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Bicol Mail, Mariners and Re-opening



“When a door closes, another opens.” The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, said this famous line in 1935, which has now become a popular expression to encourage people to keep trying after meeting a disappointment or failure. But my instinct says that if a door closes, open it again. So why keep it closed in the first place unless an evil has penetrated its recesses to doom? 


The Pandemic forced every establishment to shut down, except for the health and public utility sectors like water and power, to avoid spreading the Covid-19 virus. Mariners and all schools closed, with students kept at home to do remote learning. Business, religious and recreational activities virtually stopped to a halt. The fear of falling casualty of the virus was like a plague. Despite Covid-19, the 2022 elections, preceded by a slew of wild campaigning, demonstrated the people’s will to continue with life. Covid-19 will be with us for a long time. We must accept it’s the new normal - life with facemasks, alcohol, and remote. 


When Nilo Aureus, the publisher, broke the news on July 26 that Bicol Mail was closing, I was numbed for a moment. “We will have our last issue this week,” he said in a text message tersely, as it sounded, without a trace of sadness, or so, I thought. I had just sent in my column on the first SONA of the new President. So the paper will close after 19 years! A trail of thought came through me, asking why. I could have written an Ode to the End column instead. 


Going by the record, the weekly regional newspaper, founded in 1953, closed for the second time. The first time it shut down was during martial law when “only state-sponsored media” thrived. Of course, that was during the dictatorship of the late Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. But, then, I suddenly had a strange feeling of déjà vu - Bicol Mail closing during the presidency of the son and namesake, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos! Are there pressures to close it down for political reasons? Is a return to the repression of free speech or press freedom in the offing?


On August 23, a phone call with the publisher confirmed it. The reason for closing the community newspaper was nothing political, not even financial. I did not have the chance to dig deeper into the whys and wherefores. I allowed the process of closing and re-opening a business to run its course. I just thought that if one believes that one’s work and relationships are suffering dramatically, isn’t it time to consider closing a shop an option? A case of being burnt out? A time to reflect and recharge? Most companies are in crisis now, and Covid financing options aren’t always readily available. How else to handle contradictions of choice - to close and open again? Never mind the answers that remained unanswered for now.


Another famous saying by Vladimir Lenin goes like this: “It is necessary sometimes to take one step backward to take two steps forward.” It is a quotation I stumble upon often, and it may be one of the best pieces of advice I have learned to imbibe in years.


Today, September 1, the good news is that Bicol Mail resumes publication. It is back, after more than a month. Over the phone, I felt the publisher’s voice recharged and hopeful. Bicol Mail is re-opening to a welcoming public that clamored for a comeback. I recall that when word got around that it ceased publication, I received messages of encouragement to continue writing and looking for other channels of articulation. Why stop when going online was an option to take? A colleague in the Connected Women network made an offer to get into online shows. Others who I met along the way, just never stopped to heave a full sigh, “sayang,” then asking, “ngayon pa nagsara kung kelan mas kelangan kayo?”


Contradictions resolve in time - either by themselves or through external interventions. So isn’t it a coincidence that Bicol Mail is back during the re-opening of classes, which disrupted two years since the WHO declared a global Pandemic in March 2020? Over at the three campuses of Mariners Polytechnic Colleges/Foundation in Naga City, Canaman in Camarines Sur, and Rawis, Legaspi City in Albay, the students are the most excited to be back in school. As school administrators struggle to grapple with the challenges of face-to-face classes, young people are raring to reconnect once more socially. To participate in the Peñafrancia military and civic parade is a test of bravery. Retrofitting became the word of the day to add new technology and re-engineer tools to plant new, efficient systems and behavior.


On the other hand, far and wide, families confront the spiraling high cost of living, school needs, and demands at work and home. Covid-19 has had a diverse impact on schools, business, and family life. But I believe the only way to cope is not to sit by and watch as events pass us. We beat the crisis with good health, safe environment practices, and struggle against injustices of life. Peñafracia is back, and so are the Gainza Trade Fair of the DTI and Archdiocese of Caceres next week with Tabang Bikol Movement’s social enterprises of Ilaw ng Kababaihan’s citronella scented candles, citronella anti-mosquito essential oils, the Resaykel items of Bugkos Kabataan, Cassava chips of Libmanan women, and MSMEs like JaimEliza’s E-Sense natural stress-relief plant-based oils, participating with much enthusiasm.


Everything is in a continual process of becoming and ceasing to be, in which nothing is permanent: everything changes, and experiences disruption, closing, re-opening, and transformation. Welcome back to school! Welcome back, Bicol Mail!

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