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Kris-Crossing Mindanao
Henry Canoy signs off

By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:35:00 06/02/2008

Filed Under: history, Radio

MANILA, Philippines - His voice cracking with emotion, he announced for the first time ?This is Cagayan de Oro calling ...? from a self-assembled radio transmitter that was all of 30 watts, made from odds and ends bought at Raon Street, and armed only with a copy of the ?Radio Amateur?s Handbook.?

But the station had no letters, and worse, was operating illegally without a license. And that wasn?t all. An inspector of the Radio Control Office just happened to pick up the unauthorized broadcast on his monitor. The probability of getting arrested for broadcasting without a permit loomed large.

The gutsy tinkerer in this vignette was Henry Canoy, and the year was 1951. In 1951, there were only six radio stations in all of Mindanao. The principal source of information and entertainment then were the newspapers and vernacular magazines from Manila. The pioneer of radio broadcasting in Mindanao was dxMC, owned by Guillermo Torres of the University of Mindanao in Davao City. The second, dxAW, was established by Alfred James Wills, a retired US Army Signal Corps officer. There were four others that operated in Butuan, Surigao, Pagadian and Ozamiz.

The sparse field then was truly in need of the benefits of radio. Radio then was the fastest way of bringing the world into the home. With a small transistor, a family of even insufficient means could listen to stations in Manila and Cebu, the Voice of America, BBC and Radio Australia.

Buckling seriously to work this time, Canoy worked things out in Manila to apply for a congressional franchise and started assembling a professional 500-watt transmitter. As he would recall in his memoir ?RMN, the Henry Canoy Story?: ?our days as wildcat broadcasters were over, and the future looked promising.?

The future indeed looked promising, not only for him but for the rest of Mindanao. In 1951, the transmitter was finally on its way to Mindanao aboard the boat MV Snug Hitch. With only a telescopic steel pole as antenna borrowed from the Bureau of Telecom, the daring Canoy team attached one end of a copper wire to the pole and the other end to a coconut tree a block away. When the wire snapped on windy days, they would hire a tuba gatherer to reconnect the wire.

On July 4, 1952―it was the birthday of Mrs. Laureana Rabe Canoy, Henry?s mother―the wirecasters went on the air with test broadcasts. ?This is Station dxCC, Cagayan de Oro Calling, broadcasting with a power of 500 watts on 1560 kilocycles from Cagayan de Oro―the Gateway of Mindanao!? Some had thought that the CC stood for Canoy of Cagayan de Oro. ?In fact, the call letters were intended to identify the station with the community,? he would write in his memoir.

To identify with the community. That was very iconic of the man Henry Canoy who not only brought radio to his own corner of the world but had actually started a trend that was unknown then in Philippine radio broadcasting. His first aim was to bring radio to the poorest of the poor. The second was probably his own dictum in life. ?The most valuable lesson I learned was that in order to succeed in a small community, a radio station must operate on the principle of public service.?

As a straight arrow in reaching that vision, he went on to make dxCC the first ?Public Service Station? in the Philippines. The small provincial station soon became what it meant to the community―a public assistance center, post office, long distance telephone system, dog pound, medical dispensary and civil engineering headquarters all rolled into one.

Canoy relates the story of the Bukidnon farmer who had traveled more than a hundred kilometers to seek approval for his land title at the Bureau of Lands office. Reaching the city, the poor farmer realized he had forgotten the papers he was supposed to file. Going to dxCC, he made a call to his wife on the air. That same day, the truck driver delivered the papers to the station.

?For a long time Manila networks refused to recognize the power of public service. They scoffed at it as a harebrained idea. But as the saying goes, nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Eventually they were forced to follow the trail blazed by RMN.?

All these, of course, took place nearly 60 years ago, when Mindanao was largely isolated by lack of roads, bridges, communications and transportation facilities. Today, RMN―Radio Mindanao Network―is some 45 stations all over the Philippines, not including Radio Pinoy USA that broadcasts as a 24-hour Filipino-American radio station in New York, New Jersey, across the United States and even Canada. And to think it all started with tinkering, with guts, with no money, with only a coconut tree for an antenna and some ?harebrained? ideas.

To identify with the community. That was how, in simple terms, Henry Canoy shaped Philippine radio broadcasting. The radio pioneer that he was, the man of ?Cagayan de Oro Calling,? now, in death, belongs to the world. As I write this, the community in Mindanao where I live, Henry Canoy?s old hometown, is in mourning. But so are many other sectors in Philippine society. A presidential tribute from Malacaang, a Senate resolution, scores of obituaries written in his honor―truly the public service message has been understood.

Henry Canoy has signed off, but not his legacy. And that is what makes him a great Filipino.

* * *

Comments to monta@cu-cdo.edu.ph

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