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Coffee shop talk on General Reyes’ death


By Jay Fermin

During the 60s and 70s, I can still remember the great column of one journalist in particular. A true Batangueno by blood, he got his big break at the end of World War II when he was able to convince D.H. Soriano, then co-editor with Abe Aguilar Cruz of the Sunday Times (the tabloid that preceded the daily Manila Times), to give him a column.

He was billed by both his critics and admirers alike, as a man of many parts – journalist, broadcaster, teacher, community leader, king maker, and philanthropist. His column consisted of short snippets and paragraphs of simple, declarative sentences, but full of ideas and usually culminated in a punch line. He was able to capture the complex in its most simplest and strongest form.

I am talking about the famed Doroy Valencia (Teodoro F. Valencia) and his column entitled “Over a Cup of Coffee”. The column ran on February 20, 1945 and continued to engage and intrigue, enhance and change the landscape of issues in the Philippines for the next 40 years. By stating the truth, he was able to change and shape government policy.

I also remember the years when I was in the Philippines, when early morning walks would lead to the local town coffee shops. Inside, people from all walks of life would be seated on wooden chairs, not too far a sight from the Starbucks shops of today. However, during that time, the people would not be engrossed in their laptops nor would they be isolated by their iPods. They would engage in debate and discourse, and try to solve the country’s problems and issues of the day, over their cup of coffee.

This week, I joined a group from Frontliners Media, and went for an early morning coffee break at Historic Filipino Town in Los Angeles. We have one question in mind: What do Filipino-Americans think of the recent happenings in the Philippines, especially the looming scandal in the Philippine Military that led to the suicide of General Angelo Reyes, former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces?

Here’s what we heard over our cup of coffee:

We caught up with Salvador Abuel at the local McDonald’s with a group of Fil-Ams. He questioned “Bakit sya nag sorry? (Why did he say sorry?), Was it honorable? Sinakripesyo niya yung kanyang buhay (He sacrificed his life).”

Robert Iglesia chimed in that the former AFP Chief’s action was “Walang Karangalan, sayang dahil galing siya nang PMA at Harvard (There’s no honor, and it was a waste because he came from PMA and Harvard).”

We didn’t know that the the Filipino Americans are keen and aware, and very observant of the state of affairs of their home country even with the comfort of being here in the United States.

A World War II veteran, Rosalino Tamayo differed from the others by stating, “Dapat sa kanya dishonorable discharge… (What is appropriate would be dishonorable discharge),” obviously referring to the military and its system.

We caught up with “Roger”, who didn’t want to give out his true name, because apparently a lot of people know him. He stated that “Putol na – dapat hindi siya nag pakamatay. Siya ang pag-asa nang katotohanan (It is cut short – he should not have killed himself. He is the hope of truth.).” He continued that eventually the truth, however, will prevail.

Linda Doromal, who was on her way to work in her scrub suit hospital uniform, declares that Reyes should have told the truth. Anabel Cadorna, in between taking calls from her cell phone, agreed.

“Maria” who requested that her true name not be used, also gave a thorough discourse by saying, “Questionable ang ginawa sa pagitan nang investigasyon nang Senado. Baka may pumatay sa kanya! Questionable pa rin kung bakit siya ay namatay o pinatay. Dapat intindihin ang buong katotohanan. Bakit biglang-bigla? (What he did was questionable in the middle of a senate investigation. He might have been killed! It is also questionable why he died or was he killed? The truth should be wholly understood. Why did it happen so suddenly?).”

By this time, we had our fill of our coffee, the sun had come up but the conversation was still ongoing. However our tape was running out on our video camera. On this cold and crisp morning in Los Angeles, the pulse of what people think regarding the tragic demise of General Reyes echoes on as we finished our last sip.

If you want to view the full video of the conversations, please go to www.balita.com. Idea exchange still happen even to this day…over a cup of coffee.

(Video by Frontliners’ Jun Camacho, still photography by Ver Peneranda)

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