Thursday, April 23, 2015

My 65 years as a journalist (1)

By Emil Jurado
I WOKE up the other day realizing that I had spent 65 years as a journalist.
I have gone full circle in print, radio and television. Those long years, more than half a century in fact, were broken only briefly when I taught at Ateneo de Manila for four years, completed my law studies and took the Bar.
I also got married to the woman of my dreams. I met her when she was only 18 years old, on vacation in Cotabato – then the capital of an undivided Cotabato province – from her studies at Philippine Women’s University. She later on went to the University of the Philippines.
I got my feet wet in journalism in 1950. With my former classmate and best friend, the late Rudy Tupas (who later on became Manila Times magazine editor and then ambassador to Libya), I volunteered to help the Oblates of Many Immaculate in their provincial weekly “The Mindanao Cross,” which is still going strong up to this day. Those were still the days of the Moro “juramentados.”
After two years living among Moros in Cotabato, I came back to Manila. But I never forgot my experience as a provincial editor of a weekly even as my original dream was to become a lawyer—perhaps a judge and later on a justice of the Supreme Court, the culmination of every lawyer’s career.
I was actually a working law student, having taught at the Ateneo High School and Philippine Law School law subjects like Introduction to Law, Insurance and Agency and Corporation Law.
Still, I felt unfulfilled. The printer’s ink, as they say, was already in my blood.
I applied at the now-defunct Philippines Herald, which was owned at that time by Don Vicente Madrigal. And with the help of my elder brother, Willie (now deceased) and of people around Don Vicente, I got a job at that publication.
I was fortunate because when I first presented myself to the late editor-in-chief Felix Gonzales, who was called “judge,” the business editor was taking his leave of absence to study for the Bar exams. Thus, I became a business editor of a newspaper which was at that time in the same league as the Manila Times of the Prietos and Roceses, and the Manila Chronicle of the Lopezes.
Aside from being business editor, I covered Malacanang, the Foreign Affairs Office and the justice department whenever the reporters on the beat were off.
Santa Banana, our editor-in-chief really made me earn my pay of P250 a month.
Those were trying years because my wife and I could afford to only rent an apartment. We had a newborn baby at that time.
Soon enough, I was made an editorial director, writing editorials for the newspaper, and got a P1,500 pay check a month. At that time, P1,500 a month was a fortune, and my wife and I could afford to buy a house at Philamlife Homes, Quezon City. I acquired the house at P1,800 when the former houseowner could not pay the monthly installment of P350.
As business editor, I met the many taipans and tycoons of today when they were still struggling businessmen. I got to know Henry Sy Sr., now the richest Filipino, and John Gokongwei. The later was a trader from Cebu and soon made good in Manila. Now he is the second-richest Filipino.
I also knew Lucio Tan, the Ayalas headed by Don Jaime Ayala and his sons Jaime Augusto and Fernando, Andrew Gotianun of Filinvest, the Del Rosarios, the Elizaldes, the Aguinaldos of old, and the father of billionaire Ricky Razon, Pocholo Razon, and many others. Al Yuchengco of RCBC and Malayan Insurance was my good friend. I know the Sycips-Don Albino and Alfonso, the Puyats and the Jacintos of Security bank. In fact, I knew all the bank presidents and chairmen.
I was twice the president of the Business Writers Association of the Philippines.
* * *
As a business editor of the Philippines, my main beat at that time was the Central Bank, with the late Miguel Cuaderno as governor. Those were memorable years because of dollar allocations given to importers by import and export directors.
The main focus of the economy then was on import quotas. As usual, the president and administrators, especially members of Congress, took advantage of their powers to enrich themselves through quota allocations, which they peddled.
I consider those days memorable because I exposed the devaluation of the peso during the Macapagal administration by the Central Bank at an initial rate of P4 to P1. Soon, in order to avoid speculations, the Central Bank adopted the so-called “floating rate” of the currency.
Another memorable moment I had while covering the Central Bank was my exposé of three members of the Monetary Board then committing anomalies by playing the stock market, and getting import quota allocations for their favored companies or their own companies. The exposé I wrote started a congressional investigation, but got me in trouble. I was kidnapped!
During those days, I never told my wife that I had been getting death threats. I just dismissed them. I believe then as I do now that if there are those would like to terminate journalists or others, they do not write nor call you to warn you that your life is in danger. They just do it, as is being done in the many instances when journalists, especially provincial commentators and opinion writers are killed.
One evening, as I was going down the stairs of the Philippines Herald, two men poked guns on my side and almost immediately I saw a black car waiting outside. I was told to get inside the car, and the car sped off. The security guard obviously did not notice what happened since it happened so fast, gangster-style.
Continued tomorrow

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