"I have always wanted to make a difference."
In 1985, when the country was deep in trouble as a result of the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., and when investors thought it best to keep their money abroad, I too entertained thoughts to go abroad with my family.
I also recall that my former publisher at the Philippines Herald
, Ken Macker, told me that if I ever wanted to work in the United States, I could do so because he would be able to find a job for me.
At that time I was an editorial writer for the Herald
. I also had my own column which was simply called “Opinion.” This was after my stint as business editor.
My wife and I were exploring our options. Our oldest son Vic was working as a manager in some LA hotels. My daughter Nina was also working in a hotel, in New York. My son Eric had just finished his MBA in New Hampshire and was working at a financial institution.
It was only my youngest son Nicky who had refused to study abroad.
After the Aquino assassination, things in the Philippines got so bad that many of my friends went to the US in pursuit of a better life.
When I called Macker and told him I want to go to the US, he told me to wait for a week or so. After a week, he said he had found a job for me at the San Francisco Chronicle
and I was to be paid $2500 monthly. I said I would think about it.
My wife and I agonized over the thought of my leaving her and our youngest son. I decided to stay. I felt that the country needed me, a journalist, at its worst time.
I thanked Macker for his help but said I could not leave my family.
The rest is history, as they say.
I soon became vice president of the Loyola Group of Companies, and even then I continued to write columns for various publications. That was until Rod Reyes and I co-founded Manila Standard
* * *
I have always been an idealist. I say this after spending the best years of my life at the old Ateneo de Manila ruins of Padre Faura. I finished my Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Humanities. And then I took up law at the Philippine Law School.
Believe it or not, I even entertained the idea of being a priest. I wanted to do more for others.
But when I volunteered to assist the Mindanao Cross, I met the love of my life, Miss Trinidad Kapunan Capistrano. I forgot my priesthood dreams and married her after a long courtship. She graduated from UP.
As an Ateneo graduate, I wanted to make a difference no matter how small—hence, I studied law. But being a lawyer didn’t excite me much, after all. I then decided I would be a journalist after having some experience in Cotabato with my best friend, Rudy Tupas.
When I became a junior partner at the Salonga & Ordonez Law Offices, I had occasion to have breakfast at the old Botica Bois where newspapermen, politicians and businessmen congregated.
It was at this time, after I got married, that I met my friend Jose Prollamente, then head of the Jai Alai, owned and operated by the late Vicente Madrigal. When he found out I was jobless, and when he heard of my two-year stint at The Mindanao Cross, he offered to help me get a job at the Herald
Prollamente then took me to Madrigal’s office, who called his editor in chief and told him to find a place for me. It was a stroke of good luck because the then-business editor was going on leave of absence to take the Bar.
The editor-in-chief Felix Gonzales told me he did not like Ateneans but since I was recommended by Don Vicente, he pointed to an empty desk and told me to begin working the following day.
I’ve been a journalist for almost seven decades now.
* * *
Why did I not practice law? Why did I become a journalist?
I realized I could make a difference by being a journalist. I am an idealist —my wife tells me that all the time. I want to make the Philippines a better place to live in.
I have seen history in the making. I have covered 10 presidents and walked the corridors of power. This is why I am sad that Filipinos seem to be losing their priorities.
For example, we elect leaders just because they are popular. We forget that we should elect those with probity and integrity.
We even elect leaders who do not lead moral lives!
I have never seen so many killings in my life as I am seeing now. Worse, the people seem to be seen, hear and say nothing.
Still, I prefer not to dwell in the darkness. I would always want to light a candle.