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And miles to go before I sleep

In his most memorable poem, “Youth,” Samuel Ullman said: “Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees, it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.”

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair,” Ullman added.

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Of course, Ullman was just being facetious, perhaps to give “consuelo de bobo” to old people like him and me. Ullman died at 84.

In October this year, I would be 78 years old. I am now a senior senior citizen, having passed way beyond the retirement age of 60. I have fully retired from active journalism although I continue to write occasional opinion pieces to this paper and to a Cebuano weekly magazine published by the Manila Bulletin.

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I now have time to play with my grandkids who live with their parents in a subdivision a few minutes’ drive from my house in Bacoor, Cavite. I also have time to reread my old books, having just finished Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”

If I take my maintenance medicines for my hypertension and asthma, I live a normal life. I still jog every morning for 20 minutes.

I wish to think that I have lived a full life, having been a journalist both in government and private media for four decades. I was news editor of the Manila Standard and later senior editor of the Manila Times. I was also chief editor at the Office of the Press Secretary for two years under President Joseph Estrada, and seven years under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In between my work as journalist, I taught journalism subjects, first at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and later at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, although I am currently on leave from PLM.

I told my students that journalism is a highly competitive field but that if you work hard, and become lucky, you would get some rewards that you cannot get in other professions.

Because of my being a journalist, I have traveled to a few countries. In 1985, when China started to open up, I was with a group from the Philippine News Agency invited to visit China for two weeks by Xinhua News Agency, PNA’s counterpart in China. I was at that time one of the editors of PNA. We visited six cities in China aside from Beijing.

In 1989, while I was the diplomatic reporter of the Manila Standard, I was the only Filipino among 24 participants from around the world invited to tour the United States for one month under the International Visitor Program of the US State Department. We visited 10 cities in the United States, starting in Washington DC and ending in New York.

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There were more foreign travels when I worked in Malacañang, since I was often assigned as close-in writer to Estrada and

Arroyo during their foreign trips.

In the academe, I found out that there were no reference materials on journalism. This prompted me to write journalism books; the first, “Journalism for Filipinos,” came out in 1991. This was followed by “Feature, Editorial and Opinion Writing,” “Handbook on Basic Media Laws and Ethics,” and “Campus and Community Journalism Handbook.”

These books were published and marketed by National Book Store (NBS). The first book, “Journalism for Filipinos,” used as a textbook by most schools offering mass communication classes, has undergone 16 printings at NBS. But a few years back, NBS turned over its publishing arm to Anvil Publishing, its sister company. When the updated edition of my first book was submitted to Anvil, I had a misunderstanding with Anvil’s evaluator and editor, a fresh UP graduate who had no experience in actual journalism. So all my books are now hibernating.

Even at my age, I still have a few things to do. One of them is to look for a new publisher for my book, “Journalism for Filipinos.” Another one is to visit, perhaps for the last time, the idyllic shoreline village of Hagnaya in the northernmost part of Cebu where I grew up. I also would like to see my apos become teenagers.

I know that the inevitable would come, but as the great American poet Robert Frost said in his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

* * *

Alito L. Malinao, 77, is former news editor of the Manila Standard. He is on leave as journalism professor at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and is the author of the book “Journalism for Filipinos.” E-mail: malinao3211@yahoo.com

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