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Monday, May 20, 2024

Travels and travails of a retiree

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“With the advent of social media, AI and work-from-home setup, I’m afraid the exciting world of journalists will never be the same again”

The road to “paradise” was long and winding like the 33.5-km Kennon in Benguet with its cliffside zigzags at a less perilous level.

“Paradise” actually referred to Camp Paraiso where my family and I celebrated the 3rd birth anniversary of my youngest child during a recent road trip.

The “paradise on earth” was ensconced downhill in a well-appointed campsite with aircon huts resembling a modern-day version of American Indian tepees.

The well-paved road along the Bongabon-Baler Route looked Instagram-able, a picture-perfect product of an engineering feat marvelously carved out of the mountains leading to Aurora, a coastal province facing the Pacific Ocean.

On another road trip during the most recent Holy Week, we spent two days in Talisay, Batangas and rented a unit at Club Balai Isabel for an overnight stay.

The third-floor unit had a spacious veranda that ushered in a magnificent view of the Taal Lake in an early morning.

A view to chill out, indeed. My family and the other “staycationers” enjoyed wallowing in several swimming pools built within a few meters away from the lake.

It was not much of a place but just enough to cool our heels and get us re-energized.

Road trips can be an exhilarating experience as these also help spice up an otherwise drab and monotonous existence of a retiree like me.

‘Editor-in-chief for libel affairs’

Even after I have declared my retirement from this paper, libel suits continued to pester me like a swarm of angry bees.

At one time during my career in the Standard, I had to face several libel charges all at the same time.

My usual role as respondent took an ironic twist when the Court of Tax Appeals summoned me to be a witness in a case involving then Senator Manny Pacquiao. While Pacquiao got off the hook, I remained at the mercy of another accuser, the last holdout.

One of the most recent libel cases pertained to a retired general who charged me and Joyce Panares, the incumbent managing editor, with cyber libel over something we didn’t write or know about.

For over a year, we were unaware of a warrant of arrest issued against us. Panares and her quizzical mind came to know of the warrant, prompting her to alert the office which fielded a legal team to bail us out.

When mediation failed because the accuser refused to face us, the RTC judge scheduled a pre-trial on April 16, 2024, but the judge later on decided on a pushback and reset the hearing to June 14.

We thought the long wait would end soon.

Newsmen of yesteryears used to glamorize libel suits as a badge of honor, a proof of one having gained his/her spurs as a true-blue journalist.

It’s an entirely different story now.

A libel case means extra expenses in terms of lawyer’s fees, cost of transportation to and from the trial court and wasted hours during the hearings.

Those things reminded me of late afternoon coffee breaks we had in the Editorial newsroom.

Brown-bag sessions weren’t the norm yet since editors didn’t usually eat lunch in the office; they didn’t chew up death threats for breakfast, either.

On one occasion where the topic of discussion was libel and how it could be avoided, I said: One of us should take the fall and represent the editors in all libel cases.

Another editor stood up and hollered in his thick, southern accent: “Miron na. Si Sar-si (may he rest in peace). Editor-in-chief for libel si Sar-Si!” The joke triggered guffaws in the room, and everyone rolled with laughter.

I miss the glory days of journalism when every newsman/newshen must “scoop” the competition and get rewarded by his/her boss with a round of beer (unlimited, sometimes) at the National Press Club bar or in some other watering holes such as the Hobbit House and The Other Office.

Editors and reporters also made it a habit to huddle together usually in the afternoon or early evening for some small talk (chismis) before calling it a day.

There was no template for a banner-material scoop, but the camaraderie was priceless.

With the advent of social media, AI and work-from-home setup, I’m afraid the exciting world of journalists will never be the same again.

(The author used to be the managing editor of Manila Standard.)

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