One of the brightest moments of PH journalism is when the Marcos dictatorship was toppled – because, despite the fact that writers and artists were being summarily jailed and even killed by the dictatorship, journalists continued working for the people. Can you tell us about a time in your career when you felt that the work of journalists helped create concrete change and action?
Let me correct this notion. While I’m a firm believer in journalism as a factor for societal change, the same change doesn’t begin and end with journalism. Journalism is but one cog in a slew of cogs supporting the wheel. Numerous aspects play a role in reforms. Marcos’ ouster, of course, is one part of our history where journalism played a crucial role, but the profession cannot lay sole claim to the victory.
Part and parcel of reforms include the role of literature, reform movements, teaching of the humanities, the implementation of laws, lobbying for a better justice system, an informed electorate, grassroots organization, etc. All this lend a hand toward needed reforms.
I would like to believe—and honestly I do believe—that journalism and literature lay the groundwork for reforms. They play the role of an intellectual centerpiece, the brainstems of reformation. No grassroots movement, no prowess in organization can take off without an ideological, and if not ideological then, at least, an intellectual cornerstone on which a successful reformation can stand. All begins with an idea. The Big Idea. Everything that forms from out of this idea is, of course, just history unfolding.
What was your most memorable assignment as a journalist? Why?
My interviews with Presidents. I have been privileged to interview, exclusively, each single one which followed the incumbency of Ferdinand Marcos—from Corazon Aquino to Rodrigo Duterte.
Why? Because whatever little I know now about the machinations of government and politics, I learned from these interviews. Suffice it that I never really liked any one of them.
If you could interview any personage, alive or otherwise, who would that be and what questions would you ask this person?
Two people come immediately to mind: Our National hero Jose Rizal and Comandante Che Guevara. You might as well throw in Hugh Hefner of Playboy. Unfortunately, though, I was born too late.
For Jose Rizal, I have this two questions: What did Pio Valenzuela actually tell you when he visited you in Dapitan? And if given the chance to vote for a national hero, would you vote for yourself?
For Che Guevara: What would you have done for Cuba, nay, for the world, if you have lived instead of Fidel Castro?
Hugh Hefner: What’s it like to be you?