A picture of Louie Tabing

In the memory of Louie Tabing – the ‘guru’ of community radio

Louie Tabing’s demise on January 18, 2018 has created a void in the community radio scene that will be hard to fill. For many, especially those in Asia Pacific, Tabing represented a larger-than-life figure. A community broadcaster, a poet, a freedom of expression advocate, and an agricultural expert – Louie wore all these diverse hats with equal aplomb.

I’d been privileged to correspond with Louie on several occasions, but had met him only once – in the early 2000s. The memory is vividly etched in my mind. I was bowled over both by his passion for community radio and his knowledge and love of English literature.  He was equally conversant about the challenges that confronted community radio, as he was about the works of Emily Dickinson. Imagine having a conversation about the trials of community radio ownership, peppered with a liberal dose of Jane Austen. It’s a little like talking about ‘Of mice and men’ while reckoning with the legislation that prohibits broadcasting of news on community radio.  I hadn’t quite met anyone like him.

Tabing started his career as an agriculture and farm radio producer and broadcaster in 1969 with Radio Veritas, where he learned the craft of rural radio. Subsequently, he became a freelance producer and host of ‘Sa Kaukera’ (In the countryside) on DZMM Radio. He was renowned for the work he did in this program which he hosted for twenty years, from the late 1990s.

His contributions to the cause of community radio have been many. Apart from his significant contribution to the Tambuli Community Radio Project, Tabing also actively associated with UNESCO and UNICEF on several assignments in countries like Nepal, East Timor, Uganda, Papua New Guinea and the Maldives.

Not surprisingly, he was popularly known to many in the Philippines as the ‘guru’ of community radio and the dean of rural broadcasters. Along with his passion and skill for community radio, Louie also continued to demonstrate the literary power of his pen. Among his works is a 1,000-word poem titled ‘Punlang Diwa.’

We were meant to cross paths again in 2007 at a consultation to promote community radio awareness  in the Maldives. Unfortunately, flight delays came in the way. By the time I arrived at the consultation, Louie had left for one of the atolls to demonstrate the benefits of suitcase radio.

Although we didn’t meet again, I can still vividly remember the advice he shared with me during our lone encounter. It also sums up his vision for community radio: The idea of an ideal community radio station built on principles of community management and ownership is perhaps too idealistic. Even so, it is an ideal worth aspiring towards…

RIP Louie – You will be missed. But your thoughts, words and wisdom will continue to live on.

Ashish Sen

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