POSTSCRIPT / April 23, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Easter truth: You never walked alone, or will ever

THERE was an atheist couple with an only child. They never told their daughter anything about the Lord.

One night when the little girl was five years old, she was roused from sleep as her parents had a violent quarrel in the room. At the height of the fight, the man shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. The poor girl saw it all.

The orphan was sent to a foster home to start a new life. Her foster mother, a Christian, took the child with her to church.

On the first day of Sunday School, the foster mother told the teacher the girl’s background. She also mentioned that the girl had never heard of Jesus, and advised the teacher to have patience with her.

Later in class that first day, the teacher held up a picture of Jesus and asked, “Does anyone know who this is?”

“I do,” the little girl readily said, “That’s the man who was holding me the night my parents died.”

* * *

HAPPY Easter to all of you believers!

And thank you to reader Erlinda V. Ileto, who sent us the story above last February (and which we rewrote a little last Good Friday).

As a boy, we were told that faith is believing what we don’t see, and that its eternal reward is seeing what we believe. As a man, we still believe that.

The girl in our story did not have to believe, or maybe her innocence was faith itself. But whatever it was, Christ has always been with her whether she consciously believed or not.

* * *

REMINDS us of that other popular story (which bears retelling in this glorious season of grace) of a man who saw a flashback of his life and noticed his footprints, and God’s, on the sands of time as they walked together.

The man noticed two sets of footprints, his and God’s, close to each other going in the same direction. But there were some gaps on the sand where there was only one set of footprints — and he noticed that these were at the lowest points of his life.

Whereupon the man chided God, asking why at the time when he needed Him most, God was not with him.

There was no need for God to explain. But still He held the man’s hand, looked into his eyes and said, “When there was only one set of footprints, that was when I carried you, My child.”

* * *

COMING out of the Lenten break, maybe some of you noticed that you could still exist without newspapers. To some, it must have been a relief not being exposed to the spate of negative stories cluttering the pages of most newspapers.

For a newspaperman himself to point this out may be treasonous, but it is a fact of life – and business – we have to live with. And to think about.

The possible turning off of readers is an ever-present risk that we in media have to mull over seriously. As sensitive humans, people can take only so much violence, negativism and insults to their intelligence.

* * *

WHEN some newspapers run stories packed with negative elements, such as violence to the body and the spirit, we presume that this is done for an ulterior positive social purpose.

We cannot close our eyes to reality. This is not a perfect world. We have to see, to look at, the mirror that mass media hold to society so people can see themselves as they are and make adjustments for what ought to be.

This “holding a mirror to society” line is akin to the other line rolled out in journalism school that the press performs a “watchdog function” in the community.

These are among our favorite defenses when the press is censured for its violent news menu and its virulent attacks on malfeasance in government.

* * *

THAT “watchdog” role that we play is an interesting counterpoint to an accusation that some segments of the press are actually not watchdogs but government’s “tuta” (literally means “puppy” but subliminally intended to convey “lapdogs.”)

Remember the martial rule days that displaced many of us newspapermen and ruined lives and careers? By some circuitous route, this reporter ended up with a major daily identified with a Marcos crony.

Despite our jobs and the blanket identification with the Marcos media machine, many of us never thought of ourselves as “tuta.” We regarded ourselves as professionals simply putting together a print product according to the demands of the market.

Anyway, we have our individual cases to plead and our case histories are propped up by our personal and professional reputations as journalists.

* * *

SO when we journeyed to the United States one spring in the 70s with the media party covering then President Marcos on a state visit to Washington, DC, we went about with a Marcos tag hanging from our coattails.

This newspaperman was more amused than disturbed by the stereotyping, because I knew who I was and what I stood for and no amount of labeling could change that.

In Washington, there was this MFP squad of opposition leader Raul Manglapus trailing the “official” media wherever we went. When we stepped off or walked to the bus hired to ferry us to the various events, there was always Manglapus’ group yelping and barking at us like dogs.

The Marcos runners mixed with our media group would derisively point to them as “steak commandos” and, although it may have been unfounded and unfair, some of us took it for granted that they must be so.

* * *

IT was clever, I thought, of the Manglapus commandos bunched on the sidewalk to be barking in our direction.

They did not have to shout “Tuta!” or hold aloft placards with that derisive word. All they did was make those doggie sounds that delivered the message just as effectively, if not even more so.

My impulse as a newspaperman was to walk over, talk to them and find out how things were. But I was held back by my seniors.

Anyway, as later events unfolded under different circumstances, I had the chance to talk with some of them over lunch without the legendary juicy steaks.

(As footnote, MFP was supposed to mean Movement for a Free Philippines. But when I went on self-exile in California after the 1983 murder of Ninoy Aquino, some of Raul’s own apostles told me that MFP actually meant Manglapus For President.)

* * *

HERE’S another dog day story, one of those amusing trivia of the Marcos visit to America. (Maybe I should gather all these in a small book and flesh them up with insights and political comment.)

We were bused to this military-type airfield in or near DC to wait for the arrival of the Marcos party. Everything was by the number.

Used to the extravagant Imeldific (the million-dollar word wasn’t coined yet) airport preparations in Manila whenever there was a state guest, I found this airfield cold and forbidding, if not insulting to the visiting Philippine president.

As I discovered later, it was also insulting to us press people who have learned to think highly of our little selves.

* * *

SHORTLY before the Marcos plane was too land, we were told that those who want to go to the tarmac to join the welcome group were to pass a security check. Steeped in martial rule procedures back home, we found this normal.

Stepping out of the holding area one by one, we were told to walk to a spot when a German shepherd held in leash by its uniformed handler waited. We were told to deposit our notebooks, cameras, tape recorders and whatever gear we carried in front of the dog.

The darn dog sniffed at our things and us and passed judgment on whether we are okay or not to meet our president! Dogs certainly know one another, I muttered.

Even to the certified Marcos “tuta” in our group, that was too much of a doggoned procedure. But what could they do, that was part of a dog’s life. (We mean the German shepherd’s life.)

* * *

BACK to the refreshing absence of negative news the past few days. Aren’t you glad you did not hear again any of those threats of the Abu Sayyaf on Basilan about executing more of their innocent hostages?

That’s the kind of partial news blackout we’re advocating. The executions, and the threats preceding them, are meant for public consumption. The bandits want to scare the community and the government into agreeing to their preposterous demands.

But without the public, what public consumption can we talk about? And how do you scare a public that is not even aware of the threats?

* * *

EXECUTIONS are meaningless and in fact counterproductive if they are never brought to public attention. If media impose a total blackout, the probability of those executions being carried out would be lessened because they have no propaganda value.

Media should not play into the hands of the Abu Sayyaf looking for propaganda outlets.

To our asking why Islamic leaders are not acting on the barbaric behavior of their wayward followers, reader Winnie Baltrush agreed with our raising the point. She says: “At a US military station in Bahrain, I have seen the beauty of Islam in this country and I bet you if this Abu Sayyaf guy is here in Bahrain, great Islamic leaders will act on it.”

Caesar G. de Guzman: “With the Abu Sayyaf’s threat to kidnap or kill Americans in the Philippines, aren’t they offering an excuse for Americans to intervene in eliminating this fundamentalist group once and for all?”

* * *

PERSONAL Postscript: More readers sent advice and suggested free online materials to help us pursue our desire to create killer (“pamatay!”) websites for some exciting e-projects we have in mind. Thanks to Elias C. Canapi, Allen Dolina, Vic Abella, RC “Ting” Abordo and our Californian kabalen Ben S. Simpao. We have been overshooting our limited Internet access browsing the sites suggested.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 23, 2000)

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