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The Long View

Twink

I knew four Twink Macaraigs. Or, to be precise, I knew her from the time of her first marriage, to her second. In other words, I knew her two ways, as a friend, observing the milestones in her life, one of which ended badly, while the other became living proof that love can truly triumph, the second time around; and I knew her both as everyone knew her — as a journalist who had her moments of history-making, and also as my producer; that is to say, in two additional ways, as a colleague, and a kind of boss, a no-nonsense mentor. In every respect and way, she proved her mettle: tough yet tolerant, uncompromising yet humane, a fighter who said it as it was, because she knew how things ought to be.

I always found her nickname humorous because she was the least twinkly — in the superficial, tweetums sense — person I’ve ever known. She loved her wine, and she loved to laugh; she could be biting, even cutting, as only those deeply embedded in gathering and reporting the news can be. She was proud of her calling and dismissive of those who failed to uphold the standards of the profession, believing it had a vital contribution to make to, if not the betterment, then at least the resistance against destruction, of the country. And she knew our country well, as only the chasers of stories can: the smell and filth of it, the unheralded joys of it, the beauty and brutality of it, the folly of it.

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The best journalists have never been objective: They loath hypocrisy too much, love the truth too much, retain, despite their hard-boiled exterior, a tender feeling for ordinary people and a hatred of abusers, too much. Such journalists know that to have the right biases are the best bulwark against untruths, the best defense against turning the formidable power of the media into a force for self, and thus, an instrument of wrongdoing. Twink was transparent about what she disliked, and, unerringly, who or what she disliked was a good guide to what or who was truly wrong.

Like the best of them, she gave freely of her gifts. As my producer, she watched in amusement as I began as someone who could barely walk and talk at the same time, tweaked things to reduce opportunities for disaster, and as a writer she knew how to judge copy and turn what might work in print (but doesn’t on air) into something acceptable for public consumption. She easily caught me when I was being lazy, challenged me to meet her standards, and was economical but judicious with praise, while never taking things personally — a rare characteristic among the successful and accomplished, I’ve come to discover. She didn’t approve of my joining government (a general principle she held, I suspect, because of her father’s experience), but knew better than to rub it in.

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For all of us, friends or fans (or both) alike, her final battle with cancer was her defining period. Much will be written about this, and deservedly so. She wrote about it; in fighting death, she truly lived. Four years ago, I unexpectedly encountered Twink and her husband, Paulo Alcazaren, in Dumaguete. Her presence, as always, was electric; she neither brushed off sympathy over her fighting the Big C, nor made a fuss about it. It simply was there—something being battled, but in the battling there was first and foremost the daily pleasures of life: watching the sunrise, talking about food, exchanging stories about the new order, about which she had every bit as pointed things to say as she’d had about the previous dispensation.

There was, at every moment, the quick transformation in her expression from the quizzical, skeptical look she gave when talking about the imbecilic nature of our public life, and the sparkle in her eye when she mentioned something that delighted or amused her (and many things did). There was, most memorably for me, the loving synchronicity that was the body language of Paulo and Twink whenever they were together. It was evident that day, and serves as the durable memory of the last, and best, chapter of her life: as a wife, finding true companionship the second time around.

She will have no wake, which was her wish. To her husband, Paulo Alcazaren, surrounded as you are at this time with the sympathy of so many whose lives were touched by Twink and by both of you, as a couple, you proved that happiness — the deep, lasting, triumphant kind — is attainable. And like all happy couples, your togetherness was — is — a warm embrace to all who encountered you, together. Mere words are, as Mabini put it, “a wreath woven by our own hands… a poor thing,” unworthy of you, or her, yet “the best so far woven by the artless hands of someone” who counts both of you as friends.

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TAGS: Manuel L. Quezon III, The Long View, Twink Macaraig
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