365 Club: Still center of political irreverence

Today is the 47th anniversary of an amorphous and unintentional gathering of a coterie of media personalities, a few public officials and prominent citizens who took their breakfast together at the Jeepney coffee shop of the Hotel Intercontinental in Makati that early morning of Sept. 21, 1972.

365 Club: Still center of political irreverence
EMERGENCY ANNIVERSARY. Militant groups hold placards as they march to Mendiola near Malacanang in Manila to mark Friday the 47th Year of Martial Law, imposed by then President Ferdinand Marcos, in his words, “to save the Republic from a state of subversion and rebellion.” Norman Cruz
Palpable during that particular morning was the eerie silence and deep anxiety among those present. They were all bewildered, grimly wondering why all the television channels and radio stations were silent and why newspapers were not available anywhere.

What they eventually realized was that President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos had placed the entire country under martial law. The desultory and modulated reading of Proclamation 1081 by Press Secretary Francisco Tatad was the official political benediction.

One of those who came earlier that morning was the highly regarded veteran newspaperman and Manila Times columnist Teodoro F. Valencia-Ka Doroy to his admirers and friends.

Breaking the silence, Ka Doroy announced that he would be paying for the breakfast bills of everyone present that morning and for every morning for as long as martial law existed. He speculated that martial rule would not last for more than 365 days. He was confident he could pay the bills of those who would join him for breakfast each morning.

This is how the 365 Club was born and became an institution as a media forum.

When President Marcos abolished Congress, jailed top opposition leaders, and media critics, and rushed the drafting of a new Constitution, it became obvious that martial law was going to last long.

Ka Doroy realized he could not possibly afford paying the bills indefinitely. In fact, he was getting irked that some habitués had been abusing his hospitality by ordering more expensive breakfast food items.

Fortunately, there were close friends of Ka Doroy who readily chipped in to pay the bills, particularly Makati Mayor Nemesio Yabut and architect Ruperto Gaite.

Occasionally some well-known but now jobless media practitioners dropped by out of professional inquisitiveness. They helped enliven the conversations at this unorganized and ad hoc gathering which was getting popular and increasing in unlisted membership. The most consistent and widely-respected media personality until today is Atty. Emil Jurado―now the club’s unconstitutional presiding officer.

When President Marcos became very comfortable sitting as an autocrat head of state, some of his advisers, alter egos, subalterns and secret agents started visiting the Intercon and taking breakfasts at the Jeepney Coffee shop with the 365 club habitués.

Ka Doroy, who never hid his guarded support for the Marcos regime, welcomed the presence of Defense Minister Johnny Enrile, DILG minister Peping Roño and Ambassador-at-large Kokoy Romualdez. Other officials and prominent citizens also joined the daily breakfast gathering to listen to the banter between and among the high officials of the martial law regime and the inherently resentful media personalities. Ka Doroy and other respected personalities enjoyed ribbing the martial law administrators and prying into their secrets. The in-fighting between powerful and close associates of President Marcos became material for juicy gossip.

The 365 Club became the center of political irreverence.

Until today, the 365 Club has no definite form, nature or identity. It has no organization or governing body of rules or laws to bind its members to a common cause or a united entity. But it has become a source in documenting the watershed events happening in the country.

Teodoro Valencia, who served as godfather to many members of the media fraternity, must have amassed and brought to his grave poignant memories of historical events which influenced the course of our country’s history.

Kokoy Romualdez, the brother-in-law of President Marcos, was privy to many of the most guarded secrets of martial law. He will always be remembered as a handsome and towering man, usually dressed in white, wearing no socks.

Peping Roño was always wondering why priests and nuns were joining the dissidence movement. He obviously did not notice that members of the clergy have grown tired of making genuflections for the proletariat and were now eager to personally carry the grief and burden of the poor and neglected members of society.

Johnny Enrile, who is now at the departure area but still refusing to check in, is still highly respected and looked up to as chairman emeritus of the 365 Club. His trusted friend and associate, Boy Reyno, now a highly successful businessman, is now the most active member and benefactor of the 365 Club.

Today’s commemoration of the birth of the 365 Club may not be the last, as long as Johnny Enrile, Emil Jurado, Boy Reyno and their closest friends are still around.

What is significant is that the 365 Club has become an institution, a rare and unique forum of individuals who maintained civility and friendship with each other at a time when they may have differed in their beliefs and perceptions of right and wrong.

But the most poignant lesson they learned from their experiences under martial law and the 365 breakfast forum is that the highest leader of a country, under any form of governance, can last long under a complete political vacuum.  

Topics: Ferdinand Edralin Marcos , martial law , Francisco Tatad , 365 Club
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