Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ALEX ESCLAMADO: Thanks and Goodbye

Dear Alex,

In 1959, carrying a Chief Correspondent visa as the Manila Chronicle’s chief U.S. reporter, you arrived here in the US with your wife, Luli Mitra Esclamado, and family.

You wanted to run a newspaper, so you convinced Geny Lopez to publish the U.S. Edition of the Manila Chronicle. In August 1961, the first issue was printed from your home garage in San Francisco’s Sunset District.

In 1967, you decided to publish the Philippine News under its own name. To be viable you relied on advertising from car dealerships with Filipino salesmen, travel agencies, restaurants, and remittance agencies –businesses catering to the Filipino immigrant community.

In1972, Martial law in the Philippines was declared. Philippine News became an anti-Martial Law and anti-communist paper. Pressured by the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the regime, advertisers stopped doing business with you but you persisted.

In 1976, my family and I escaped and were stranded in Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia having been rejected entry by the Nixon-Kissinger-Ford regime that was supportive of the Marcos dictatorship. We received assistance from you with Steve Psinakis, and Manglapus by lobbying  Senators Kennedy and Cranston, Congressmen Don Fraser and Ed Koch, and most importantly, Former JFK White House Adviser Bill Bundy.

The latter called then Malaysian Senate President Ong Yok Lin who arranged with then Home Minister Ghazali Shafie to take care of us in Sabah. Your efforts helped us get paroled into the U.S. and declared as political refugees a few weeks after the election of President Carter whose campaign you actively supported.

In March 1977, we finally arrived in the U.S. together with the Muslim family of Gerry Jumat who escaped with us. Immediately, we joined you in this long and arduous struggle to free the Philippines from dictatorship.

In the latter part of the 19th Century history tells us about an exile group led by Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar and many other patriotic Filipinos. They belonged to the Propaganda Movement that espoused reforms in the Philippines and exposed the abuses of the Spanish rulers. They operated out of Madrid, Spain. It published a paper called “La Solidaridad”.

Like the patriots of the 19th Century, you, working with Raul Manglapus’ Movement for a Free Philippines, later joined by Ninoy Aquino, Bonifacio Gillego, Gaston Ortigas, Geny Lopez, Serge Osmeña, Sonny Alvarez, and many other patriotic Filipinos, unknowingly and unconsciously formed what I called, in my earlier column, the 20th Century Propaganda Movement.

Your Philippine News was the movement’s La Solidaridad during the period. It was the answer to the vaunted and awesome resources of Marcos’ propaganda machine. It was not as well funded but more powerful because it was armed with the Truth, and supported by men and women possessed with, as Ninoy described, the “Heart of a Lion”.

You set-up a Washington, D.C. Bureau in order to establish a stronger presence in America’s seat of power. You gladly appointed me as its Bureau Chief.

I wanted to write about the news and gossips at the barbershops and called it “Take It From My Barber” (Kuwentong Barbero). You published it as a regular column.

You wanted to show off the beauty, the talents, and the brains of Filipina women by promoting the Magandang Filipina project. You made me manage in Washington, D.C. the search, recruitment and the presentation and show.

In 1980, Marcos and Manglapus were invited to speak at the American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) in Hawaii. The former delivered his defense of Martial Law. The latter responded with, “The Truth About The Philippines.”

You and the Philippine News headlined: “Manglapus eclipses Marcos before ANPA.”

When Ninoy Aquino, Nene Pimentel, and Lorenzo Tanada, Sr. formed the LABAN Party to launch a team that challenged the candidacies of Imelda and her Rah-Rah boys in Metro Manila Assembly, you and the Philippine News gave it full publicity countering the Marcos controlled press.

When our Movement exposed the Marcos abuses - imprisoning innocent nuns, priests, professionals, journalists, professors, students, labor leaders and political oppositionists; when the Task Force for Detainees of the Association of Major Religious Superiors detailed the torturing and  “salvaging” of political prisoners; and when the Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reported the killing of political prisoners in secret summary executions; you and the Philippine News were there to give the whole truth full publicity.

When Ninoy Aquino came to the U.S. for medical treatment; then, for a Fellowship grant at Harvard; and later, he went around the country revealing the evils of the Marcos dictatorship, you gave him full coverage.

When David Valderrama exposed the lavish spending during the Marcos State visit, you and the Washington Post gave it full publicity.

When Boni Gillego in an extensive research documented the falsity of Marcos’ alleged heroism and the fakery of his War Medals, you made it front page news converting the former’s report into a series.

When Ninoy Aquino was killed under the custody of Marcos soldiers, you headlined and expressed the mourning of a whole nation, and the anger of all freedom-loving people.

When Cory Aquino ran against Marcos in a snap election, you and the Philippine News made sure that the former’s message was understood and delivered.

Meanwhile, you and the other members of the 20th Century Propaganda Movement lobbied strong and hard for the U.S. Government to change policies on Marcos.

You led the U.S. celebration of the People Power Revolution and Cory’s installation as President of the Philippines.

You welcomed, wrote about, and spoke of, with great pride and honor,  the State Visit of Cory Aquino to the U.S.

You likewise welcomed your new role under a democratic Philippines – utilizing your lobbying skills for Philippine causes.

You took the cause of the Filipino World War II veterans – first, for their naturalization, and second, for obtaining Equity. You succeeded!

For all the above, we, the beneficiaries of your selfless efforts thank you as you join the God Almighty in Heaven for a job well done.

You were also asked to unify the Filipinos in the U.S.  That indeed is an “Impossible Dream” and/or “Mission Impossible”. God signaled you have done enough!

You were a great gift from God to us on Earth. You are as great a gift to God for what you have become and for doing His work!

Our condolences go with our prayers to your wife Luli, and family!

With great appreciation and admiration,
Benjamin G. Maynigo

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