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Monthly Archives: December 2018

The man who stunned Jesus

“We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.”

— Rabindranath Tagore

 By Alex P. Vidal17236830_10209213849128706_950870941_o

NEW YORK CITY — To whom was Jesus referring when he declared in Matthew 8:10: “I tell you the truth. I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

It must have been one of his disciples.

Or maybe someone whom he had just healed of the horrible and disfiguring disease, surmised the authors of Saints and Scoundrels of the Bible.

“Or what about the adulterous woman he saved from stoning, or the Samaritan woman he spoke with at the well?” the authors asked further.

While Jesus did heal and help many and had many faithful Jewish disciples, he was not referring to any of those folks in the statement, asserted authors Linda Chaffee Taylor, Carol Chaffee Fielding, and Drenda Thomas Richards.

Jesus was actually speaking about the Roman centurion.

He and this Roman army leader were separated by race, money, language, and social position, yet the centurion did not allow these differences to act as barriers.

The centurion–a powerful man with means to get any help he needed–came to Jesus for help.

That’s the first big “wow.”

SERVANT

The centurion was on a mission to get aid for his servant and he knew Jesus was the only man who could help him.

“Lord…my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering” (8:6).

When Jesus offered to go and heal the servant, the centurion humbly replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (8:8).

Jesus was astounded by the man’s answer.

Now, it’s hard to believe that anything could stun and wow Jesus, but the Bible states it plainly: “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished (8:10).

He had never seen anyone in all of Israel with as much faith as the one Roman soldier.

That’s a second “wow.”

How could a Roman–a man hated by the Jews because his country oppressed and controlled them–have so much faith in Christ?

This despised Gentile’s faith put the Jewish religious leaders to shame.

In fact, they were missing out on God’s blessings because of their total lack of trust.

They wouldn’t believe Jesus really was who he said he was.

How many miracles would it have taken for them to get the point?

The Jews should have known the Messiah would come for everyone of all races, but they were too wrapped by in their own self-importance.

Jesus wasn’t impressed with the self-righteous hoopla of the religious leaders.

It took the simple faith of a humble man to really wow him.

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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

What I learned in 30 years in community journalism

“Journalism isn’t about how smart you are. It’s not about where you’re from. It’s not about who you know or how clever your questions are. And thank God for that. It’s about your ability to embrace change and uncertainty. It’s about being fearless personally and professionally.”

–Mary Pilon

By Alex P. Vidal17236830_10209213849128706_950870941_o

NEW YORK CITY — I nearly didn’t notice that year 2018 was the 30th year that I have been writing as a community journalist.
Thirty years and counting, with God’s guidance.
In those years that I have been writing, I learned a few damning realities:
1. No Filipino community journalist who stuck to his profession until retirement age became rich. In the first place, there is no money in journalism. It’s only our passion and inner satisfaction that drive us to continue writing–and sometimes act as Chief Problem Solvers of the universe. Fame is good, but journalists also need to eat three square meals a day; they also need to rear a family and live with dignity.
2. It’s not healthy to maintain a close relationship with politicians or military and police if you are a principled journalist. Every now and then, politicians or men in uniform commit anomalous acts–if they are not involved in scandalous incidents. If the culprit is a “friend” the journalist will be in a very uncomfortable situation.
3. It’s risky to accept (even if secretly) a payola from any source other than the office payroll. In the first place, it’s highly deplorable and unethical to engage in this kind of practice which is tantamount to “press-titution”. Sooner or later, someone in the league will rat. No secret will remain a secret ‘till eternity. In the media world, however, nobody walks a saint.
4. A columnist does not apply. He is invited. Back in 1990, then Western Visayas Daily Times editor-in-chief Manuel Mejorada rejected former City Hall information officer Eldrid Antiquera who applied in the paper as “columnist”. Mejorada said anyone, not just Antiquera, can’t just shortcut his way to the level of columnist. He must first prove his worth and establish a name in the community. Antiquera was having troubles with then Mayor Roding Ganzon and was always reprimanded in front of many people. He probably wanted to “get out of the kitchen” when he could no longer stand the heat. Antiquera became a lawyer and city councilor years later.

-o0o-

I started writing for the fledgling News Express, a weekly paper in Iloilo City in the Philippines in May 1988, the same year the publication was born and published by the late Davao City-based printing press mogul, Inocencio “Pops” Malones, owner of Fortune Printing Press and uncle of our former business manager and now Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones.
The late Ben Palma was the paper’s first “editor” but our de facto editor was Agnes Españo and now lawyer Pet Melliza. Now Journal Visayas publisher Giovannie Va-ay was our circulation manager.
It’s been a roller coaster ride.
From the News Express, I briefly wrote for the defunct Western Visayas Daily Times published by the late Yuhum Magazine big boss, Marcos “Mark” Villalon, in 1993.
Then came an invitation from former Iloilo airport concessionaire, Bernie Miaque, to write for the Daily Informer in 1994, the year the publication first rolled off the press edited by my former College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Reform Movement (CEGP-RM) colleague, the late Ivan Suansing.
After two years, Ivan and I left the Daily Informer.
We were both handpicked by the Cebu management of Sun Star and Mr. Villalon after the merging of Sun Star Cebu and Western Visayas Daily Times to handle the editorial of Sun Star Iloilo Daily in 1996.
Ivan brought his family to Cebu in 1998 to edit Cebu Daily, a new publication and Sun Star Cebu’s rival.
Ivan wanted me to go with him but because it would mean a permanent relocation, I declined and opted to stay behind to edit the Sun Star Iloilo Daily until December 1999, the year we were bamboozled by libel cases (coming only from one group of politicians and their subalterns, a story that need to be told in a separate article) that reached a mind-boggling 38 counts.

-o0o-

I put up my own bi-monthly paper, Iloilo Today-The New Millennium Publication, in 2000.
In 2004, Makinaugalingon Printing Press owner Rosendo “Sendong” Mejica tasked broadcast journalist Erly Garcia to locate me offering a job to edit his bi-weekly publication, Iloilo Today. I apologized to Publisher Sendong and Erly that I could not anymore commit to work full-time for any publication because of my crazy schedule.
In 2004, publisher Miaque convinced me to edit the Daily Informer after a chance meeting in the airport. I declined because I always traveled outside the Philippines, the same excuse I gave Publisher Sendong and Erly.
Publisher Miaque made a compromise: he agreed that I could travel anytime to fulfill my obligations in sports; the late associate editor Lydia Pendon would be the acting editor in my absence.
I stayed with the Daily Informer, the last daily newspaper I edited, until 2008, the year the paper “died a natural death” several months after the court ordered the demolition of publisher Miaque’s property in the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district where our editorial office was also obliterated.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

What I learned in 30 years in community journalism

“Journalism isn’t about how smart you are. It’s not about where you’re from. It’s not about who you know or how clever your questions are. And thank God for that. It’s about your ability to embrace change and uncertainty. It’s about being fearless personally and professionally.”
–Mary Pilon

By Alex P. Vidal17236830_10209213849128706_950870941_o

NEW YORK CITY — I nearly didn’t notice that year 2018 was the 30th year that I have been writing as a community journalist.
Thirty years and counting, with God’s guidance.
In those years that I have been writing, I learned a few damning realities:
1. No Filipino community journalist who stuck to his profession until retirement age became rich. In the first place, there is no money in journalism. It’s only our passion and inner satisfaction that drive us to continue writing–and sometimes act as Chief Problem Solvers of the universe. Fame is good, but journalists also need to eat three square meals a day; they also need to rear a family and live with dignity.
2. It’s not healthy to maintain a close relationship with politicians or military and police if you are a principled journalist. Every now and then, politicians or men in uniform commit anomalous acts–if they are not involved in scandalous incidents. If the culprit is a “friend” the journalist will be in a very uncomfortable situation.
3. It’s risky to accept (even if secretly) a payola from any source other than the office payroll. In the first place, it’s highly deplorable and unethical to engage in this kind of practice which is tantamount to “press-titution”. Sooner or later, someone in the league will rat. No secret will remain a secret ‘till eternity. In the media world, however, nobody walks a saint.
4. A columnist does not apply. He is invited. Back in 1990, then Western Visayas Daily Times editor-in-chief Manuel Mejorada rejected former City Hall information officer Eldrid Antiquera who applied in the paper as “columnist”. Mejorada said anyone, not just Antiquera, can’t just shortcut his way to the level of columnist. He must first prove his worth and establish a name in the community. Antiquera was having troubles with then Mayor Roding Ganzon and was always reprimanded in front of many people. He probably wanted to “get out of the kitchen” when he could no longer stand the heat. Antiquera became a lawyer and city councilor years later.

-o0o-

I started writing for the fledgling News Express, a weekly paper in Iloilo City in the Philippines in May 1988, the same year the publication was born and published by the late Davao City-based printing press mogul, Inocencio “Pops” Malones, owner of Fortune Printing Press and uncle of our former business manager and now Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones.
The late Ben Palma was the paper’s first “editor” but our de facto editor was Agnes Españo and now lawyer Pet Melliza. Now Journal Visayas publisher Giovannie Va-ay was our circulation manager.
It’s been a roller coaster ride.
From the News Express, I briefly wrote for the defunct Western Visayas Daily Times published by the late Yuhum Magazine big boss, Marcos “Mark” Villalon, in 1993.
Then came an invitation from former Iloilo airport concessionaire, Bernie Miaque, to write for the Daily Informer in 1994, the year the publication first rolled off the press edited by my former College Editors Guild of the Philippines-Reform Movement (CEGP-RM) colleague, the late Ivan Suansing.
After two years, Ivan and I left the Daily Informer.
We were both handpicked by the Cebu management of Sun Star and Mr. Villalon after the merging of Sun Star Cebu and Western Visayas Daily Times to handle the editorial of Sun Star Iloilo Daily in 1996.
Ivan brought his family to Cebu in 1998 to edit Cebu Daily, a new publication and Sun Star Cebu’s rival.
Ivan wanted me to go with him but because it would mean a permanent relocation, I declined and opted to stay behind to edit the Sun Star Iloilo Daily until December 1999, the year we were bamboozled by libel cases (coming only from one group of politicians and their subalterns, a story that need to be told in a separate article) that reached a mind-boggling 38 counts.

-o0o-

I put up my own bi-monthly paper, Iloilo Today-The New Millennium Publication, in 2000.
In 2004, Makinaugalingon Printing Press owner Rosendo “Sendong” Mejica tasked broadcast journalist Erly Garcia to locate me offering a job to edit his bi-weekly publication, Iloilo Today. I apologized to Publisher Sendong and Erly that I could not anymore commit to work full-time for any publication because of my crazy schedule.
In 2004, publisher Miaque convinced me to edit the Daily Informer after a chance meeting in the airport. I declined because I always traveled outside the Philippines, the same excuse I gave Publisher Sendong and Erly.
Publisher Miaque made a compromise: he agreed that I could travel anytime to fulfill my obligations in sports; the late associate editor Lydia Pendon would be the acting editor in my absence.
I stayed with the Daily Informer, the last daily newspaper I edited, until 2008, the year the paper “died a natural death” several months after the court ordered the demolition of publisher Miaque’s property in the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao district where our editorial office was also obliterated.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

‘Wonder woman’ who believed in me: Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia

“Saying goodbye doesn’t mean anything. It’s the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it.” 

— Trey Parker

By Alex P. Vidal442fa-13612173_10206678118334491_1779360806990529016_n

NEW YORK CITY — The late Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia was a councilor in Iloilo City in the Philippines when she and another city councilor, former City Prosecutor Jose Junio Jacela, volunteered to defend me in court pro bono against the libel cases filed by a group of politicians in 1999, or about 20 years ago.
They approached me like true Christians offering their sincere legal services.
I didn’t have any prior acquaintances with both city officials aside from listening to them debate with fellow city councilors in their regular sessions at the Sangguniang Panlungsod every Wednesday afternoon as a city hall beat reporter.
But Judge Rita and Fiscal Jacela were some of the many Ilonggos who believed in me; they were at the frontline doing their darn best to ensure that an innocent journalist wouldn’t spend a minute in jail.
Prior to the sensational litigation, they were among those who regularly read the columns and the news I wrote in Sun Star Iloilo Daily; they were convinced of my absolute innocence.
They sacrificed precious hours and resources, and collaborated like clinical surgeons saving the life of a terminally ill patient.

-o0o-

I watched in awe while listening to these topnotch lawyers convince the court of my innocence as an accused in at least 38 counts of libel, a bundle of criminal cases “too good to be true” owing to its abundance (I will write a separate story about this).
One time, I felt guilty while watching Judge Rita undergo arrest proceedings inside the Hall of Justice after a trial judge in another branch meted her with a “contempt of court” and ordered her arrest for missing another hearing not related to my cases.
Because of the large number of cases Judge Rita was handling in the morning, sometimes we had to hop from one branch to another like airport passengers scrambling to locate the boarding gates in the eleventh hour.
Judge Rita and Prosecutor Jacela were so determined to win our cases that they never showed signs of weariness and boredom as the hearings prolonged, prompting some court personnel to refer to them as the “Wonder Woman” and the “Bionic Man.”
Before the Bionic Man became a city legal officer under the administration of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and before the Wonder Woman was assigned in Makati City, all the libel cases filed against me, my late former publisher Marcos “Mark” Villalon, and columnist Wenceslao “Mat” Mateo, Jr. have been dismissed.

-o0o-

Judge Rita did something special that will forever be etched on my memory.
Sometime in June 2001, or several weeks after the May 14, 2001 elections, newly elected Iloilo Vice Governor Roberto “Obet” Armada passed by in the coffee shop of Iloilo City’s Amigo Terrace Hotel and saw me together with now Prosecutor Carol Salvatierra and now Public Attorney Office (PAO) lawyer Gerlie Uy while we were having an editorial meeting for our Iloilo Today publication.
We congratulated the smiling Vice Governor Armada, after which he immediately told me: “Ti, join ka na sa akon office.Kinahanglan ko ang writer (Come and join in my office now. I need a writer).”
I didn’t believe the vice governor was serious about the invitation when I nicely declined his offer right in that moment until Judge Rita entered the picture several days later.
Judge Rita, then a city councilor and coming out from her City Hall office on her way to Vice Governor Armada’s office in the Capitol, “kidnapped” me while I was gathering stories in the City Hall.
To make the long story short, we ended up inside the vice governor’s office where I was “formally” introduced to all and sundry as Vice Governor Armada’s new “staff member.”
I realized that Mrs. Ana “Ting Ting” Abogado-Armada, the vice governor’s wife, was Judge Rita’s cousin.
I learned furthermore that both Vice Governor Armada and Judge Rita have been my avid readers; and they both believed in me.
I never failed them, I was confident.
I will miss you, Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia, my great lawyer and my “Wonder Woman”, our “Wonder Woman”. Thank you for believing in me.
You left us too early, but I know that we shall meet again in God’s time and kingdom.
(Judge Rita Bascos-Sarabia succumbed in a hospital in Metro Manila past 9 o’clock evening on Dec. 26, 2018 from complications from an infection of her exposed wounds caused by explosion from a gas leak in an LPG tank. She is survived by her husband, Atty. Rene, and children, Katherine, Ina and Rex. Her wake is at the Gegato-Abecia Funeral Services in Coastal Road, Iloilo City. Viewing started on December 29, 2018. She will be buried on January 6, 2019.)

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Abusive Garin father and son

442fa-13612173_10206678118334491_1779360806990529016_n“I believe the root of all evil is abuse of power.”

-Patricia Cornwell

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — I salute Regional Police Office 6 (RPO-6) Director John Bulalacao for throwing his support behind Police Officer 3 Federico Macaya Jr. of the Guimbal Police Station in Guimbal, Iloilo in the Philippines.
I also laud Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde for ordering Bulalacao to recall the police escorts of loilo First District Rep. Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr. and to file criminal cases against Garin and his father, Guimbal Mayor Oscar “Oca” Sr.
The decision came after Rep. Richard reportedly mauled Macaya after placing a cuff on the cop’s hands before dawn December 26, 2018 near the town hall while the father Garin was reportedly holding a .45 caliber.
The PNP, Bulalacao said, felt insulted that one of the organization’s men was attacked by the politician while in uniform.
The Garins were reportedly mad at Macaya for the non-filing of charges against one of the two protagonists in a town plaza rumble on December 22, 2018 involving Virgil Gegato and Noel Gicana.
Gegato, son of a town councilor, reportedly hit Gicana with an empty bottle during the melee.
Macaya insisted “he did not interfere” when Gegato and Gicana “agreed” to settle the feud. Gegato allegedly paid Gicana P1,500 for the hospital bills.

-o0o-

It was not the first time that Rep. Garin mauled a cop.
Several years back when he was the mayor of Guimbal, he also kicked and manhandled a lowly cop who failed to immediately respond to a police call.
The only difference is, father Oca, who was the congressman at that time, did not agree with his then mayor son’s sadistic method.
Because the Garins were (and are still until today) so powerful and influential, the case has been forgotten after the victim cop did not press charges against then Mayor Richard.
Between the father and son, it’s the father who was known reportedly to easily lose his cool and bark at people he didn’t like when he was mad.
It’s not a joke to tangle with the father and son Garin physically, especially when they are surrounded by bodyguards–and are carrying firearms.
Both are tall and heavyweights and most of their victims were lightweights.
Father and son could easily turn any tough guy into a marshmallow if he made a mistake of fighting back in a physical confrontation with the lords of Guimbal.

-o0o-

As editor of a daily newspaper in the 90’s, I always criticized the Garins but I didn’t lower my guard when I was in front of any of them in various occasions or in press conferences.
I also wrote some favorable articles about them in the past, but most of my articles were something narcissistic politicians like the patriarch Oca would never dare retain in the memory.
Rep. Richard actually is a friend.
He regularly tagged me with interesting topics on Facebook, and I find him to be soft-spoken and someone who loves to converse with any ordinary person.
I greeted and approached him evening on March 12, 2010 in the lobby of the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Arlington, Texas where he was waiting for someone to give his pass in the Pacquiao vs Clottey WBO welterweight fight the following day.

-o0o-

My friend, Dr. Allan Recto, a Texas-based pediatrician, speaks highly of Rep. Richard.
When President Estrada visited Bacolod City in Octobr 1999, then Guimbal Mayor Richard invited me to stay with him in a hotel overnight.
His wife, former Health Secretary Janette Loreto-Garin, used to call me “my good friend” when she spotted me in the audience in the conferences where she was the invited speaker.
I have no bad blood with the Garins; I even support Rep. Richard’s quest to help clear Secretary Janette’s name in the Dengvaxia imbroglio–until now.
But what he did to Macaya really disturbed me as a journalist.

-o0o-

I don’t know Macaya from Adam, but I feel it’s a moral obligation as a journalist to ferret out the truth and remind public officials like the Garins that power is not a privilege; that no matter what positions they acquire in society, they aren’t above the law; that they have to behave and live by the standards expected of them as high elected officials.
Most importantly, the cops–or any ordinary person in Guimbal or anywhere else-for that matter, also have human rights and dignity.
Macaya, as a police officer, is a person in authority who did not even have a personal grudge against him or any of his family members.
But he allegedly spat at Macaya’s face after kicking the hapless cop on the face three times while the cop was manacled.
Has power–absolute power–gone to Rep. Richard’s head?
He is not the Richard Garin that I know, if Macaya is telling the truth.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2018 in Uncategorized