Fond moments with Fr. Jim
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2013-01-10
He was born an American but his life proved that he was more Filipino than many Filipinos. Many Filipinos want to leave this country and resettle in the US, then be known as an American. Fr. Jim Reuter loved the Philippines as well as the Filipinos and opted to spend most of his life here.

He was first and foremost a Jesuit and a soldier of Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of Jesus Christ. To Fr. Jim, the Filipinos must have seemed like the least of our brethren that Christ commanded us to love. Fr. Jim was a talented communicator and he used his talent to promote his mission.

He was destined to play an important role in our contemporary history when he decided to promote the truth during the Marcos dictatorship. He was arrested and this provoked demonstrations. Marcos relented and released Fr. Jim. Fr. Jim founded Radio Veritas, the very same broadcast network that became the coverage base of the People Power Revolution. It was as if God planted Fr. Jim in the Philippines to play an important role in what is a major turning point in our history.

When the Ateneo moved to Loyola Heights, Fr. Jim was inspired to write a new alma mater hymn — We Stand on a Hill. To every Atenean, this song brings tears to the eyes for the meaning and images that it invokes — the Ignatian values, the campus we’ve come to love as our second home and the shared friendships that we cherish for life. Like a great communicator, Fr. Jim wrote We Stand on a Hill as if it was the Ateneo alumnus writing and singing it. The only Atenean who never stood on the hill and looked across the valley is a blind Atenean.

The hill is the symbolism of the Ignatian ideal the Ateneo taught us and that we’re expected to follow as our guide and compass in life. Admittedly, there were some Ateneans who have lost their way. Some even became Blue Vultures and plundered the coffers of the country.

However, there are more than enough Blue Eagles to grab the standard from the fallen and redeem the Blue Eagle reputation.

Many Blue Eagles are silent workers in the Lord’s vineyard and do not care whether they’re credited or not for their contributions. No Ateneo Blue Eagle would ever forget the St. Ignatius prayer for generosity:

“Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.”

There was no retreat when we did not pray this. No doubt these are words that Fr. Jim lived by.

When I was in Ateneo Grade School and High School, Fr. Jim was already a campus giant. Those of us who were active in the drama productions would have loved to join his co-productions with St. Paul’s College, if only to meet the girls. Alas, I’ve appeared in the Onofre Pagsanghan production of Cyrano de Bergerac and Rolando Tinio’s Richard III but I did not have the chance to work with Fr. Jim. In the end, I married a wonderful lassie from St. Paul’s.

A few years ago, Maria Montelibano of Gawad Kalinga Communications arranged a lunch meeting at Sugi in Greenhills between Fr. Jim and me — in an effort to reconcile our plans to provide a new cable channel that will present alternative programming. Tony Meloto was there. He would not miss the eyeball-to-eyeball meeting between two communicators with similar plans to provide alternative programming but with different approaches.

It was a long drawn “battle” as both protagonists were not inclined to surrender his plan and embrace that of the other. I can consider myself lucky that Fr. Jim was no longer in the pink of health — he was already wheelchair bound — and could not engage in “combat” for too long. We ended with best wishes for each other’s project. He eventually got to launch TV Maria but it’s hardly making a dent as I’ve argued with him. I dare use the words battle and combat to describe that lunch with Fr. Jim because in a way we were both warriors for the causes that we believe in. When he was already in his vehicle and about to depart, Fr. Jim looked at me as if to say — Boy, you were a hard nut to crack!

But my fondest moment shared with Fr. Jim has to be the day when we both received the Philippine Legion of Honor from President Benigno S. Aquino III on February 26, 2011. Both of us were already wheelchair bound and he had a company of nuns as his escorts.

I wish that we had more Filipinos who could be like Fr. Jim in loving our country. I could also wish that we had Bishops and Cardinals who could be like Fr. Jim in knowing up to where his mission for God allows him.

Do pray for us Fr. Jim in your new abode.

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