Truth-tellers Conrad and Rina | Inquirer Opinion
Gray Matters

Truth-tellers Conrad and Rina

/ 05:13 AM November 14, 2023
QUOTE CARD FOR GRAY MATTERS: Truth-tellers Conrad and Rina

I was also set to write, today, about the growing scourge of pandemics of lies. Then my copy of the Inquirer arrived with the front page headline jumping at me, announcing the death of journalist/columnist Rina Jimenez David.

Her death on Sunday came only a few days after that of Conrado de Quiros so I knew right off I would have to write about the two of them, without necessarily ditching my originally planned topic of truth and lies.

Maybe it was just as well, Conrad and Rina being contemporaries—Conrad was born in 1951 and Rina in 1955, coming of age during the cusp of the late 1960s and early 1970s, what Pete Lacaba had called the days of disquiet and nights of rage.


I belonged to that generation, too, a year younger than Conrad and three years older than Rina. Reading their obituaries, I realized, too, we were the generation that came of age on Katipunan Road in Quezon City. Between 1970 and 1972, Conrad was in Ateneo doing economics, Rina was still in Maryknoll (now Miriam) High School and my parents were at wits’ end transferring me from Ateneo to another Jesuit school in the United States to save me from commies, drugs, and sex. I finally got my way, landing back home and making my way into the University of the Philippines (UP).


As far as I know, our paths did not cross until 1997, when I was conscripted by the Inquirer to sub (substitute) for Conrad, who had taken a leave. I told the editors that I could never come close to Conrad in terms of writing, much less his pugilist acumen. For years, I had admired Conrad, thinking of him more as a boxer, reserving his best blows, his punches, for the right target, the right time.

I looked up to Conrad the wordsmith, a master of the English language. How could one forget the way he used, over and over, “the unwashed masses” in so many contexts, never derogatory. Unforgettable, too, was one reference he made to the way jeepney drivers’ brains had been fried by gasoline fumes, again without condescension.

And for all his mastery of words, he will be remembered for a column on what one could expect of six years of an impending presidential tandem. The space for his column was stark naked.

Conrad’s other unforgettable column was somewhat more verbose, supposed to be a “True State of the Nation” with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He didn’t leave the column blank; instead repeating “Hello Garci …” several dozen times and ending, “Goodbye Gloria,” in reference to a leaked recording of the president talking with Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, hinting at plans for election tampering.

Rina was very different. She told stories, many of families, including her own. She was constantly reminding people, without being preachy, about what women went through as mothers, wives, daughters, and, equally important, as the movers and shakers and navigators and captains of the ship that is society.

She spoke as she wrote. I ran into her shortly after Tropical Storm “Ondoy” and as she narrated how her fears rose with the floodwaters, I suddenly felt a storm surge of humanity’s many voices—mainly women’s voices—interspersed with long silences. I was to recall that “Rina effect” several more times through the years, in the growing number of disasters and crises, when stories needed to be told, so powerfully that you would not need hand-holding or hugging. Rina was presence incarnate; Rina was feminine presence which she assured us did not need to be exclusively feminine.


Rina and I had many “tsika”—how does one translate that term—sessions, usually at women’s advocacy meetings. Conrad and I never had such sessions but then I could never imagine Conrad for tsika. I did plan, unsuccessfully several times, to drop by his watering hole, the late Conspiracy Café on Visayas Avenue, to catch him and other journalist friends.

Maybe more importantly, now that they are not with us physically, opportunities forever banished for Conspiracy and conspiracies, is to make sure Rina’s and Conrad’s columns and books are reprinted to inspire more people, in and out of media, to take up the ever more daunting task of truth-telling, each with their own style of truth-telling, but both wielding strength from being brutally frank, brutally factual.

Since I was still able to pick up on truth-telling, may I make a pitch for another platform for truth-telling: a theater festival at Guang Ming College in Tagaytay, a school that I currently run (besides continuing with UP). Details at

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TAGS: Conrad de Quiro, Gray Matters, rina jimenez david

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