Last Thursday was a special day for me as an opinion writer. At noon that day, I had the great honor of accepting the Rotary Club of Manila’s “Opinion Writer of the Year” Award during its general membership meeting at the Manila Polo Club.
More than the symbolic object I received, it was the affirmation of being recognized for our crusade to expose the truth that meant the most to me.
In a country that is notorious for shooting its messengers â€‘ and I can’t even remember now how many journalists have lost their lives already under this regime â€‘ it is comforting to be among the privileged few who have been given the prestigious “Opinion Writer of the Year” Award of the Rotary Club of Manila (RCM).
The RCM premised the presentation of my award on the following:
• For courageous, hard-hitting but thoughtful series of columns which deal with relevant and timely events and issues,
• Focus on the 4 Big Gaps of Philippine Society (Wealth, Opportunity, Education and Information),
• For informing his readers with solid facts, and stimulating active reader involvement to help elevate the status quo of Philippine Society and its institutions, and
• For balancing the demands of criticism and those of fairness and good taste, and using reflective prose to provoke intelligent discourse and responsible course of action.
It was my former ad agency colleague Tom Banguis who broke the good news to me on the morning of July 18. Tom is the Chairman of the Annual Journalism Awards and a past president of the RCM. Tom was an Account Supervisor at Ace-Compton’s very challenging Proctor & Gamble Account Group when I joined that ad agency in November 1969.
My wife Mey was the first to know that I had been adjudged “Opinion Writer of the Year” by the RCM. Per our household protocol, the Commander-in-Chief has to be the first know.
Second to be informed of the good news was STAR President Miguel Belmonte who was in Cebu for the anniversary celebration of The Freeman, our Cebu affiliate. Miguel, to whom I am Uncle Billy, was very happy — calling the award very prestigious. Miguel was excited to publish the good news on STAR front page but we had to defer to the Rotary Club of Manila when to announce it.
My sisters Carol and Dorothy were ecstatic and felt proud. Perhaps it is their being professional corporate communicators that gave them a special feeling about my receiving the RCM “Opinion Writer of the Year” Award.
Somehow, it was Dorothy’s youngest son, Hossie Esposo Claro, a teacher in a Jesuit educational institution, who registered what I consider to be the most meaningful reaction. An Ateneo University graduate, Hossie used to teach Pilipino in Xavier University which is also Jesuit-run. He now teaches at another Jesuit school (for deserving indigent kids) based in Pandacan.
To this day, Hossie still keeps an open mind to entering the seminary — to become a Jesuit. It is not unusual among Ateneo Blue Eagles to entertain thoughts of becoming a Jesuit and Hossie is no exception.
I also entertained thoughts of becoming a Jesuit when I was in High School. Other than our excess poundage, Hossie’s desire to be a Jesuit is perhaps what bonds us in a very special way.
In his e-mail to me, Hossie remarked that my crusade for truth and justice matters no matter how gargantuan the task may seem to be. Hossie likened my crusade to propagate the truth to the story of the Starfish Thrower. Allow me to share that story with you.
The Starfish Story
Adapted from The Star Thrower of Loren Eiseley (1907 - 1977)
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
”I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.” (End of The Starfish Story)
The Starfish Story somehow captured what I internalize in my crusade to help address our people’s problem with the Information Gap, the foundation of the exploitation and its resultant Wealth Gap.
There may be millions and millions of Filipinos who suffer from the Information Gap. But I cannot let the enormity of that task deter me from attempting to enlighten those who have the access to my space and an open mind to read what I write.