Last night I enjoyed a mini session with Carol Arguillas, MindaNews editor, at the Toronto Reference Library. The YouTube video below shows her accepting her award for investigative journalism in the Philippines for 2010. Winners of that prize are also awarded by the Canadian Embassy in Manilla a two-week speaking tour of Canada, including an honorary blitz visit (+ public talk) to the McLuhan Program, University of Toronto.


YouTube post by on May 19, 2011


The talk was titled “Assertions from the Margins: The Practice and Culture of Community Journalism in the Philippines with a Focus on Mindanao.”

The event was launched and closed by professor Dominique Scheffel Dunand, MPCT director, who highlighted that it is a partnership with the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), represented by Frank Switzer, the City of Toronto’s McLuhan100 initiative, a heritage project, and the Embassy of Canada in Manilla, represented by Carlo Figula (spelling tbd).


What stands out in my mind is Carol’s wish for the world to know not only about the Muslim-Catholic tensions, the violence, lawlessness, massacres, but also about the beauty of her country, the rich natural resources, I’d add the courage and endurance of its people (have had the pleasure of hearing talks by investigative journalism awardees from the Philippines since the visit of the 2005 prize-winner’s talk at the MPCT in the fall of 2006).

Symbolically, her PowerPoint presentation started and ended with an image of a gorgeous sunset in Mindanao, where she is based–cf. the YouTube far-cry below:


YouTube post by on Sep 25, 2007

Plunging back into the “reality” mediated by internet wire agencies (which in her words “dictate what IS and what IS NOT news,” including to Mindanao journalists about their homeland), as expected, she covered the extremely unstable politics, stats on ethnic and other violence and mass displacements to go with that, stats about routinely assassinated journalists (including a photographer with whom she was partnering). the turning point was a slide which said

A lot of noble efforts undertaken, but…

tired of complaining

we tried to do something

That something was the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative, 10 years old now–FaceBook page. From what she said, it is free from business sponsorship and the strings attached, runs mostly on enthusiasm and modest financial contributions from personal networks, and its journalists “write what they want to write about.” They have a news site called MindaNews, a less than a year old monthly news magazine Our Mindanao, and have published half a dozen books, starting with Turning Rage into Courage: Mindanao under Martial Law in 2002. Another title I jotted down was Fields of Hope, written by Fr. Roberto C. Layton, subsequently to spending time in a Muslim-populated region, in an effort to bridge the Catholic-Islamic historical abyss.

In conclusion Carol stressed that as part of the MNIC mission statement, journalists are “major stake holders in the quest for peace.” A brief panel followed, where she was joined by Ace Alvarez, managing editor of Manila Media Monitor and producer of Front Page Philippines, and a UofT student, Lydia (spelling tbd).


References

Arguillas, Carolyn O., ed. Turning Rage Into Courage: Mindanao Under Martial Law. Davao City, Philippines: Mindanao News and Information Cooperative, 2002.

Previous awardees of the Embassy’s McLuhan fellowship, winners of the investigative journalism award for the preceding year:

Ed Lingao in 2010

Diosa Labiste in 2009