“Here are more of my stories.”
I pick up from my column last Friday on the events that defined my life as a journalist for the past seven decades.
In the late 1950s, I was still business editor of the defunct Philippines Herald when I had a weekly television program over Channel 13. I could not forget receiving an award from the Citizens Council for Mass Media (CCMM) for having the best commentary on television. I got this together with my late mentor, Teodoro Valencia, who also had a television commentary using his column (Over a Cup of Coffee) over Channel 5. Imagine us being on the same stage!
Later that year, I was also awarded as “The Best Radio Commentator” for my daily radio program when I had a radio program at a popular coffee shop (Country Bakeshop). This was the hangout at that time of government officials and members of the media.
When I joined Channel 9 in the early seventies and got myself on radio and television, I began reaping awards for my television talk shows and radio programs. While I was writing a daily column for a newspaper, I also had a daily radio program and weekly talk shows!
I was young then, and I could do things that I am now unable to do.
When Martial Law was declared midnight of September 21, 1972, all media outlets were closed. But the Roberto S. Benedicto-owned Channel 9, Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS) remained operational.
Would you believe that me and my crew were able to cover the announcement by then Press Secretary Kit Tatad’s Proclamation 1081, detailing what Martial Law was all about?
I was then named a member of the MAC or Media Advisory Council, and I was president of the Manila Overseas Press Club, whose membership included foreign correspondents. My scope of influence covered television because of my connection with KBS and also of foreign correspondents.
During the first weeks of Martial Law, there was censorship of the media. It was that time when I thought of lifting censorship. Through my connections, I was able to relay my plan to then-Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, who was the administrator of Martial Law to get broadcast – radio and television – of the ambit of Martial Law.
I convinced JPE that I could organize the broadcast industry to be self-policing. Enrile agreed with me. I organized the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), and became its first president. I also was able to convince Malacanang to ease the censorship on foreign media because it was impossible to stop foreign correspondents from writing about Martial Law. I told Malacanang that foreign correspondents could always go to Hong Kong to write. Soon, censorship of the media was lifted.
The whole tenure of MAC lasted only for a couple of months, but I was happy. It was a small contribution to the freedom of the press.
When Martial Law was declared, I co-founded—together with Ka Doroy Valencia, then Makati Mayor Mesio Yabut, businessman Pat Dayrit, BIR Deputy Commissioner Joe Viterbo, and Brigido Sibug—the 365 Club. It used to meet six days a week as a free-wheeling venue for those who just sat to talk and express themselves. The Wall Street Journal commended it as the first of its kind in Asia. The 365 Club now meets online over Zoom every Saturday. I take pride in it.
Would you believe I was even conferred a doctorate degree Honoris Causa (Doctor of Humane Letters) by the biggest Catholic University north of Metro Manila – The Angeles University Foundation? This was for my contributions to the media, having founded the KPB, being Chairman Emeritus of 365 Club, and reaping awards in the fight for Press Freedom. I can say that all these awards, including my award from the Manila Rotary Club as a “media icon” were events that defined me as a journalist.
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These events defined me as a journalist, with my small contribution to press freedom.
This is coupled with my strong faith in God—my wife and I have taken numerous Marian pilgrimages in Europe.
These made me what I am today.
The founding of The Manila Standard was another event that gave meaning to my life as a journalist. Sometime in the early days of 1987, my late good friend Rod Reyes asked to meet. In that meeting, Rod said he got a call from Manda Elizalde from Miami, Florida that he wanted Rod to publish a newspaper.
Manda, who was in exile from the Philippines during the Martial Law days, was coming home after his former classmate, who was then the president of Costa Rica, ended his tenure.
According to Rod, Manda told him to confer with the late President Noynoy Aquino, his aunt Senator Tessie Aquino and her husband Len Oreta on how to go about it. Rod wanted me to help him in getting people to staff the new newspaper, which would be housed in the old Elizalde Building along Ayala Avenue.
The first issue came out on February 12, 1987. Rod was the publisher and editor-in-chief and I was chairman of the editorial board.
I have remained with The Manila Standard for the past 34 years despite opportunities to write a column in other newspapers. As I said earlier, I guess I will continue writing for The Manila Standard until I write “30.” I like working for people who now own the newspapers, and I like working with its editors and its publisher Rollie Estabillo.
I had always wanted to write a book and I am glad that House Majority Floor Leader, Martin Romualdez, helped me achieve this. My book is called “The Road Never Ends.”
I am now in the pre-departure area waiting for the last flight to the Great Beyond. I believe that my life is blessed by God, who is the pilot.