Last night, despite heavy rains and strong winds, I was able to visit Manong Jules. His last text to me was last June 15, when he told me that he's arriving from Romblon. We're supposed to have coffee, a regular thing for us and an opportunity for me to hear what he has to say about what's happening and what I must do. He's like a mentor to me, same thing with Ding Gagelonia, a colleague and friend who writes at http://midfield.wordpress.com.
Jules is one of five people whom I consider as not just close friends, but as my "life coaches". These people share with me the same passion, the same life path and the same ideological beliefs. I only listen to these people, especially when it comes to what I must do in order to realize the dream for a Truly Just and Humane Society.
One of them is Dado V. A compadre of mine, Dado is one of the original ones who shouted "We belong" and "Never Again" during the dark days of the dictatorship. He risked life and limb for God, Country and the common tao. He fought vigorously for his ideal. He went out of his comfort zone to seek a society that promotes Truth, Justice and Peace. He now works as a dutiful officer at the Philippine National Police yet someday, I told him, great things will happen in this country and the sacrifices you and your comrades made will never ever die. Great dreams shall never die.
Another one whom I admire is Ka Sonny of PLM. When Ka Popoy left this world, his son Dante and I fought together against Gloria. I remember we were the very first ones who shouted "Oust Gloria!" last November 30,2003, when everybody was still connected with her. We already knew that Gloria will just wreck havoc to institutions of governance and that it is time to tell people about it. We launched the very first labor tabloid newspaper out of my meager funds and we were not able to sustain it because I went thru a very painful financial hemorrhage shortly after I disengaged from my former EDSA dos compatriots.
Ka Sonny and I worked together to come up with that tabloid. Through the help of other labor leaders, we were able to print it and distribute it. It was our Iskra, and a tribute to the great Plebian who celebrated his birthday. I still hold the dream that someday, when I get more funds, I'll be able to fund another great enterprise like that with Ka Sonny. And during that momentous time, I learned so many things with Ka Sonny especially on radical syndicalism (George Sorel's favorite theme).
Yet, the short time we were together, I felt a strong affinity with Ka Sonny. He, like Dado V, feels very strongly about what's happening and acts accordingly. He already sacrificed his life before the altar of the People and dreams of someday seeing a bright New Morning dawn in this great country of ours.
My lola, whom I call "nanay" was the one who raised me from childhood. I grew up without a father. My uncles were the ones who filled up the void. And my nanay served as my surrogate mother.
My mother raised me and my sister through her sheer will and hard work. Being a single mom is not easy. She gave me everything that I need. And when the time came for me to stand on my own, she let me. When I entered the university at a young age of 16 years old, I had a very solid upbringing and a natural ability to learn and lead. My mother left me on my own yet my nanay guided me throughout my entire university stay. I managed to get very good grades and became one of the youngest intructors of the University of the Philippines teaching history. Yet, sometimes you feel very strongly about change that you think that being a journalist is better than just teaching. And that's what I eventually did. I dedicated my life writing pieces about life. I was in and out of dangers, yet, there was a consistent thread that runs through me---that of using this life as a tool, a medium, for the attainment of that Great Dream.
Ding Gagelonia was my former boss over at DZBB, the radio station of GMA Channel 7. I was still a fourth year student at the UP-Diliman when I decided to take the auditions in November 1987. I joined about 250 people in that auditions. Ding made us report impromptu, every one of us. I was a neophyte but never unfamiliar with radio. When I was still a kid, I always listen to AM radio, especially DZRH. I sometimes mimic the voice of those reporters and imagine myself to someday have the chance to do the same.
My dream came true when after a month, I was one of ten people who had the chance to be interviewed by Tony Seva, DZBB big boss. I still remember the question Mr. Seva asked me---what's your thoughts about agrarian reform. Surprised, I answered him with a scholarly take that belies my academic background.
Those ten people were reduced to four. I was hired as a Newswriter along with a gay writer. Tina Panganiban-Perez and Norlyn Temblor were hired as reporters.
I worked the night shift, both as writer and desk. I report for work at around 9pm and finish at 7am. Ding always try to push me to improve my writing, which, at that time, was like mini-theses. Everyday, I write about 40 to 45 news articles. I handle the primetime morning newscasts and when Lito Villarosa (a cousin of VP Noli de Castro) came late, I pitch-hit. I still remember the very first time I sat in that DZBB radio booth. Though I was just there alone with an engineer, it was like, wow. Its really overwhelming.
I remember the last time I served there---it was All Souls Day. That was the most memorable because afterwards, we got an award. My schedule as a Lecturer and a Newswriter conflicted. That led me to decide to resign there and continue teaching. After one year, I decided to come back to media as a radio reporter.
We met again sometime last year, when Nick organized FilipinoVoices (http://filipinovoices.com). Unknown to Ding, I was writing under the pseudonym of Patricio Mangubat. Since our first meeting, Ding and I never ever failed to communicate. Almost every day we talk, about work, about struggles, about friends, girls, women, scandals, girls, women, Gloria and a host of others.
Manong Jules and I met sometime in late 1999. It was a cordial meeting. Yet, we maintain our correspondences until 2004. We had a common friend, a technocrat who ran for the senate and lost. After the elections in 2004, I came back to Singapore and worked until 2007 when I told myself that it's better to go back home.
It was a statement that came from Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan that convinced me to return home. Honasan said that those who want change should go back to their Motherland to help her. Feeling lonely there (living in a 5-room house all by myself), I decided to abandon my work there and go back here. Singapore is a very good place to work. Yet, the longing for the Motherland and the personal desire to get married and raise a family were very strong.
When I came back, Manong Jules and I started our regular meetings. He's very intelligent. He discussed things with me, advised me to regularly read books (aside from Marxist ones) and expand my network. That I did. I went back to public relations and applied all the things I learned from my sojourn in Singapore and those I learned from being a manager. I now have many clients yet I'm thinking of pursuing what Manong Jules told me---pursue the cause of the Masses.
Manong Jules and I had worked in many projects. He has his regular Kapihan sa Sulo which I attend. He introduced me to manong Neal Cruz and Dan Mariano and a host of other columnists. For his meetings over at Greenhills, he normally invites me and when I have the time, I go there. Jimmy Gil and the rest of my media colleagues are there, sharing things with me and trying to tell me things about why these events happen.
One of the happiest things we shared together were those spa sessions over at Jet Jet, the massage parlor beside Cafe Baraco along West Avenue. We also had nice chats at BurgerKing in Timog. During Thursdays, we meet at a hotel in Manila and Saturdays, Sulo Hotel.
Our struggles together are very memorable ones, especially last year when we did so many things together. This year, I tried to convince him to support a friend who has a famous surname and all he told me was "we'll think about it." He tried to convince the group to support my friend and eventually he told me that "probably yes, but it'll take time."
He was the one who told me that read more about Joseph Scrumpeter and Karl Popper. Unknown to him, before we met, I already read so much about Popper (the ideological bedfellow of George Soros).
The last words I remember from him were these " going back at 4pm" last June 15. Those "musta nas" still resonate within me.
Like Dean Jorge Bocobo, who remembers Manong Jules's smiles and grins, I'll miss Manong Jules for his writings, his passion and his political beliefs.
When I saw him last night, I felt that I should not leave him. We still have so many things to talk about, so many things to dream and so many things to work together.
I felt numb. It was all so sudden. Nick Ferrer, a colleague, told me that Manong was rushed to the Capitol Medical Center, complaining of chest pains yesterday morning. His driver told me that they rushed him at around 4:30 in the morning and he stayed at the emergency unit until 9 when he died.
Previous to that, Manong Jules and I met at Burger King. He asked me if I could help find someone who'll buy his Landcruiser. He was complaning of his chest pains. I asked him what he intends to do. He said that he's preparing for his second bypass surgery. It was the last time I saw him.
Let me pay tribute to Manong Jules by reprinting here his last column over at the Manila Times. He wrote this shortly after he came back from his hometown in Romblon. I'll devote my next entry with his last column.
What would happen to the Kapihan sa Sulo? What becomes of those nice chats over at Burger King? How about those spa sessions, ha, Manong?
Resy easy, Manong. Someday, we will meet again.