Monday, July 26, 2010

Recollection about the late Raul Manglapus

By Kitch Ortego Manila Bulletin, Tues., July 27, 1999

My first encounter with then already nationally famous and internationally known Raul Manglapus was in 1957 when I, fresh out of journalism school, was publishing a hometown newspaper in Catbalogan, capital town of Samar. It was election time and Manglapus was running for president under the banner of the Progressive Party of the Philippines (PPP).

A relative of mine in Tacloban City informed me one day through a mutual friend that Manglapus and party were coming to Catbalogan to hold a rally there. Knowing that he would not have the time for an interview before the rally, I went to the town of Paranas south of Catbalogan where Manglapus and party, coming from Tacloban City, would stop for merienda before proceeding to Catbalogan. I figured out that the only available time for him to accommodate an interview was shortly before his merienda.

When the party arrived at Paranas, at about 4:00 p.m., I introduced myself immediately to Manglapus and stated my purpose. Manglapus said quickly, "Your politicians in this province have done a crime to your roads."

"Abandonment," I said.

"Precisely," Manglapus replied, "and that’s punishable by vote." He skipped the merienda and sat down to the interview during which he talked about socio-economic uplift in all the barrios throughout the country.

A few hours later I met Manglapus again at the home of the family in Catbalogan that was hosting the dinner for him and his companions – vice-presidential candidate Vicente Araneta and senatorial contender Manuel Manahan. After eating his dinner Manglapus played something jazzy in the piano, then boogied with a local lass, Alice Hilum, at that time a new graduate in foreign service.

Manglapus’ oratory during the rally captivated the Catbaloganons who listened to him. He was a hit.

I met Manglapus again seven years later, in 1964, at his home in Bel-Air in Makati. I was now writing for the old Weekly Graphic. A fellow who knew him well, Joe Ortiz, took me there. I don’t remember anymore what our purpose in paying that evening call was. I haven’t forgotten, though, the expression on Manglapus’ face when he opened the door to let us in and saw me. "We must have met somewhere before," he said.

"In Samar in 1957," I reminded him.

"Ah, yes. How are your roads now?"he asked.

"Worse," I told him.

He shook his head and ushered Ortiz and I into his study where he talked about his concept of transforming fiestas into vehicles for the promotion of productivity, agricultural and industrial progress in the town and provincial levels. It was a magnificent idea. Which he tried to push to reality when he was a senator but failed to earn support for it since, at that time, politicians were already more interested in moving themselves ahead than in pushing the country forward.

It would be another seven years later, in 1971, before I would meet Manglapus again after that. This time I had moved from journalism to advertising and public relations. One day Rudy Topacio, then of Channel 13, a friend of Manglapus, the of them colleagues in the Executive Combo, came to the agency where I worked on a regular service call. He mentioned to us that Manglapus was going to have a program on Channel 13. Topacio said Manglapus needed a writer-producer.

As luck would have it, I became the writer-producer, from our agency’s side, of the program – The Alternative. Topacio was producer from Channel 13’s side. The program director was a very competent broadcast personality, Nelda Navarro. This job, or sideline, got me into a production meeting with Manglapus every week. It was in the course of writing and producing. The Alternative that I heard frequently, first – hand and at close range, Manglapus verbalize his thoughts and ideas with such persuasive power as only the gift of eloquence bestows.

One time in September 1972 Manglapus told me that he had to tape four episode in advance because he had to go to the US on a speaking engagement. We taped the four advance episodes. In the fourth episode Senator Jose W. Diokno was guest. He and Manglapus discussed ominous signs from the Marcos administration.

Two days after Manglapus left for the US via Tokyo martial law descended all over the land.

After the downfall of Marcos in 1986, when Manglapus had returned from exile and anti-Marcos fight in the US, I called him on the telephone to welcome him back. He told me to see him immediately. "Let’s revive The Alternative,’ he said.

Again as writer-producer I got into daily meetings with him. This time our professional relationship was already on first-name bases. We were able to air only a few episodes on reinstalled Channel 2 because President Aquino appointed him Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

After the last episode, Raul and I would meet six years later, in 1992, on a plane to Frankfurt. He was going to Madrid on the way to Expo 92 in Sevilla, Spain. On June 12 we met at the Expo. During the celebration of Philippine National Day at the Expo auditorium called "Palenque" attended by officials of the Spanish government, he delivered a speech in Spanish after which the people in the large audience sprung to their feet and gave him a long standing ovation. It was a moment of pride for the Philippines.

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