NICE GUYS—THOSE COLUMNISTS
October 23, 1948
By Jose A. Quirino
BULLETS are not half so effective as an irate columnist’s words,” declared my friend the other day. No truer words have been spoken. A columnist is always right. At least, that is what he maintains. No one is safe from his attack. From the beggar to the so-called –untouchable,” anyone can be the victim of the columnist’s ire. Never try to argue with one. You have no chance, brother. He always wins. When he mentions you in his “menu special,” better dismiss everything with a shrug of the shoulders and atone for whatever evil you have done. Or else… you know the rest.
In attempting to pen my humble opinion about some of the columnists, I pray to God that I’ll not be the victim of their “broadsides.”
Since the pre-war days when I began reading Dayrit’s “Good Morning Judge,” I have been an avid reader of columns by different columnists. Since then, noticing their courage in flinging biting invectives against crooked men and their dirty doings, I have maintained a high respect for their constructive criticism. (A fellow who does not have a columnist-phobia will develop it in time. They can make anybody quake in his boots.) However, columnists are sometimes more destructive than constructive, especially when they fly off the handle and give vent to their personal feelings. When they get too personal in their criticism, they become “columnists.” Alfonso Denoga has the right term for it: “character assassination.” This is where the woman-columnist holds the edge over the man. It is, perhaps, due to the feminine touch which she seldom loses, even at the height of her ire.
Among the popular columnists of today are the Manila Chronicle “bright boys.” There is Armando Malay with his famous “With a Grain of Salt.” He is the favorite columnist of letter-writers who have some complaints to make. In brief, concise sentences Malay takes up an issue with a grain of humor and winds up with a “coup de grace.” Once, for his vitriolic attacks against a senator whom he dubbed the solicitor general of “Hong Kong hams,” he was sued in court for libel, by the solon.
Then, there is Ernie del Rosario with his “Off the Beat.” A few times suspected as a Communist, he successfully showed in his column that he is not. He is not for overthrowing the government but for reforming it.
Lest I forget, there is Horacio (Teban) Borromeo of “On the Record” fame. When he wants to drive home a point he often writes, “I don’t say that Mr. So-and-so is a crook or that he did this and that, but, etc. etc.” Of course, he cannot be accused of libel for a thing he does not say. Ironically, however, he implies that Mr. So-and-so is a crook and exposes his shady deals through effective “double talk.” Smart guy, that Teban.
In the Manila Times we find Joaquin Roces and Maria Kalaw Katigbak. The former’s “lafterpiece” is “My Daily Bread” and the latter’s is “Checkpoint.” Both employ satire in their columns. Roces has created a fictitious character called “Maneng” who serves as his Charlie MacCarthy in his witty column.
The Star Reporter has the versatile Arsenic, I mean Arsenio Lacson. He must have been baptized “Arsenic because he spits venom against those who get his goat. “In This Corner” presented “Kid Arsenic” and “Speed Denoga” in the “slambangest” battle of the century. Denoga took up the cudgels for Ford Wilkins, editor of the Manila Bulletin. When Denoga wrote to Lacson, “As a louse will say to another louse, move over, bud,” Lacson came back telling Denoga to delouse himself with DDT. All of these things happened after Wilkins criticized action of some students who picketed the senators who went on a junket at the expense of the people. To date, Wilkins is still subjected occasionally to Arsenic’s stings. Although Lacson was silenced on the radio for his indictment of the corruptions which infested (still infest) our malodorous government, he continued his heavy barrage from a moving vehicle rigged with a microphone. “Here,” he hollered, “they cannot gag me.” Personally I admire Arsenic. He has really the guts to voice what is in his mind. Such guys die with their boots on.
Of course, there is Vicente del Fiero alias “del Fire” with his notes and footnotes. I often read that “del Fire” is fond of lechon. Well, who is not? When it comes to praising his own paper, the Star Reporter, you have got to hand it to del Fierro. Why, he will maintain every chance he has that the Reporter is the widest-read newspaper in the Philippines and that its quips are being quoted throughout the world. So there—hitch your wagon to the Star Reporter.
Columnists, in general, are very singular in their views. They often take great pains praising their paper, either directly or indirectly. That is the spirit. Keep up the good work, brother.
Speaking of accidents, one is reminded of a column, that of J. Padilla. (Please, your accidency, I don’t mean any harm.) Padilla is a master of sarcastic phrases. He can make a saint swear with his satirical bombardments. At times very personal, nevertheless, he atones for his subjective views with objective columns. If he gives you the once-over, you will surely cry “Uncle.”
Anent the Evening Herald, there is that fifth columnist, Jose Topacio Nueno. He is obviously sore at Mayor de la Fuente, as manifested in his daily antics. In almost every column of his, he takes to task the mayor. “Poor Maneng,” says “Canto Boy” of the Star Reporter, “he is only doing his rightful duties and he is being blamed for it.”
“Mr. President” by Aproniano Bores, editor of the Herald, deserves mention, too.
Pura-Santillan Castrence of the Manila Bulletin is one of the best women-columnists in the Philippines. “Woman Sense” is the title of her column.
There are columnists galore but it may take volumes if I touch on all of them. Suffice it to say that if ever you have an axe to grind against a columnist, better keep your trap shut. The moment you criticize them they will form a mob and like birds of prey, pounce upon you mercilessly. Look at Senator Confesor. When he stated that columnists are trying to run the affairs of the government, be became the constant target of indiscriminate attacks by them. When a columnist takes you to task, he is prosecutor, jury, and judge at the same time. So, beware lest these columnists (bless their immaculate souls) make a harlequin out of you.
Nice guys—these columnists.