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Antonio M. ReyesLessons from history

The narrative on Ninoy Aquino in this issue which was written by my father former Ambassador Narciso G. Reyes shortly after Ninoy’s assassination is one of the best about the event I have read. I hope it will rekindle our people’s memories of that tumultuous period of our history.

They say people who don’t read about the past will not learn from it. And here we are, just 31 years after our greatest modern day hero was slain, and the masterminds of his murder are still free and have even been elected to positions of power.

It’s been 27 years since we ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos from power and our public officials are as incompetent and abusive as before, and we the electorate, are still selling our votes to the highest bidder.

We have the second largest number of extrajudicial killings in the world, and hold the dubious distinction, of being the second most dangerous country for journalists to work in.While the red tape our bureaucrats have installed is considered the longest and most exasperating in Asia.

It’s been almost three decades since martial law was “lifted” and the family of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan who were reportedly kidnapped in June 2006 and brutalized by army intelligence officers are still hoping they are alive.

The massacre of 58 people in Maguindanao which included 32 correspondents which took place five years ago is still moving agonizingly slow with no end in sight. And even those who were jailed and tortured during martial law are still waiting for the justice and retribution they were promised years ago.

Former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yu believed the major hindrances to our development were (a) we had too many people, (b) who owed too much money, and (c) leaders who lacked the courage and perseverance to confront these problems decisively.

Yet wouldn’t this require a basic knowledge of our history? And wouldn’t that (in turn) necessitate adequate comprehension of the Filipino and English language?

I can’t believe our primary school teachers can be that bad. But in case they are - would extending the years of mediocre mentoring as proposed in the Kindergarten to 12 curriculums solve the problem?

I am convinced that Apathy, or the inability to think beyond ourselves, is our real problem. And unless we transcend it, we will always be; The Sick Man of Asia.

Odong who?

He should have been among the special guests of the city he successfully sponsored the creation of 14 years ago. But here in the Banana Republic of the Philippines things don’t just turn out that way. In fact we hear the poor guy was not even invited to this year’scelebration. Yet in the year 2000, when the honourable Aniceto Galdo Saludo was our congressman almost every government, church and civic leader worshiped the ground he walked on.

Today, the mere mention of his name at gatherings is avoided, and he has become just another face in the crowd.

Everyone here knew he was eccentric. But he was also extremely bright, and knew how to get his key legislations passed. He was (after all) a product of the UP College of Law.

And that was probably where he developed his reclusiveness. After elections he wanted to be allowed to do his job without hangers-on, and sycophants pestering him for money and favours all day.

His major flaw was believing that his impressive record in Congress, which included the Act Creating Maasin City, and the law unifying the five separate state colleges in the province into the Southern Leyte State University would win him re-election in 2004. He would pay for that oversight by losing to former Congressman Roger Mercado by a landslide.

He would run against his nemesis 6 years later (but lose again) to the now entrenched and well financed Mercado political machinery.

There are now rumours he has been offered the congressional slot in the Mercado brothers slate for 2016 if he would finance their campaign that year.

However his supporters claim he’d prefer to keep the earnings of his 12 companies himself which rumours claim he keeps in the air-conditioned comfort of his fortified Ice Plant and Storage company in barangay Ichon.

Will the Ice-Man cometh in 2016?

Your guess is as good as mine.


August 8 was a red letter day for the Markines-Reyes family. For it marked the day its matriarch Dr. Gloria Markines Reyes retired as President of the Southern Leyte State University after serving 2 four-year terms in office.

She was the first Southern Leyteño to hold this position.

It’s a special day for us because it marks her return to the Southern Leyte Times which she helped establish during its first year of operation.

Gloria has what is called the “Midas Touch” for almost everything she embarks on succeeds with flying colours. Perhaps the only time she failed was when she married yours truly.

When I was an economist at the Presidential Economic Staff, and did not allow here to work, because she had to take care of my daughters. She took a correspondence course of the New York School of Interior Design and obtained a diploma from the famous institution.

She would later successfully practice interior designing in Manila, while operating a convenience store, which made enough income to cover the mortgage on our house.

After I joined the United Nations Children’s Fund as Planning Officer for Bangladesh, she took up tennis, and 18 months later won the Phillips National Mixed Doubles championship of Bangladesh.

She would finish her master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of the Philippines and her doctorate in Education at San Carlos University upon our return to the Philippines.

When we moved to Southern Leyte in 1999 Gloria joined the College of Maasin as a part-time teacher and later became Dean of CM’s Graduate School. In 2003 she was appointed as its Vice President for Academic Affairs.

In 2006, just 3 years after, she was elected President of the Southern Leyte State University and was reelected to a second four-year term in 2010.

Among her major achievements there was to unify its five colleges into one of the finest learning institutions in the Visayas while upholding the dignity of its students.

Today SLSU offers doctoral courses in Education and Technology Management and has student and faculty exchange programs with TraVinh University in Vietnam and the Universities of Utah and Oklahoma in the United States.

She was chosen as Outstanding Southern Leyteño for Education in 2012 while her son Ruevivar would be honoured with the same distinction one year later for print media.

A devout Christian and member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Gloria believes, that everything she has accomplished in life was God’s will.

Who can argue with that?

Antonio M. Reyes is the publisher and editor of the Southern Leyte Times the largest circulating newspaper & website in Southern Leyte.

Chance Encounters with Ninoy
By Narciso G. Reyes

I first knew Ninoy only as a name in the headlines and a face in the news photos. He had courage – that was obvious. It takes a brave man to cover a war in a foreign land. Or a brave boy: he looked and was a very young war correspondent in Korea. He had a nose for news and gift of gab. How else could he have talked a Huk Supremo out of the jungle into Malacanang?

He was born ambitious and must have suckled politics at his mother’s breast. Youngest mayor of his home town in Tarlac, Youngest provincial governor. Youngest senator, indeed almost too young to sit in the Senate.

He struck me as a brash, almost swaggering political figure. Articulate, in fact a fast talker. I tagged him in my mind as an up-and-coming
political huckster He was not yet a sure bet for the Palace. But he was already, that early, regarded as presidential timber. The wise old pros had their eyes on him. He had youth, nerve, money, loads of self confidence, charisma and an instinct for the political jugular. He was on the way up and moving fast.

We finally met, of all places in Bangkok. The year was 1965. I was the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia in that Year of living Dangerously, and was on my way to Algiers for what was to have been the second Bandung Conference.

There were reports of a coup de etat in Algeria on the eve of the conference. The Philippine delegation was instructed to stop in Bangkok and await developments. Vice president Pelaez was head of the top-level group. Speaker Laurel, Foreign Secretary Mendez, Ninoy and Senator Sumulong were among the members.

The news out of Algiers was bad. It looked like President Ben Bella, the father of Algerian independence, had been or would be toppled. There was confusion in the capital.

A perennial trouble-shooter, Ninoy talked Pelaez into sending him, Mendez and myself as an advance party on a scouting mission to Algiers by way of Cairo. I found myself seated next to Ninoy by happenstance: everything from the scramble for plane tickets, the last minute boarding and the search for seats had been rushed.

Ninoy was indeed a glib talker. But he talked sense.A liberal, he predicted accurately within a few percentage points the victory of the Nationalista candidate, Marcos over his fellow Liberal, Macapagal in the coming presidential election.

During that long night flight out of Bangkok to Egypt, I got a capsule education in Philippine politics. Ninoy had figured out all the odds and all the angles.

I also received a full exposure to the Ninoy charisma. It confirmed and rounded out my earlier impression of a master politician on a fast track to the top. He was shrewd, brimming with energy, well informed, fearless,with eyes zeroed in on the main chance.

We parted ways in Cairo. The situation in Algiers was uncertain: the airport was closed and international flights were suspended. Yet somehow Ninoy wangled a seat on the first available flight to Algiers, although it was already booked solid. He sized up the situation, cabled his report and flew on to Paris where he had advised Pelaez to wait until the dust had settled. I was stranded in Cairo for three days before I could proceed to Algiers.

Sixteen years passed before I saw Ninoy again. We met by chance in Boston, where he was living in self exile after his heart by-pass operation.
In the spring of 1981, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy sponsored an International conference on ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I was invited to the conference in my capacity as ASEAN secretary general.

The opening session was held in the ASEAN Auditorium. It was a pleasant, sunny morning and everyone was in a good mood. During the coffee break, I thought of going downstairs to check on some of the conference papers. Ninoy was coming up; we met at the landing and shook hands.

He had changed. He was thinner, less boyish-looking, and less vivacious. But he was clear-eyed and his handshake was firm. He exuded quiet strength.

There was a moment of silence. I understood Ninoy’s reserve. Between us yawned not only time past but the abyss of the martial law years, during which he was the chief victim while I stood on the sidelines, preoccupied with mundane things.

Ninoy’s innate courtesy and his unerring instinct for what might interest the other man came to our rescue. He talked about the paucity of reference materials for Asian studies in America, “even in Harvard.”

True to character, he had thought of ways to improve the situation. He described them briefly before the crush of delegates returning to the conference room put an end to our conversation.

That was the last time I saw Ninoy alive. Two years later, he came home to Manila, to a martyr’s death at the hands of an unknown assassin.The shattering aftermath of the assassination forced me to take a hard second look at the image of Ninoy which I had had in mind all this time.

As late as the election for the Interim Batasang Pambansa, when he campaigned from prison, I still thought of Ninoy as a traditional politician who, if he ever got elected President, could turn out to be as ruthless and self-centered as Marcos. The spontaneous outpouring of the people’s love for Ninoy after his death, a phenomenon of which I was witness, shook this belief.

I read the eulogies. I talked to friends who had known him better than I did. I visited the exhibition of Ninoy memorabilia in Makati and it was there, one quiet morning when no other visitor was present that I began to realize the enormity of the change that had taken place in Ninoy.

The reminders of physical pain and mental torment were impressive and profoundly moving. But I was most deeply affected by the letters from prison. Those desperate cries in the night, most of them unheard and unheeded, that traced the tortuous path of Ninoy’s return to God. In his tiny prison cell in the utter loneliness of solitary confinement, he made his farthest, most audacious journey into the inner recesses of his own heart.
Ninoy’s seven-year journey into the depths of his inner space had transformed him. It was an impetuous and ambitious young politician, his sights set firmly on the pinnacle of worldly power who was thrust into prison at the beginning of martial law in September 1972. It was a mature man, at peace with his own conscience and ready for martyrdom, who steppedout of the plane at the Manila International airport on August 21, 1983.

Narciso G. Reyes wrote this narrative about his chance meetings with Aquino shortly after Ninoy was assassinated on August 21, 1983. The author has served as our Ambassador to Indonesia, Great Britain, China and as our Permanent Representative to the United Nations. He passed away in 1996.

Yes, men also cry
by Atty. Jess G. Dureza

I wrote last time mentioning about President Aquino holding back tears during the SONA, I got several
comments from Facebook.

One of them recalled how reputedly hardy, and steely Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte, unabashedly shed tears holding in his arms a young child who died, an innocent victim during the rampage of penal colony escapees who shot it out with the authorities, using hostages as shields attempting to breach the government cordon right in the PNP headquarters downtown.Many innocent lives -- and all the hostage takers -- died in that carnage. That was sometime in 1995.

Yes I too fight back tears on occasions just like all of us do. Shedding tears or crying are perfectly human expressions of emotion that at
certain times are uncontrollable. And just like everyone else, we try and hide and allow a tear to fall without immediately reaching for that ubiquitous handkerchief. I enjoy watching public figures like movie stars do that with finesse.

I remember my late father, Martin, was the "crying-est" person I knew. He would cry even when angry. Once, he was crying aloud as he whacked me with a broom after a firecracker I carelessly ignited, exploded near my face. He would shed tears as he would break up fights among relatives or neighbors. At times, I could hear him cry when in an argument with my mother in the other room.

"Mababaw ang luha" (tears are shallow) was a usual description of him. My mother Amparo however was always in control of her emotions as far as I can remember. I have never seen her cry. In my case, I confess I am easy to tears like my father but I always try hard to fight them back, especially when in public.

The most notable "crying" politician I can recall was the late Senator Alejandro Almendras whose public speeches were never complete
without shedding tears on stage. And the crowd loved him for that. Then, there was one movie years ago I watched where I could hear some moviegoers just sobbing away and crying out loud during the movie.

I had a few unforgettables of my own. In 1998, when I was crisis manager during a plane crash in Mindanao, I could not help but publicly shed tears during a briefing session in a hotel in Cagayan de Oro with angry and noisy relatives of missing passengers. It was the third
day after the plane crash but the remains (there were no intact bodies) could not be brought down yet from the mountainside by helicopter and the relatives were already angry and shouting at us.

What I felt was a mixture of anger, frustration, exhaustion mixed with grief. I stopped in the middle of my talk just allowing tears to flow when I started choking. The good part was that everyone noticed and they all stopped and stayed quiet. Somehow, they felt that we were one with them. Because of that incident, our succeeding briefing sessions became orderly.

The Amazing Pope Francis
By Juan L. Mercado

Today’s chatter on who will run in the 2016 elections demonstrates how our line of sight ends at the seashore. We rarely look beyond. To what?

Consider this example. Come Wednesday, Filipino youngsters are among those invited, from 29 other
Asian countries, to next door South Korea. Pope Francis launches, from Daejon, the Sixth Asian Youth Day ceremonies.

Francis will beatify, at an August 18 mass, 124 Korean martyrs from the church’s first entry into this East- Asian nation in the 18th century. It will also demonstrate what CNN has aptly called “The Francis Effect.”

Start asking Catholics and atheists alike..Suddenly, it's easy to find people -- gays to, divorced couples ---. eager to share how one man, in just over a year, has tapped into their pain and gave hope.

Focus on the numbers and you miss the story, cautions the Rev. John Unni, of Boston The are plenty of ex- Catholics, as in Latin America. “But now many are now deciding whether to come to the party."

Since his election as 265th successor to Peter, in March 2013, Francis has flayed bishops who spend money “like they're auditioning for MTV Cribs”.

He chastised priests who forget they're servants, not princes.

He assailed the Italian mafia, on its own home-ground, ex-communicating them. Instead, he visited families of those assassinated, by Mafiosi who go to church, to offer comfort.

Francis called for a truce in the culture wars, refused to judge gay people and reached out to Muslims, Jews and those of other creeds..

He hugged a man covered with tumors, washed the feet of Muslim prisoners and wore a clown nose -- just for giggles.Francis formed a group of cardinals from developing countries-- to reform the curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that has a reputation for shady deals. None were Italians. He, refused to live in the Apostolic Palace choosing spartan lodgings at a Vatican hostel..

Just before taking off for Korea, he showed up, got his tray, silverware, stood in line and we served him, “recalls cafeteria chef Franco Piani.

He then ate with the workers from the Vatican’s pharmacy, chatting about their families, soccer, the economy.

The whole time, people were snapping the inevitable selfies with their cameras, cellphones and iPads.

He wasn’t bothered a bit. After giving the group his blessing, he left in his assistant’s car to his Domus Sancta Martha residence. “We were all caught off guard,” Piani said. :”But it was one of the best things that could happen.”

Francis made the cover of Time, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine He said it's immoral when the media reports every move of the market but ignores the death of a homeless person.

Be open and merciful; he urged bishops, Forget the robes and support young people in making a mess in the streets; to secure justice for the poorest. Be a field hospital for this sin-sick world. Pew Research Center poll says more than 71% say he's a change for the better. “Those kinds of numbers haven't been seen since the prime of Pope John Paul II." What Maureen Sterk likes most about Francis, though, is the way he's changed the church's tone: from 'Thou Shalt Not' to 'Thou Shall'.

“This is not a slam on Benedict or John Paul II,” she adds. "Those Popes just spoke a different language, wrote for a different crowd.

An accordion player, Duns describes the difference between Francis and previous popes in musical terms. "He's got his own sense of the beats of the church. He's more merengue than Mozart."

Francis was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1969 and led the society's Argentine branch from 1973 to 1979.

He says he joined the Jesuits for three reasons: their missionary spirit, their community and their discipline.

Because of the Pope's popularity, inquiries to join the Society of Jesus doubled in the last year, to five or six each week, says the Rev. Chuck Frederico, vocations director for the Jesuit provinces on the US East Coast."Many of these men who want to join the Jesuits say they heard about the society through Francis. Some .haven't been to church in years."

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio turned over the palace into a hospital run by a religious order for the poor. He took the bus to work from his rented two room apartment. He recruited priests to go into the city's most dangerous slums, called "villas."

In these places, the clerical collar does not offer much protection. Priests have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered. Still, Bergoglio often showed up unannounced to drink tea with parishioners and support local priests. And in 2009, when one of his priests received a death threat for having spoken out against drugs in the villa, Bergoglio walked the streets, providing himself as a target and a dare for anyone wanting to retaliate. "They were never bothered again,

Call that the "Francis effect," live and in the flesh, says CNN. And after Korea, we will see that here in the Philippines, come January 2015.

Juan L. Mercado is the Founder of the Press Foundation of Asia and is best known as one of the Visayas Region's most prolific and multi-awarded writers.







P'noy's 2nd to last CSona

Ha Long Bay

Toughest jobs in the country

Older editorials . . .


Mega-bridge must be saved!

Landslides eroding Agas-Agas Mega Bridge

City progress wows visitor

MMDA chief to provide more traffic lights for Maasin

Albert Pagara receives Outstanding Maasinhon Award

4 bridges were damaged by recent earthquake

Malon padlocks 3 stores selling cigarettes

President Reyes of SLSU retires

Eastern Visayas ready for Pope’s visit

Red Cross grass root teams organized

Thompson Beats Aguelo in Mexico


APPOINTED: Jessica Escaño Pano as Board Member


Child Abuse suspect arrested

Notorious city robber caught


Lessons from history

Chance encounters with Ninoy

Odong who?


Yes, men also cry

The Amazing Pope Francis


Cheers and Jeers Update

Pope is modernizing Catholicism

Cha-cha is not the answer

Annulment and Divorce

Landslide threatens Sogod Mega Bridge





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