[I’m writing this in cursive when a text message from Friendship came in. It said, “Ang galing nung eulogy ni teddy locsin!” (“teddy locsin’s eulogy was great!”). I’m finding it creepy that Friendship seems to be able to read my thoughts lately. Even funnier is that she always steals the words from right the tip of my tongue just when I’m about to articulate them and type them down on my cellphone in a text message for her.]
THEY ASKED me to wait in a seat by their office’s front desk. I crouched down to whisk off the trickles on my leather shoes. I braved the rains to get there but in minutes I realized that what I braved more was enclosing my feet in those tight shoes that I felt my feet would burst out of them, tearing the genuine leather at the seams. “Mr. Quickie, I need you.” In front of me was a flurry of activities that involved piles of their newspaper. “Must be back issues,” I supposed to myself, turning pensive with the thought, “People should really see beyond the Inquirer and the Star.”
In a couple of minutes, the nice gentleman who attended to me was back with what I asked for in his hands. Just when I was about to pay for it – with my knack for contingency plans kicking in – I asked for another one of the same issue. He looked at me quizzically – frozen in suspended animation as he was about to settle in his seat when I blurted out my whimsical request – but still managed to smile and said, “ok po.” In a jiffy he was back and he handed me the two identical copies I asked for. I tightly clutched my purchase in my hands and was about to go when I realized that he was handing me an official receipt for 14 pesos. “Wow, that was a nice touch for a very measly sum!” The gesture made me love the newspaper more.
With two of the Tuesday, October 6, 1998, No. 1,724 issue of TODAY newspaper in my hand, I left their EDSA office with a very fulfilled smile pasted on my face. I took a bus that plied the long stretch of the parking lot that is EDSA and turned to page eight where Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.’s column “FREE FIRE” would be. The title said, “Really something about Mary,” his take on the then smash hit movie “There’s Something About Mary.”
From my years-old collection of newspaper clippings – Teodoro "Teddyboy" L. Locsin, Jr.'s "Really something about Mary" on his TODAY newspaper column "Free Fire". See the date? That's October 6, 1998!
I devoured his writing in minutes, totally oblivious to the pouncing rain outside or to the other commuters around me who probably thought I was nuts. Worse, nuts in stitches! If it were a fantasy, I would regard his writing genius. The reality though was that it was.
I really felt that anybody who could look that way (his way) at a movie that on face value undeniably appeals to the basest of morality – however pradoxical that may sound – deserves to be president of my country! Especially someone like him who managed to juxtapose this “startling work that succeeds brilliantly in the teeth of its technical inferiority” with the “huge, sprawling works of art that tackle the fundamental questions” and the “modest endeavors that tackle the smaller but equally elemental questions.” … All in all with the goal of helping me understand all the questions of my youth. His column has only been the sole reason I have ever made an effort to look for back issues of ANYTHING. I’ve never felt as passionate for any other writer. I’ve believed that the moment Mr. Locsin writes or talks about something – it is definitely worth my time, or any other Filipino’s time.
Later on, my strong personal conviction that Teddyboy Locsin, Jr. should become president of the Philippines finally showed a relation to reality when I learned that he was speech writer to former president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. I guess that could be as close as any writer could get to being president. To organize the president’s thoughts. To write them down clear, succinct, and grammatically correct. To help the president tell her story to the people. At the very least, Mr. Locsin did just that.
I sorely miss TODAY newspaper. Nowadays, everytime I attempt to reach the end of any other columnist’s ranting and raving, I would fail. Unlike Mr. Locsin whose writing would make my eyes excitedly leap from paragraph to paragraph – breathless in anticipation for the curve ball of thought that waits or the sarcasm that snatches insult out of the jaws of a compliment – most of today’s writers are much like a bed in a five-star hotel. They are so boring they wouldn’t let me get past the first sentence and I’d doze off.
So when I was told that, as expected, Mr. Locsin would eulogize the former president, I stayed put and eagerly waited. Honestly, I stayed put and eagerly waited… to be enthralled by his words and his own unique sense of humor. But what I later realized was that I should have prepared for my heart to break yet another time. It first did when I saw the news catch a glimpse of Mr. Locsin weeping in one of the healing masses for the former president then battling for her life at Makati Medical Center. He then broke down on the phone, on national television, the morning of her passing. So for him to eulogize her at the wake not only showed to me the kind of courage that he must have mustered but also the kind of man he really is.
Sure, a lot of people spoke at the necrological mass. And I shall forever have a clear imprint in my head of that snappy, heartwarming – heartbreaking even – salute that the former president’s long-time close-in security gave her. And sure, for all the admiration I have professed for Kris Aquino – for all the facets of her life that have made her the Queen of All Media – I shall never forget her memorial thank you speech. Though hers was expected to make an indelible mark, she being the former president’s youngest child, I have to say with all honesty that my heart broke the most after hearing Mr. Locsin speak.
As I write this, I cannot get out of my head the vivid picture Mr. Locsin painted of “a knight at the bedside of his dying sovereign, on the eve of a new Crusade, oblivious to the weight of the armor on his shoulders for the weight of the grief in his heart.” And with an anecdote I caution to label as funny, he even allowed me a glimpse into the kind of special bond and rare closeness that he had developed with my generation’s icon of democracy: “And because she always doubted my ability to be good for very long… Indeed, when my wife told Ballsy that I prayed the rosary at Lourdes for her mother’s recovery, Cory said, ‘Teddy Boy prayed the rosary? A miracle! I feel better already.’”
I was really moved by Mr. Locsin’s eulogy. Not so much because he wrote the best tribute. But more so because he was not afraid to share with us the letter of love he has written for our Tita Cory. Yes, he wrote her a letter of the purest love.
"Respect for the reader" – that's what I loved most about TODAY!