Veteran Ibaloi journalist, Baguio ‘witch’ is gone
BAGUIO CITY—She may be the oldest editor of one of the oldest community newspapers in the country, but that is only half the story of Cecile Afable, who died on Tuesday after a bout with pulmonary sepsis.
Afable was Baguio’s 95-year-old Ibaloi gadfly, who teamed up with former Mayor Virginia de Guia and the country’s first female chemist, the late Leonora San Agustin, to combat the city’s overdevelopment and became known as “The Baguio Three Witches.”
Waving placards, while holding on to their walking sticks, Afable and her fellow “witches” often mounted three-person rallies to preserve what they believed to be the true Baguio City.
Among the three, Afable was the most vociferous. She was quick to upbraid a misbehaving Baguio politician, while nursing a glass of whiskey on the rocks.
She belonged to the Cariño clan of Baguio. She was born on Nov. 11, 1916, to Josefa Cariño and Teroji Okubo, a Japanese carpenter who migrated here to help build Kennon Road in the early 1900s.
Her mother was the daughter of Ibaloi herdsman Mateo Cariño, who won a suit in the US Supreme Court in 1909 against the American government for confiscating his grazing land, which is now Camp John Hay.
Afable was the only girl of five children of Josefa. Her two brothers were Policarpio and Bernardo, both deceased, and her half-brothers were Oseo and Sinai Hamada from Josefa’s earlier marriage to the late Reukitse Hamada.
Sinai was an accomplished short story writer in English (his oft-anthologized story, “Tanabata’s Wife,” is a semi-autobiography of their mother). He and Oseo founded the Baguio Midland Courier in 1947, with Afable serving as a writer.
Afable helmed the Courier in the 1990s, haranguing politicians as part of the witches’ triumvirate. San Agustin passed away in November last year.
Her final Courier column on June 10 displays her disappointment in what the summer capital had become. She wrote: “Baguio, the dream city, is truly a flat tire city that never was or is loved. We call it the squatters’ city.” Frank Cimatu with a report from Maurice Malanes, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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