, and I know how it feels to be stood up on a date. I really hope columnists would be more consistent in writing. I think one should start his own space only if he/she can commit to churn out articles regularly (maybe at least once a month). In the past one year, there was even a column which appeared only once, and a number of columns which appeared one week and disappeared the other. This is frustrating because in any newspaper, columnists are supposed to be the constant.
On this note, let me remember with gratitude and admiration two scribes who, in the past one year, have made the big leap from here to there where flowers don’t wilt, where streams don’t run dry, and where typhoons dare wreak no havoc, Vic Labaro, the iconic local newsman, and Sozimo Ma. Pablico, agriculture journalism’s finest. We remember that Dr. Pablico contributed a huge pile of articles here in The Ilocos Times that even after his demise, his column continued to appear for months. He was, even from six feet under, the quintessential journalist.
As for you, dear karikna, thank you for the patronage. Remember that this paper is OUR paper, and so let’s continue to support it not only by devouring its pages, but more by nurturing a vibrant and enlightened culture of discourse on issues that affect you and me as Ilocanos, as Filipinos, as human beings who dream of a world more free, just, peaceful, and humane.
All these said, we say with much glee, Mabuhay, The Ilocos Times, and Thank you, Ramos Family.