A mentor to writers
Raul S. Gonzalez, whose recent death the Inquirer reported (5/18/13), was truly an outstanding man of letters. He was a writer, editor, educator, public relations man, and mentor to many now-accomplished writers.
A Bedan from grade school to college, Gonzalez started working in government at an early age, rising to become press secretary to President Diosdado Macapagal.
He would later spend a long career of mentoring would-be writers and editors as adviser to the editors and staff of the Dawn, the weekly student newspaper of the University of the East. Under his guidance, the Dawn produced noted alumni including the late prolific Manuel F. Martinez, the Marcelo brothers Levi and Ding, bilingual poet and prose writer Lamberto Antonio, poets Rogelio Mangahas and Teo Antonio, BusinessMirror editor Nonnie Pelayo, former Inquirer senior executive Sammy Señoren, Dennis Fetalino of People’s Journal, Roman Floresca of the Philippine Star, writer and PR man Ding Generoso, writer/poetess Denn Meneses, and many others who are too numerous to name here but who have placed themselves in senior and responsible positions in the news media.
Gonzalez wrote a column for various newspapers over the years. A few years ago, he published a long-overdue collection of his writings/columns in book form under the title, “My Malacañang.” The title derives from his childhood years spent in the Palace during the time of Manuel L. Quezon, under whom Gonzalez’s father, Arturo, served as resident civil engineer. His writings take the reader from his carefree days in Malacañang to the fearful times of the Japanese occupation.
“My Malacañang” also contains pieces on his experiences as press secretary, as well as evocative narratives from his travels undertaken with President Macapagal or by his lonesome. The pieces likewise include tender love letters to his wife Jean and sons Richie and Noel that were disguised as essays.
The book was a project of the Dawners, compiled and edited by Generoso, Meneses and a certain Leandro Coronel.
If the presidents (of the nation and of institutions) that Gonzalez served had delivered scintillating speeches and papers in their time, it was to a large extent because of his expert pen.
Apart from writing inspiring speeches, Gonzalez was also a public relations practitioner and guru who helped the organizations he served better promote their products or services.
He was an excellent writer because he knew and loved the language, especially its precision, always aware that specific words have specific meanings. He belongs to a rare class of English writers who put together words with ease and precision and joy.
Those who learned the craft of writing from Gonzalez will best remember him as the one who taught them not only the prose but also the poetry of writing, not only the grammar but also the grace of English, and not only the style but also the substance of language. He encouraged them to write with an agile mind and an adept pen.
Over the years, those who had passed through the portals of the Dawn kept in touch with Gonzalez. He was the glue that kept the fraternity/sorority of Dawn alumni in touch and intact, creating a camaraderie that continues to this day.
For the past five years, Gonzalez fought illness with his mind still vibrant and his sense of humor and irony alive. On May 15, his battle ended. But his memory and inspiration linger.
Leandro “DD” Coronel, a former press officer and spokesperson of the World Bank in Washington, DC, is also a Dawner.
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