Speaking truth to power: Happy 35th, Inquirer!
The Inquirer has been a part of our household since my childhood, during which I cared little about the chaotic world out there so I never picked up the broadsheet. The newspaper was for adults, I limited my interest then to Legos, Dino Riders, agawan base games in the afternoon with the neighborhood kids, and other kiddie concerns.
My parents, especially mom, would encourage my brothers and me to read the Young Blood column when it came to life in the early or mid-‘90s. But young, unconcerned, and self-centered me was never prevailed upon to read any of the published contributions, though sometimes over breakfast, we did listen to her read out loud a particular piece that she liked. In the following years, she would encourage me a few times to submit an essay to Young Blood, as she felt that I had good (enough) writing skills. But it all fell on deaf ears.
Fast forward to February 2003: While searching for a file in our desktop computer, she came across an essay I had written the previous year as part of a mini-newspaper my groupmates and I produced for a writing class. “Send it to Young Blood, Doods,” she urged me. Nothing to lose, I thought, so I edited it, sent it to the Inquirer’s Opinion section via email, and forgot about it completely. Then lo and behold, about a month and a half later on March 29, 2003, two days before my UST graduation at the Philippine International Convention Center, my piece, titled “Closer to the urban jungle,” got published. That was one of the most delicious days of my life.
Since then, I have been reading the Young Blood column (where I got published again in 2008 and in 2010). In January 2004, my piece about the Filipino diaspora got published as a letter, so I included the letters section as part of my usual reading fare.
As a young English teacher yearning to grasp more deeply the wide-ranging sociopolitical issues of the times, and with a voice in my head nagging me to start “adulting,” I then dared to take on the columnists, foremost among them the dearly missed Conrado de Quiros, as well as Randy David, the recently retired Rina Jimenez David, Michael Tan, Ambeth Ocampo, et al.
It took a bit more time before I began to read the incisive and excellently written editorials, which practice impartiality. Whether it was Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Noynoy Aquino, and now Rodrigo Duterte, stinging criticism was served to them hot if warranted. Even earlier presidents were not spared from censure whenever their failings during their respective terms were brought up in the editorials. This likewise applies to erring government officials of whatever political stripe, government institutions, and private business entities. But it ought to be mentioned as well that this paper has not been blind to commendable acts performed by public leaders, giving credit where credit is due.
This current leadership, however, gives us Filipinos reasons to be paranoid and vigilant on so many fronts. As I write this, public uproar over the murder of mother and son Sonya and Frank Gregorio by trigger-happy Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca has not yet abated. Therefore, the existence of a news organization such as the Inquirer that dares speak truth to power in the face of “an administration that coddles killer cops,” as its editorial put it, is important. Then there’s the ineptitude in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the trampling of human rights, the subservience to China, the vulgarity, crassness, political incorrectness, and misogyny spewing from the mouth of the President, etc. etc.
Just as I hope our leaders wouldn’t be so narrow-minded or onion-skinned as to take criticism as a personal attack or a demolition job against them, but as a reality check that hopefully urges them to rectify their mistakes, I pray that the Inquirer would continue to keep the public informed and our public servants in check for another 35 years and more. Congrats on your 35th anniversary, Inquirer!
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Claude Lucas C. Despabiladeras teaches at JASMS-QC and is a voice talent for TV and radio commercials, English- and Filipino-dubbed foreign and local TV soap operas and animes, and for ABS-CBN’s the Jeepney TV Channel.
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