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'Little paper with a big cause' marks 70th year

'Mindanao Cross' has become a rich repository of religious, cultural and political events in the region

'Little paper with a big cause' marks 70th year

The Mindanao Cross has become a must-read publication for many people, mostly Muslims, in the southern Philippine province of Cotabato. (Photo by Bong Sarmiento)

Bong Sarmiento, South Cotabato
Philippines

February 9, 2018

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People in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao have nicknamed the Catholic weekly the "little paper with a big cause."

The Mindanao Cross, one of the oldest-running community newspapers in the country, has become a rich repository of religious, cultural, and political events in Mindanao.

The paper's first edition hit the streets of the predominantly Muslim province of Cotabato 70 years ago on Feb. 6, 1948.

The late Oblates of Mary Immaculate priest Gerard Mongeau, who later became the first bishop of Cotabato, started the paper with an old printing press donated to the congregation.

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, who sold copies of The Mindanao Cross when he was a young boy, applauded the paper's constant "search for truth and for promoting justice and peace."

"I pray that The Mindanao Cross will continue fulfilling its role as an effective communicator of truth," said the prelate, the country's first and only cardinal from Mindanao.

He recalled that he would get 10 centavos for every copy of the weekly paper that he sold in the streets of his hometown when he was a boy.

Patricio Diaz, who served as its editor from 1968 to 1989, said the secret of the weekly was the direction that was set by the publication's first editorial team composed of Oblate priests.

During the dark years of martial law, the "little paper" carried a "big cause" especially on issues that concern the volatile situation of Mindanao.

"Our bound files reveal how The Mindanao Cross promoted social and political dialogues," said Diaz.

Eva Kimpo-Tan, the paper's present editor-in-chief, said that in all the years of conflict in Mindanao, the paper remains on "neutral ground, maintaining its character as mainly the bearer of news."

"We will continue to strive to come up with a paper that is responsive and relevant to the needs of the region it has served for the past 70 years," she said.

Oblate priest Eliseo Mercado said the continued publication of the paper over the past 70 years is a "feat that calls for a celebration."

"With the slogan 'a little paper with a big cause,' The Mindanao Cross has a bigger cause than we can imagine," said the priest.

He said the publication stands not only for local news but also for local people, "who they are, what they do, and how they survive in a place that is known as the melting pot of the Philippines."

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao hailed the paper for chronicling the struggles of the Moro people in the southern Philippines.

"[It] continues to be a dependable institution that helps enrich the marketplace of ideas with the same vibrancy and credibility it did 70 years ago," said the governor.

Despite being a relatively small provincial newspaper, the publication has received numerous awards.

It also became the first community paper in Mindanao to be selected for micro-filming by the Jesuit-run Ateneo se Manila University.

Cardinal Quevedo said the continued existence and the awards received by the paper are due to the dedication and devotion of its staff.

Father Lauro de Guia, provincial superior of the Oblates in the country, said The Mindanao Cross' reporting has "gained a good and faithful clientele."

"Amidst the fake news and alternative facts circulating around, the paper keeps its integrity whole with its impartiality, objectivity, accuracy, and adherence to truth," said the priest.

"Inclusivity and truth telling are reasons why The Mindanao Cross remains the leading newspaper in this part of the country," said Father Jonathan Domingo, OMI, who served as chief executive officer of the publication for 10 years.

He said most of the paper's readers are Muslims who see the "values of truth telling."

"While we report everything that is of interest to the people of Mindanao, we let the Gospel guide our style of work and journalism." 

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