Monday, January 24, 2011
When does a soldier know peace?
Remembering my dear Uncle – Lt. General Thelmo Y. Cunanan
I asked the General who sat by the porch as he puffed on his pipe. “When does a soldier know peace?”
He looked me in the eye and I gulped. I wasn’t sure if I offended him or just asked him a question that he’d chew on for the next few days.
“A soldier,” he said as he paused for effect. “Is always at war.”
I nodded in agreement not wanting to give way to my being perplexed.
“No matter where you are. You always have to be alert.”
My late uncle Lt. General Thelmo Y. Cunanan held a special place in my heart. My immediate family as well as the Caluags used to go out at least once a month to Cavite, Laguna, Tagaytay, Baguio, Ilocos, and just about anywhere our convoy of cars would take us. We’d eat regularly at Josephine’s and the 7 Sisters. We’d go to Subic and Clark and at one point, quite often at Lemery, Batangas where he once let me fire his M-16 rifle on a coconut that they tossed into the sea.
As a young buck, I was fascinated by the military. My grandfather in my mother’s side assisted the Americans during the liberation of Tarlac from the Japanese in 1944. And then in my father’s side, there was Tito Thelmo. He always found an eager audience in me when he talked about his job and what the military did.
Around fourth year high school, I thought about entering the military. I had two classmates go up to the Philippine Military Academy and another one joined the US Armed Forces. I wanted to. Only I never got around to it. That was because I didn’t have my head screwed on straight and thought that I was signing up for the wrong reasons.
Safely ensconced at home, my Tito Thelmo and I shared magazines like Soldier of Fortune and those Asia-Pacific Defense Forum magazines. He also enjoyed borrowing my comic books and we’d oft talk about it. Every now and then, he’d ask me what was new in the Marvel Universe. I thought that he was the coolest uncle because none of my other relatives read comic books and he was someone I could debate whether Gwen Stacy was a better girlfriend for Peter Parker than Mary Jane Watson.
I always knew my uncle’s job was dangerous. And it never hit home until that ambush in Gattaran, Cagayan where he nearly lost his life and that 1989 coup d’etat where his steadfast dedication is protecting the government from coup plotters saved the day.
What is death to a young man when you think every one else is invincible? I thought that my Tito Thelmo was Iron Man and impervious to harm.
In the last evening of my uncle’s wake at Heritage Park, I listened to my cousin Christine as she bared her soul in a way I never heard her do before. To hear her say that she was deathly afraid that every time her dad – Tito Thelmo – left their house to go back to his area of operations that it could be the last time she saw him really hit me like a ton of bricks.
I always wanted to write about military stuff since I began to write professionally. I once talked to my Tito Thelmo to see if he could help me get a lift to the Spratly Islands to write about the Marine garrison stationed there. But my uncle had been retired from the service for a while and he didn’t know the new officers who could see how they could help.
He said he’d look into finding me a story to write. Only soon after that, he was diagnosed with cancer.
In the morning of my Tito Thelmo’s funeral, I asked General Cesar Tapia who was a year ahead of him in Fort Del Pilar, “When does a soldier know peace?”
The General, like my uncle did all those long years ago, paused and looked me in the eye. “A soldier is always at war,” he said uncannily mimicking my uncle’s words to me as a youngster. “But now is the time for peace. His (Tito Thelmo) mission is accomplished.”
I thought about his suffering from cancer. About his name being slandered by people who were up to no good. I thought about those close calls in Gattaran and Camp Aguinaldo. About his service in Cambodia, the PNOC, and finally to the SSS.
The realization of his long and dignified record of service tempered the quiet pain I felt of losing someone dear to me. I accepted it and in my last look at him lying peacefully inside his coffin, I whispered a silent prayer of thanks and mission accomplished, General.
It was time for peace.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Journalism & sunshine in my corner of the world
by rick olivares
Years ago, I helped produce a recruiting video tool for the Ateneo de Manila University that was titled “Making A World of Difference”. The 13-minute video was used for overseas recruitment and quite honestly, aside from being paid to do it, the best feedback I ever got for producing it was “it has heart”.
What they meant about that was how it captured what it was like being in the university and that it made an emotional connection with the viewer.
Little did I know three years later, I’d be teaching in my school. And what a connection it is!
I thought about doing back some 20 years ago but the opportunity to teach never came my way. I have no regrets because I always maintained that my career in advertising helped me polish my writing, marketing, and public relations skills that are essential to the industry where I guess I made my mark -– in media.
Journalism is its barest bones is reporting news in its various forms. I decided to breeze through its history and theories to instead give my class an immersion into what it is like. After all, experience is the best teacher.
From the start, I never intended the class to be my sole voice. Who wants to listen to someone yakk for three hours anyways? Even the longest Shakespearean soliloquy didn’t last that long. I planned for it to be highly interactive while seeking participation by my class and resource speakers.
New media is constantly redefining not just the way we receive our news and how we present them but also our lives and careers. Blogging used to be a dirty word for the traditionalists but it has increasingly become an alternative medium for news and information.
Not every one in my class will choose a career in journalism but that doesn’t mean that they cannot participate in it. We’ve all seen stories of accidental journalists like basketball vagabond Paul Shirley (who has written a book about his hoop travels and become a website blogger), former pro basketball player and Ateneo Blue Eagle Eric Reyes (do sideline reporting in the PBA and for the last Southeast Asian Games held in Manila), and conflict reporter Kevin Sites (who was largely ignored by the major media outfits until his own enterprising reports landed him prime jobs) to name a few.
As for myself, I would always tape my father’s appearances on television or in newspapers. I wanted to do commercials, write comic books, write the script to that great novel or movie, or be a television reporter. The first time I ever contributed an article to a newspaper just made my day. To see my letters and articles printed in comic books and magazines that I read as a kid was a fanboy dream.
To be able to write, do videos, documentaries, or research material for lawmakers has been a fantastic experience. It has allowed me to meet people some of whom I idolize. It has also brought me to different places and allowed me to experience things I only see on television.
It has always been said that I wear my heart on my sleeve. And well, while that’s both good and bad (and if you know me then you’ll know what I mean) utilizing that zeal to go about my work in media has paid dividends.
With the media industry a competitive one (and with so much politicking), I decided that the best way to put myself out there is to make sure that my work was done well and to make use of the new media out there to get my stories out. It has worked and the days where I felt compelled to drag myself to work are long behind. I’ve been blessed with a career where I know I can make a difference.
And it is with that in mind that is my guiding principle behind my class – that they too can make a difference in this world through journalism.
I live by a few simply precepts – to bring my own sunshine and to start that out in my own corner of the world. I love my work in media and it has allowed me to share both of those in my own corner – my Introduction to Journalism class in Ateneo.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
There was this old comics strip of Hagar the Horrible where he and Lucky Eddie found a calendar stuck on his door with a dagger. Said Eddie, “I think it means that your days are numbered.”
Wondered Hagar, “Is that a threat?”
“No,” replied a nonplussed Eddie. “It’s a calendar.”
Since I was a kid, I’d make a list of resolutions and things to do for the New Year. When I was younger, I was more successful and faithful in adhering to what I planned. As I got older, I don’t know. Chalk it up to the demands of a working pro, indolence, and giving in to temptation, I kept at it for a few weeks then nada. I noticed it and with a lot of alarm. I used to pride my being OC and systematic but I guess things change when you are older.
Towards the end of the 2010, I told myself not for this year 2011. I intend to stick to what I’ve mapped out and planned for the year in which I’ve got great vibes about. Some of it might be vain or even weird but consider the synchronicity. My birthday for this year is 11-11-11. I stand 5’11” and wear size 11 shoes. And no, I do not have 11 kids! Bwahahaha.
I felt blessed the last two years as I am truly grateful for everything. And this year, I realized that I cannot live without my planner. Without this, I’d be in the dark and get all my deadlines and work mixed up.
In the past several years, I made only use of two planners – the Ateneo one and Starbucks’. Problem was after a while I stopped using them (I forgot actually) coz my bag was filled with laptops, cameras, papers, and sundry. With a growing workload, I’m really sticking with it. And I prefer the simple planners such as the new Starbucks edition. Guess I got my work cut out for me.