By Herbert Vego
DURING a coffee talk with my artist friend Art Geroche, we could not help but reminisce about our good old days with the defunct Hiligaynon magazine and our common friend, the late novelist-journalist-realtor Quirino “Quin” Baterna.
The magazine Hiligaynon was the pioneer weekly Ilonggo magazine (founded in 1935) – a compilation of feature stories, serialized Ilonggo novels, illustrated novels and short stories — which had hit a circulation of 70,000 copies when it ceased publication in 1973.
A new management revived it in 1992 with Baterna, who had been one of its fiction writers, as editor-in-chief. Baterna had to quit, however, to spend full time in realty business. Two more editors came after him – Gaudencio Golez and Nereo Jedeliz – until the magazine once again quit in 2019 due to declining circulation.
Quin Baterna had died ahead (2009) of the magazine. But up to his last days, he had worked hard to motivate readers into patronizing the magazine in order to keep the written Hiligaynon language alive.
It grieves me to think that I had been a part of that endeavor to win wider readership for the magazine that had been in circulation long before my birth.
I had not thought of writing for Hiligaynon magazine until 1970 when somebody introduced me to its editor, the late Pete Vael, in the magazine’s office in Manila. He asked whether I would like to be its entertainment columnist. I was 20 and a senior Journalism student. Challenge accepted.
In the same year, I played the role of showbiz columnist for Hiligaynon, writing on movie stars in mixed Ilonggo, Tagalog and English.
It’s not just Hiligaynon as a magazine but Hiligaynon as a print medium that has vanished. There have been attempts to revive weekly newspapers in Hiligaynon but to no avail due to poor patronage.
As a child in the 1950s, I was aware that Hiligaynon was the most widely-circulated reading matter in Western Visayas, selling as many as 100,000 copies per issue. I remember that I would run a hundred meters to the corner store in our barangay to buy a copy for my mother every Wednesday. More often than not, late buyers could not catch up with the last copy.
In one of our coffee chats days before his death, Quin Baterna wandered down memory lane, extolling the late Governor Conrado Norada and the late Ramon Muzones for their prize-winning Hiligaynon novels.
Quin, too, had worked hard to keep Hiligaynon literature alive. It was he who produced the first full-length Ilonggo movie in 1977, Ginauhaw Ako, Ginagutom Ako.
“I wish I could reverse the decline of vernacular literature,” he lamented, referring to the vanishing Filipino illustrated komiks, which used to be the outlets of talented short story writers, novelists and illustrators, most of whom had already lost their jobs by then.
Fortunately for Art Geroche, he still makes a living by painting historical events on canvas for government offices.
Quin, who had also been a broadcaster, said that because he could not make both ends meet in media and literature, one day he scanned the classified ads of a Manila paper.
One of them read, “You can make money in real estate.”
“I applied for a realtor’s job,” he enthused. “and got it.”
His success in selling homes and lots impelled his wife Gregoria and some of their children to adopt the same career.
It also enabled the grateful Quin to sponsor an annual short story-writing contest in Ilonggo for many years. He was happy for them because they could write well, but he knew they were also like flowers “blushing unseen in the desert air.”
Due to lack of qualified mentors, broadcasters today unknowingly speak ungrammatical and incoherent Hiligaynon on the air.
WHEN IN DOUBT ABOUT METER READING…
ONE of the steps being undertaken by MORE power as electricity distributor in Iloilo City is gradual replacement of old meters with new one.
In the “More Power at Your Service” radio/video program, host Joy Fantilaga had Engr. Emile Cahuya (assistant manager for marketing services) as guest.
Cahuya said that as of now, the company uses two types of electric meters – the old “electro-mechanical” and the new “digital-electronic.” The former is the more familiar one with glass cover and dials resembling a clock; the latter has a heavy-duty plastic transparent face with LCD numbers representing the exact number of kilowatt-hours consumed.
“Whatever is the type in use,” Cahuya said, “will remain in use as long as serviceable. However, if there is any defect, we will change it with a new one.”
All meters, he stressed, are pre-tested for accuracy at the company’s test bench before installation. Doubts on the accuracy of reading may be resolved with the use of mobile testers available on request.