ArchivesJune 2010Our news source, friend, father, leader, hero

Our news source, friend, father, leader, hero

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As a rookie reporter working for PTV-Channel 10 in Dumaguete in 1989, my first assignment was to cover the Capitol beat where I met Gov. Macias for the first time. {{more}} From then on, with a handful of other reporters, we traversed the road not taken by many, alongside him.

News was scarce then, and so we, — Alex Pal, Jimmy Abayon, Bing Aguilar and Oliver Lemence, to mention a few — became mainstay reporters at Capitol. It was during Gov. Dodo’s almost ten years as governor then that we were first exposed to and understood the grim reality of life in the countryside and that the province truly needed a facelift.

The projects he launched with fervor during his first three terms as governor, of which we had witnessed, covered and written about, were the 10-bed Community Primary Hospitals, all six of them in areas that were then almost hard to reach; the establishment of community high schools; the development and improvement of community-based resource management projects on social forestry, upland agriculture and fisheries, and the Neg Or 2000 superhighway road network, to name a few.

These and many more socio-economic and development projects that followed in his more than 30 years of public service have undoubtedly endeared him to the people of Negros Oriental, for during our interviews with project beneficiaries, they would express their undying gratitude to him.

On every single road trip with him, we watched in the sidelines as Gov. and later Cong. Macias connected with the people that he so loved and cared for, toiling hard, day and night, rain or shine, sacrificing time away from his family, to uplift the lives of and deliver the basic services to his constituents. People’s faces would light up when he cracked jokes with them, share a simple meal with them, and many times, he would sing his favorite song “Buta” in parting.

Gov. Macias was one person who welcomed the media not as a foe but as partners for progress. He understood and accepted the fact that as a journalist, we had to be sometimes critical in our reporting. He did not take offense. In some instances, he expressed disapproval over a news article we had written, but he was not the adversarial type. He would immediately call our attention personally and asked only one thing — to be fair, factual and objective and have his side of the story heard.

He took on and faced difficult challenges with dignity and grace, sometimes wanting things done in his own way to the point of being misunderstood by many. But, he also listened to, solicited and heeded the advice of others, even from us in the media, as Alex Pal, Maricar Aranas and the others can attest to.

He was a selfless, thoughtful, jovial, caring, generous, compassionate and loving person, and most of all, he had a big, kind heart and tons of humor.

On one occasion, sometime in the early 1990s, I tagged along to the Inapoy Community Primary Hospital in the boundaries of Mabinay, Negros Oriental and Kabankalan in Negros Occidental.

Back then, the only access to the Inapoy hospital was a makeshift cable car — just a small steel bucket contraption strung on steel cables that could accommodate only three people at one time — which we took across to the other side of the river.

Upon reaching the other side, he commented that there were crocodiles in the river, about 60 meters down below, looking up at us and waiting for when we would fall. I remember him telling me jokingly that I’d be the first prey for the crocodiles, as I was wearing a pair of short shorts. That was his brand of humor that I will never forget.

During the height of the insurgency in the late 80s and early 90s, Gov. Macias took one brave step to forge peace and usher in development, and this was to open roads that now lead to the then rebel-infested areas in the hinterlands of Sta. Catalina. Shortly thereafter, he endeavored to establish resettlement sites and provide livelihood for the hundreds of evacuees who fled to Dumaguete back then to escape the strife-torn Tamlang Valley.

I remember very clearly the convoy that snaked through dirt roads, if you could even call them that, steep climbs and muddy potholes until we reached the dead end, with still several kilometers to walk and a river to cross before we could get to Sitio Avocado. Governor Macias was so enthusiastic to reach Avocado that he walked so fast ahead of us; it was difficult for us to catch up with him. That was how he did things — with untiring energy, passion, dedication and determination.

All of the above have earned my respect for a man that was not just a news source or a media subject, but somebody that I have looked up to as a friend, a father, a leader, and a hero.

One of my last conversations with him early this year, when he took me and another reporter, Syril Repe, to see his boardwalk project in Luka, Tanjay City, was heart-rending. When I mentioned about how we in the media miss going out on road trips, his answer was, and I quote, “I do not want to put you in harm’s way”, end of quote. That showed his caring and protective nature.

Last year, after the launch of his Paningkamot Caravan in Basay town, we shared a simple lunch of boiled kamote and dried fish or “bulad.” Each time a few pieces of grilled “bulad” were served up, he would cut off the heads for himself, and give the rest to us. Maricar and I took this as a sign of his generosity and selflessness.

What I have just shared with you is only a small slice of the large pie of personal and professional experiences I have had with Governor Macias.

Rest easy, governor, for you are now in God’s loving arms. We will definitely miss you, but one thing is certain, you will always be loved and remembered, forever and beyond. Thank you for everything that you have done for us. Thank you for the legacy that you have left us. And to the bereaved family of the late Gov. Dodo, thank you for sharing him with us.

I’ll end my tribute with a favorite quote: “The most honorable gifts of goodness are given to us in secret. It flows from a good heart, a heart that has no need to be recognized. A heart that sacrifices without a hint of resentment. A heart that joyfully shares what is hardest to share, our very selves.”

We love you, Governor Macias.

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