‘Delete’ button wafflingBy Juan L. Mercado
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Like it or not, many of us do a periodic painful drill. We sift through names, from “A” to “Z,” in address books or computer directories.
Some have died, such reviews invariably show. “Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die/Passing through nature to eternity,” Hamlet says. Others are ill and edge toward that transition.
Several have retired or moved to new jobs. Eddie Lachica retired after a distinguished career with Depthnews Tokyo and Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. He continues to write analytical articles for several publications.
Some migrated to other nations but haven’t e-mailed their new addresses. More names slip through the cracks, mainly due to oversight, as the years slip by. Secretaries who worked with us in the United Nations in Bangkok and Rome included Thais, Irish, Italians, one even from Uruguay. Only two remain in touch.
We lived next door, for years, to husband-and-wife physicians and their children. Now widowed, this lady doctor would call on Christmas Eve or on our wife’s birthday to swap family news. She lavished care on a mentally retarded daughter. There is only silence today.
A University of the Philippines scholar and ROTC belle, this friend worked as a chemist in Chicago. Alzheimer’s disease scrubbed her mind blank. Today, she no longer knows her children. “It’s a long goodbye,” Nancy Reagan explained when her husband, the US president, was similarly afflicted.
Yet we hesitate to punch the “delete” button on them, as well as for Inquirer publisher
Isagani Yambot, econometrician Edmundo Prantilla, and Fr. Raul Gallego.
“Gani” was almost 78 when he died in March 2012. We were young reporters together. As Inquirer publisher, he invited now Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III and us to do a twice-weekly column. We started in February 1994, and Gani never interfered. He went before we could say Salamat…
A self-effacing Ed Prantilla did econometric models on Mindanao that anchor a number of government programs. At Food and Agriculture Organization posts, in Bangkok and Indonesia, he provided expertise. “Prantilla, there’s something wrong with your paper,” we recall the FAO’s regional agricultural economist as saying. “Nobody writes a perfect paper,” Ti Teow Choo added. “But this is a flawless paper. So, you probably beat your wife or starve your kids?”
Ed was returning to the Davao hospital on the day we called. We agreed to chat on his discharge. Five days later, he was gone.
Father Raul ministered selflessly to our family and parish. He keeled over from a heart attack. “Dead on arrival,” doctors at the hospital emergency ward said.
“I’m not afraid of death,” Woody Allen once said. “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
A twin book launch this month honored the Cebu editor-professor-poet Cornelio Faigao and his daughter-author. Political terrorists closed down the Pioneer Press where Faigao wrote “Canto Voices.” Southern Star, which he edited, sought to be nonpartisan in a press, polarized between the Cuencos’ Republic Daily and the Osmeñas’ Daily News. Its suppression by then Gov. Sergio Osmeña Jr. remains a patchily documented story.
Cebu has the only press museum in the country. Its future updates will include Faigao’s contribution to journalism. The University of San Carlos launched, in 1984, an annual writers workshop to honor Faigao. The Cebuano Studies Center backstops this workshop, which brings together 15 young writers from all over the country.
Faigao opened the world of Shakespeare and Shelley for us—and hired us as a cub reporter. “Now, it is twilight,” we said in our paper. “Gratitude is memory of the heart.” But the IOUs that we owe Cornelio Faigao remain unpayable. Indeed, “one can pay back a loan of money, but one dies forever in debt to those who are kind,” a Malaysian proverb says.
In this current updating of addresses, can we shred what we’ve put off time and again? Before us are stacks of used passports and UN laizzer-passers. These accumulated when we scrammed from the martial law of the “New Society.” They bear entry stamps from Fiji, Kenya, China, North Korea to Portugal and Mexico. So what? the wife asks. Christ never traveled 90 miles from his home.
We hesitate—again. The fading visas do conjure memories. We flip through multiple entries into Indonesia. And we catch a whiff of the kritik or clove-scented cigarettes that the late editor Sumono Mustoffa smoked after dinner in Jakarta. “In Europe, there are only two communists left,” he mused. “Both are Filipinos.”
Jose Ma. Sison and Luis Jalandoni this week rejected “localized peace talks” to resolve the decades-old communist insurgency. We’ll wait for the next administration, Jalandoni added. President Aquino didn’t cool his heels, though. He named the government’s chief peace negotiator, Health Undersecretary Alexander Padilla, head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. And the President’s peace adviser, Teresita Deles, said the new approach would focus on the pivotal role of affected communities instead.
“The burgis lifestyle of these overfed aging commissars saps their credibility,” Cebu Daily News noted. The venerable author-painter-journalist Alfredo Roces once urged both: Live in North Korea.
And a North Korea visa shuttles us back to a farm outside Pyongyang where guides shovel “data.” “We don’t want to be rude,” the late National Scientist Dioscoro Umali gently said. “But at those fertilization rates, you will burn the plants.” Stunned silence was followed by more propaganda.
So, do we shred? Or do we keep?
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