Punching for 65 years!

By July 6, 2021Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


The PUNCH’s celebration of its 65th year of publishing and circulation is a significant milestone because it provides a ready journal of how cities and towns developed economically and culturally over 6 decades, who and which local politicians and political era made a deep impact in their communities’ growth.

For over 64 years, many organizations and civic leaders launched programs and projects that made a difference in their towns and cities, but only a few took advantage of The PUNCH’s presence that can document their activities. In this regard, we encourage the civic and professional clubs to use our pages to be part of the province’s history for the future generations to acknowledge and remember.

No other community newspaper can claim to have a journal about Pangasinan since 1956! What it will continue to show in the years ahead will be a faithful account of news events, insights and opinions of the times.

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PUNCHERS THRU THE YEARS.  Allow me to acknowledge the services of the following dedicated members of The PUNCH Team have stood with us to this day through challenging, difficult and fun times to produce The PUNCH we deliver today.  

I thank with deep gratitude the loyal services of Leonardo “Ding” Micua (managing editor), Julie Ann Arrogante (Online administrator), Eva Visperas (senior reporter), Jocelyn “Joy” dela Cruz (production supervisor), Roderick “Rod” Ibasan (production assistant), Rollie Dioquino (accounts supervisor), Willie Lomibao (photojournalist), Cesar Ramirez (photojournalist), Kristopher “Butch” Uka (photojournalist), Ahikam Pasion (reporter) and Jerick Pasiliao (reporter); our columnists Al Mendoza (General Admission), Jesus “Jess” Garcia Jr. (Sports Eye), Virginia “Gie” Pasalo (G Spot), Farah Decano (Andromeda’s Vortex), Jing Villamil (Feelings), Ashok Vassandani (Learnings in Life) and Virgilio Biagtan (editorial cartoonist). 

They who have since written “30” were: Gerardo “Gerry” Garcia (editor) in 2013; Gilbert “Bert” Garcia (photojournalist) in 2008; Juanito “Jun” Velasco (associate editor) in 2018; Magno “Manny” Vent Cornel (managing editor) in 2009; Ben Fer Hortaleza (managing editor) in 2014; Victor Tuazon (managing editor) in 2003, Agerico Rosario (Spice and Sugar), Napoleon Donato (Hotshots), Sosimo Publico (Harvest Time), Max Mendiguarin (Crime Notes). 

We also remember Romulo Villamil (associate editor), Bayardo Estrada (executive editor), Rod Rivera (managing editor), Rhuey Baterna (managing editor), Pete Quimson (production chief), Vicky Bauzon (administrative), Proculo “Proc Peña (advertising manager), Consuelo Liwanag (reporter), Rosie Concepcion (columnist), and Silver Sarmiento (LU manager) who worked with my father and have passed on.  

Among those who joined us for years were Rhee Fer Hortaleza (associate editor), Leu Paragas (associate editor), Marifi Jara (managing editor), Errol Solis (artist), Andy Estrada (reporter), Jojo Rinoza (photojournalist), Ray Zembrano (photojournalist), Pons Decena (editorial cartoonist)  

Special thanks to Wilson Chua (Bitstop) for decades for partnership that made The PUNCH, the first community newspaper in the Philippines to have an online edition in1997. (Before Facebook made its maiden entry in social media, The PUNCH Online was the overseas Pangasinenses’ point of connection with relatives).  We also thank Aure Ragos of Rana Printing Press for tirelessly coping with our weekly deadlines.  

Of course, our former columnists who provided provocative thoughts: Gonzalo Duque (Playing with Fire), Judge Ulysses Butuyan (Punching Bug), Johanne Macob (Young Roots), Simon Bistro (The North Vista), Helen Bernardo (Executive Profile). 

To our US correspondents: Leonardo Galvez, Ping Coquia and Rex Catubig. 

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ROD THE REPORTER. Last week, Rodolfo “Rod” Toledo, an indefatigable reporter of The PUNCH in the mid 60s under the tutelage of my father as editor, passed away.

Not many may remember that it was Rod who submitted the report on his assignment from my father about the payroll padding case in Lingayen led by then Councilor Martin Soriano. It was his report that led to my father’s death after he vehemently refused to shelve even with a gun pointed at him by Soriano inside his editorial office.

While Rod had wished my father had agreed to kill the story, he said he knew my father would not be intimidated and his violent death would forever be etched in his mind. He had to leave The PUNCH for his own personal safety.

I had long wondered where he had gone since so I was extremely happy to learn from his nephew, Prince (via Facebook), that I could visit him at his residence in Bugallon. And I did! It was exhilarating reminiscing his years with my father. Through him, I learned what a PUNCH reporter had to go through, and will continue to experience in years ahead.

Thank you Rod for being a part of us!

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THE MISSING PIECE. Over the past 14 months, our provincial government, via the Provincial IATF, has managed to keep our number of cumulative COVID cases way below the national average, even lower than the average daily numbers compared to other equally populated provinces in the country.  

But that’s how far Pangasinan has gone, what the Espino administration has achieved for Pangasinenses. And, for the past two weeks, there was a strong indication that perhaps the province’s contagion level has already peaked, but it was not to be. Contagion is still very much erratic, and it seems the enforcement of the twin health and distancing protocol aren’t just enough. 

So when and how long can we keep the downtrend a permanent trend in our effort to make Pangasinan, the first COVID-free province in Luzon?   

Board Member Jeremy Rosario might have found the missing piece in the puzzle: contact-tracing. 

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ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CONTACT-TRACING. Dr. Rosario correctly observed that while the hospitals and quarantine facilities are maximizing use of the effective treatment protocol that made more recovery cases each week possible, contact-tracing efforts in the province appears to be lax, hence, the continued contagion in the province.

It’d be helpful if the Provincial Health Office add another data in its reports – to identify how many new confirmed cases were the result of successful contact-tracing. Without this data, PHO updates tend to show that the new confirmed cases were the results merely of exposure to some unidentified carriers, an indication that no contact-tracing was done.

It’d be instructive to know from the provincial IATF first who the focal persons are for contact-tracing in the province and in at least the four cities. Let’s establish some accountabilities and see who are succeeding and who are failing.

And hopefully, communities will be better informed how to help stop the contagion with current updates on successful contact-tracing particularly in their barangays.

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DAGUPAN IS STILL NO.1. The Dagupan City Hall and the Dagupan Sangguniang Panlungsod should begin to worry and wonder why the city continues to be on top of the watchlist of the Provincial Health Office.  

It is not enough for the city government to say that it is the result largely of being an urbanized community, because it is not. It is important that both know, review and understand the systems that need logistical support or processes that need to be realigned to help check the contagion in the city. Unless their authority is invoked, a broken system will never be fixed. 

The City Health Office is remarkably doing a yeoman’s job, no doubt. But it also needs more detailed analysis of the system to determine if its work will just be endless coping with what are unknown problems.  

There are two questions whose answers will greatly assist the CHO:  Where are the new cases coming from? Why?  

The day Dagupan City will be pushed out from the top of the watchlist will be the day the city officials can confidently say – “We did our job!”

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