GEORGE & MACEL, “STRUGGLING JOURNALISTS”
[This tribute was written by a fellow journalist who considers George and Macel as among his mentors. He is former staff member of the Headliner and a distant relative of Macel. He is now working for a non-government organization based in Davao City."]
“Struggling journalists”: this was how George and Maricel "Macel" Alave-Vigo described themselves during their stint as regular staff for a weekly newspaper. "The Headliner," published in Cotabato City and circulated in Southwestern Mindanao from 1998 until the paper folded up in 2003.
George and Macel were members of the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE), an organization of journalists that ran and managed the defunct Headliner.
For them, being "struggling journalists" meant writing and advocating for a cause, with bias for the rights of the Lumads (indigenous peoples), war evacuees, women, and exposing irregularities in government.
As "struggling journalists," they did not write for a living but "write to serve the voiceless." They would tell young writers and campus reporters not to write merely to inform but to educate.
While doing media work, the two continued helping advocacy works of the Diocese of Kidapawan. Macel was then working for the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) in Kidapawan City.
A feminist, Macel maintained a column in the "Headliner" titled "Feminist Expressions." It tackled mostly issues on the rights of women and children. This issue stirred controversy in the province and alarmed concerned sectors, including the church.
George regularly wrote about the rights of the indigenous peoples particularly on the encroaching of banana plantations around Mt. Apo, which is considered sacred by the Lumads. George also served as bureau chief of Headliner after Carlos Bautista, who was then with Catholic-run radio station dxND, resigned from his post.
For being so critical of officials in the province, a politician offered George to be his "ghost writer," presumably to silence him. But George turned down the offer.
George, who also studied for three years at the Notre Dame Seminary in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, also served as secretary of the Task Force Apo Sandawa under the Diocese of Kidapawan, that advocated for the environmental protection on Mount Apo.
In the early 2000s, the group fought to prevent the Philippine National Oil Corporation's geothermal project from expanding in tribal ancestral land around Mt. Apo. The group also staged rallies to stop arsenic poisoning allegedly caused by the geothermal plant.
The couple wrote about the church and communities' peace initiatives in different areas of the region and conducted trainings for campus journalists in Kidapawan City colleges and high schools where they also shared the idea of public and peace journalism.
While covering the 2000 war, George also worked for Tabang Mindanaw, which extended assistance to the internally displaced persons. He was also one of 17 journalists who visited different war-torn villages across Mindanao during the period of the "all-out war" of then President Joseph Estrada.
In college, both were members of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and League of Filipino Students (LFS).
George, a native of Magpet North Cotabato, served president of the student council of Notre Dame of Kidapawan College and finished Political Science. He was also a member of an international fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi.
Macel took up BS Chemistry at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato but stopped schooling. In April, she graduated from BS Development Communication through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency Accreditation Program (ETEEAP).
Macel, 38, was part-time media relations officer of Rep. Lala Talino and was area coordinator of SPOTS (Solar Power Technology System) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), a project funded by the British Petroleum, to distribute solar power to agrarian reform communities without access to electricity.
Before joining SPOTS, Mazel was also executive dirctor of the Peoples' Kauyahan Foundation, Inc. which was active in peace-building projects.
George hosted Tingog sa Kabatan-unan (Voice of the Youth), a 30-minute radio program of the CFSI aired every Monday noon while Mazel hosted Kalihukan sa Kongreso (Congress Affairs) aired over DXND every Sunday noon.