Why I Call Journalism A ‘calling’

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“I got my feet wet at that time in real journalism, covering every beat and aspect of provincial and municipal governments”

When I was a young man, it was my dream to be a lawyer, arguing a case in court for my client and winning it.

Whenever I saw a movie about lawyers winning their cases in court, I dreamt that someday I’d also be a lawyer like those I saw in the movies.

Of course, being a lawyer in the Philippines is different from what you see in a Hollywood movie because, in the United States, lawyers argue their case before a jury, not a judge.

Somehow, I had the feeling that my parents wanted to have at least one lawyer in the family.

My eldest and only sister became a doctor of medicine, and my two elder brothers became lawyers, with my eldest brother Desi, becoming an associate justice of the Court of Appeals. In fact, I took up law studies and passed the Bar in 1954.

So, I am now a journalist and have been one for the past 74 years.

Well, that’s another story, which I believe is the will of God. It’s for this reason why I consider journalism more of a “calling” than a profession because events in my life actually made me a journalist.

When I finished my Bachelor of Arts course at the old ruins at the Ateneo de Manila at Padre Faura, after graduation, an Oblate priest, Father Cuttbert Bilman, came to the Ateneo in 1950 and sought volunteers to go to Cotabato City to help the OMI (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) missionaries enliven their weekly publication and turn it into a real newspaper.

It was only logical that my good friend, the late Rudy Tupas, and I volunteered because we were then editor-in-chief and associate editor respectively of the school organ, The Guidon, at that time.

Thus, we had a two-year contract to help the OMIs with “The Mindanao Cross” which was being distributed not only in Cotabato at that time but throughout Sulu and all over the Notre Dame schools.

Would you believe that “The Mindanao Cross,” a weekly publication, now daily, had a circulation at that time throughout Mindanao and Sulu of 178,000 weekly, more than any of the mainstream newspapers in Manila?

Thus, I got my feet wet at that time in real journalism, covering every beat and aspect of provincial and municipal governments.

Santa Banana, I was even sued for libel for calling a real doctor a “quack,” since I was not yet a lawyer at that time and I was careless.

That’s how my “calling” all began.

After my two-year contract, I came back to Manila and pursued my studies in law.

I also got a teaching job at the Ateneo High School and at the Philippine Law School. But, somehow, I yearned to be a journalist. I missed the excitement of being a journalist.

After I married in 1955, by the will of God, I got a job as a Business Editor at the defunct Philippines Herald, when the Business Editor quit, took the Bar and became a lawyer.

And there I was, a lawyer becoming a Business Editor, That’s why I consider my career as a journalist a “calling.” It was the call of God in my life, and I never left.

I have since covered 10 Presidents, walked the corridors of power, seen history in the making, and seen the best and worst of Presidents running this country. But again, that’s a different story.

In my “calling” as a journalist, there are things I stand for and even die for — the truth, objectivity, fairness and justice.

As a journalist, I am committed to the truth, objectivity, justice, fairness, honor and dignity.

My hunting grounds were the corridors of power, and I have seen history in the making. My gulay, that’s the truth.

In 1972, before Martial Law was declared in September, I was invited to join the Kanlaon Broadcasting System or KBS as a journalist where I had my television and radio programs, which kept me very busy.

When Martial Law was imposed on September 21, since I was then President of the Manila Overseas Press Club, I organized the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, and became its first president.

I am proud to say this because the KBP, a nationwide organization of television and radio networks, is still alive and kicking.

When I was the KBP president, I founded the PATAS or the Philippine Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, patterned after the Oscars in Hollywood.

It gave an opportunity for students taking up mass communications in universities to have their practicum in real and live radio and television.

Unfortunately I did not know I was going against a syndicate or a Mafia composed of entertainment columnists, talent managers and screenwriters that started attacking the PATAS because it would put them out of business.

Thus, sadly, the PATAS lasted only for a couple of years. I had to disband it.

After the Ninoy Aquino assassination in 1983, I decided to quit my days in broadcast and tried my luck in the practice of law, hoping that my dreams would still be realized.

I became a partner of a law office, but soon enough, my elder brother Desi, who was my co-partner, was appointed to the Court of Appeals as associate justice and another partner, Jose Vitug, was also appointed to the Supreme Court. Thus, we had to abolish the partnership.

I then got involved in business and became the Vice President of the Loyola Group of Companies under Vic Puyat, my former student at Ateneo.

I thought I could make a go of myself in business, but the opportunity came to me again to become a journalist.

I took it. I co-founded The Manila Standard with Rod Reyes on February 12, 1987, and never left. I have decided to stay on with The Manila Standard until I write “30.”

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Incoming President President Bongbong Marcos decided to be Secretary of the Department of Agriculture “for now” for very good reasons.

Knowing that food security is a looming problem in the coming years, the young Marcos doesn’t like to take a chance with anybody heading the DA.

BBM must do it himself and, if anything goes wrong with the threat of food security, he can only blame himself. This proves that he has enough political will to confront a problem all by himself.

From the way BBM was talking when he announced that he was taking over the secretaryship of the Department of Agriculture, it did seem the DA truly needed reorganizing to make it more responsible to the needs of farmers, animal producers and to the fisherfolk, to prepare the country to meet the challenges of food security.

Food security is not only a big problem for the country in the years to come. It is a threat worldwide, and the young Marcos realizes this.

As DA secretary, he can easily stop smuggling of food products.

Whether he likes it or not, the problem and solution to food security are on his shoulders.

Food security is truly a big challenge for the Marcos administration and his move to be the secretary of the DA is very timely and well-considered.

Having a President like the young Marcos gives us hope that Bongbong will be able to provide the country with enough food security all the time.

As I said, as far as I am concerned, we either sink or swim with him.

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