I remember the time when martial law was declared 45 years ago. There were two events that served as milestones in my career in journalism.
I was then public affairs manager of Kanlaon Broadcasting System Channel 9. Roberto Benedicto owned the nationwide radio-television network. At midnight, I got a call from the chief of security of Channel 9. “Sir, the building is padlocked...all media outlets would be closed.”
I knew that martial law would be proclaimed sooner or later. There were rumors that considering all the country’s chaotic conditions prevailing then, it was a matter of time.
Proclamation 1081 had been signed by Mr. Marcos days earlier, but it was implemented midnight of Sept. 21, 1972.
From my residence at Philamlife Subdivision in Quezon City, I rushed to Channel 9 to see what was really happening. Santa Banana, I had to go through four checkpoints manned by heavily armed troopers. Fortunately, I had with me my KBS card, which the soldiers examined.
I reached the television building at about two in the morning. I saw the workers lining up.
I stayed there while waiting for developments, but I got hungry out of anticipation and worry. I decided to go back home at around five in the morning. I went through the checkpoints along Edsa again, and when I was near Hotel Intercontinental I decided to get coffee there.
When I entered Jeepney Coffeeshop, I saw a round table occupied by then-Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut, my mentor Teodoro Valencia, businessman Pat Dayrit, BIR official Joe Viterbo and Yabut aide Biding Sibug.
Yabut told me he was waiting to be arrested for a shooting incident at the Intercon where an ally of President Marcos got killed. He had Valencia with him to ensure nothing would happen to him. My gulay, Yabut even had a duffel bag containing his personal things.
Ka Doroy instructed me to call all media practitioners who were sure to be jobless henceforth. He said they should assemble at the coffee shop and have breakfast there—all at his expense. Yabut only smiled—he knew he would end up paying.
I got home and started calling journalists to take their breakfast at Jeepney. That started the 365 Club. Valencia declared himself chairman.
Soon, however, Yabut started complaining because journalists not only took their breakfast there. They also had lunches and dinners with their families. Valencia then issued what he called Proclamation 1082, where everyone who would go to the coffee shop would pay his own way.
365 Club is unique since it began as a breakfast club without any structure. It was just a gathering of people who want to voice their opinion on any issue. It was featured in The Wall Street Journal where it was described as “one of a kind in Asia and even the world.”
Now I am the only one living among those who founded it.
This Saturday, Sept. 23, the 365 Club will mark its 45th year. We now meet every Saturday at Holiday Inn Suites, also in Makati. I have since designated businessman-sportsman Alfonso “Boy” Reyno as club president. I am chairman emeritus, while former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is our honorary chairman.
Faces change during our Saturday meetings, but the discussions continue.
I must say that throughout martial law days, despite the jokes and dissent, we survived. Credit that to the late Kokoy Romualdez, who was always there to share the fun.
Another milestone in my career as a journalist was when I organized the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas. It remains a strong and vibrant organization to this day.
During martial law, when I was at KBS, I thought of a way to get out of the ambit of censorship. With the approval of my manager, the late Buddy Tan, I called up each and every radio and television network for a meeting. We organized the KBP and adopted a Code of Standards.
Because of the insistence of Benedicto and Tan that voting should be according to the number of stations, I quit. When the former asked me why, I told him it is a matter of conviction.
I left KBS in 1982 and practiced law.
It was in 1987 after the People Power Revolution that I decided to resume my career as a journalist. I say journalism is my calling—I was never really happy when I was a lawyer.
Another event in my career was when I organized Philippines Inc.
I was a member of the business delegation that accompanied President Fidel Ramos to Moscow in 1996. I convinced FVR and then-Foreign Affairs Secretary Bobby Romulo to have the delegation form itself into a gathering of businessmen and journalists.
It was around that time when there were protests over a perceived attempt to amend the Constitution to extend FVR’s term.
President Ramos named the group “Team Philippine” which sounded, to me, like an athletic organization. We soon changed it to Philippines Inc., with myself as the chairman of the Board of Advisors.
Ramos always had Philippines Inc. along during his foreign trips. This continued until the term of Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo.
The only thing I can say during my almost seven decades as a journalist is that I have made a difference, however small.
The events I narrated could just as well be my legacy.