My First NSPC
Today, I write about my experiences as a contestant in the National Secondary Schools Press Conference (NSSPC), now the NSPC, when I was a high school staffwriter of The Bicol Craftsman 25 years back.
'Got it right. It was 1986 when I luckily hurdled the regional press conference tilt held at the Camarines Sur National High School in Naga City. That time, only five events in Pilipino and English were contested which included editorial writing, news writing, sports reporting, feature writing, and copyreading and headline writing. Group contest was already part then of the national competitions. It was only in the 1990s when editorial cartooning, photojournalism and broadcasting became part of the annual campus journalism contest.
There was even selection of the Ms. RSSPC and the Ms. NSSPC.
Press conferences before were participated only by few schools in Bicol, mostly big schools coming from the provinces and cities. They did not have congressional and division competitions then but directly joined the regional level.
Before, press conferences were only for the secondary schools. Now, the elementary and tertiary levels have also their separate press conferences.
In 1986, the NSSPC (now the NSPC) was held days after the Presidential Elections with President Ferdinand E. Marcos and Vice President Arturo M. Tolentino running for another term. News on election fraud in favor of the Marcos-Telentino team was up flooding the national dailies and broadcast media, and people were angry.
Four of us (Fred Valdez, Leila Laceda, Jinky Borja and yours truly) from the school plus our advisers (Ma'am Cely Carreras and Ma'am Merle Borja) came to Iloilo to join the NSSPC for the very first time. And it was also my very first to ride an aircraft from Legazpi to Iloilo because the Bicol delegation then went to the place as one. (Ha ha ha, I had the biggest luggage then. Imagine a promdi, he he.)
From Iloilo. airport, we were transported to Barotac Nuevo National Comprehensive High School as the venue for all the events and St. Joseph School as our billeting center which was a 5-minute ride via 'sikad-sikad,' a bicycle with side car.
The 5-day national event was formally opened by then MECS Secretary Jaime C. Laya, the keynote speaker. Moments after alighting from the stage, media people hugged him with questions about the gathering of people in the main thoroughfares of Metro Manila specifically EDSA. As it was his last stint in government, we had the chance of posing with the him for posterity.
Writing events were held on schedule during the first day. But at the hall where all the programs were held, the air was filled with updates from the big city where the number of supporters of the Cory Aquino-Doy Laurel tandem grew stupendously and continuously floding the streets, getting the attention of the country and of the world.
Yes, we were busy keeping track of the eventualities in Manila expecting that it would be part of the journalism events.
In the evening of the first day, varied presentations were shown by the candidates for the Ms. NSSPC where political colors and biases surfaced. Candidates wearing white, red and blue were booed, while those in yellow and green were greatly applauded.
Regionalism had also been part of the booing that evening, that the mere mention of the Marcos regions sparked loud voices from the audience chanting "Ibagsak ang diktadurang Marcos." And the opponents would also reply shouting "Marcos pa rin, Marcos pa rin." Such unruly behaviour (which was understandable) caused one presenter to walk out.
The following day became complicated for us in the place. Everybody kept updated to have a better understanding of the what's going on in Manila and other parts of the country. Military men and police forces were all on alert to secure peace and order. Siren sounds would be heard and police mobiles plied the streets of Barotac Nuevo town.
The coronation night of the Ms. NSSPC came with the hall filled with a more aggressive pack of audience at the height of the EDSA Revolution. It was February 25. In the middle of the interview of the Ms. NSSPC candidates, live broadcast aired the fleeing of the Marcoses from Malacanang via a helicopter. The audience in awesome silence, picking every slice of the live broadcast, broke into celebration, clapping and shouring, dancing and cheering for the triumph at EDSA as the song 'Magkaisa' was playing. Chants for "Cory-Doy" floated for some time.
The candidates who were dismayed by the cut made in the program, stepped down the stage and had no longer joined the last stretch of the interview. The audience seemed disinterested in the pageant.
Yes, People Power was obviously our topic in editorial the following day. In the afternoon, during the closing program, the municipal mayor of Barotac Nuevo announced the cancellation of flight but offered to provide the huge number of participants food for the next days of stay in the place.
The morning after, we toured Iloilo City, its museum and shopping malls. We bought local delicacies like 'pinasugbo' before finally boarding our flight to Legazpi.
Twenty-five years passed and the memories are still alive especially the spirit of EDSA which placed the Philippines in the world map of non-violent revolution.
As we now watch the world taking after the movement in EDSA, we just can cross our fingers and pray for the people in the Middle East to maintain respect for life and dignity of men as they struggle for better governance in their respective countries and government just like how the Filipinos did it 25 years ago.
My first experience in the NSPC was like that of EDSA revolution. I might have lost in the editorial writing event but I felt like winning a new life for my country. It was the dawn of new hope for our generation and the generation who has not witnessed that most historic episode in our country.