April 25, 2018, 10:05 pm
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The last man standing

By ERMIN GARCIA
Former executive director Philippine Press Institute

Eulogy for Jake Macasaet
Jan. 10, 2018, Heritage Park

(as delivered)

If there’s anyone who can speak of what our revered friend and colleague Jake was to the Philippine press with authority, that would have been the late Chino Roces or Raul Locsin, late publisher of Business World or IsaganiYambot, late publisher of Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI).

But I guess the three chose to form the welcome committee up there instead. The fact is, Jake was the last man standing, until last week, from the golden age of Philippine journalism – they who set the standard for ethical practice of journalism in the country after World War II. So bear with me in lieu of the great journalists and publishers.

Jake was elected chairman-president of the PhilppinePress Institute (PPI) for 12 consecutive years initially from 1995 only to be elected again twice for two more years in 2011.

I know this because he had me appointed as the institute’s executive director when he was first elected in 1995. He stepped down as chairman-president in 2009 for reasons of health and turned over the reins to then PDI publisher IsaganiYambot. But PPI members elected Jake again in 2011 for two more terms after Yambot died.

What made Jake durable as a leader of a sector whose members never share a common view, are very opinionated and a rambunctious group that knew and had all the answers to the problems of the world?

Jake, like the late Raul Locsin, was one of a kind. Both were not professional publishers hired by corporations that owned and operated Manila dailies. Both owned their newspapers and were their own bosses. Jake reported to no one, except to Karen.

He understood and embraced wholly the responsibility to do what’s good not only for Malaya but for the print media. We kept electing him because we knew and shared his principles and standard for press freedom, independence and ethical practice.

I recall one conversation with him. As many are aware, one of his good friends was President Erap Estrada. Sabidawni President Erapsakanya -- “Jake, bugbogakosa media, magsulatkanaman ng magandatungkol said akin.” Sagotdawniya, “Boss, president kana, publisher langako,” suggesting he could not help him.

So I asked him why he refused to help, Jake said “President langsiya, ako publisher” with that knowing smile on his face. That’s the independent Jake for you.

Which was why issues on press freedom and code of ethics never had to be debated by the PPI board of trustees. Under Jake’s direction, the only decision to be made was how to execute plans to defend press freedom and independence and enforce the code.

Because of his leadership, foreign and domestic foundations and corporations never had to think twice about supporting the institute’s Philippine Press Council and training activities for regional newspapers. But he too had battles to fight. I saw how he struggled to cope with technology having known only the typewriter as his lethal weapon all his life as a journalist.

He initially resisted using the computer.

He dreaded the thought of turning on a computer because it would expose him as knowing nothing about it. It intimidated him but he was obviously curious. So I advised him to buy a laptop so I could teach him. He made that leap, bought a laptop and he asked me to show him the ropes, from turning on the laptop to how start a document specifically how to use Microsoft Word and how to open an email account. T he whole time he was cursing Bill Gates for making his life complicated. But through it all, he humbled himself and fully submitted to the demands of technology.

How did I know? It was the day he asked me to send him an email...and a text message. Jake had a wry sense of humor that he foisted on anyone if given an opening.

When he and the guys start our usual mentalk, you know... macho talk -- he always had this reminder, actually pricking egos - he always said “Beware of the jealous husband!” That always stopped the group, and he would laugh.

The first time I had to visit him in the hospital years back, he asked me. “Why are you here? I’m not about to die yet. Masamangdamoito.” Then he broke out laughing. He loved laughing at himself, truly a self-effacing guy.

He also unabashedly admitted that if he acted and talked like a rich publisher, it was because his son Allen made him one. Hecredited Allen for the family’s success in publishing. “Magalingyongbata,” he kept saying.

As we found more time working together, I learned more about him. He was first and foremost a business and economic reporter,writer-columnist, and editor-publisher, second.

When people asked me about the prospect of selling my newspaper The Sunday Punch, I tossed the same question to him.

Would he consider selling Malaya in the future? He said that perhaps for the right price and at the right time, he would consider it but his baby, Business Insight will forever stay with him. He made that clear distinction – he acquired Malaya to give it the Macasaet brand but he created Business Insight as his own brand.

Malaya may not be its father, but he left an indelible mark that reads it’s Jake’s newspaper. But Business Insight is about Jake Macasaet from the very beginning. And PPI is what it is today because PPI believed in him.

Well he be missed? Of course. We only had one Jake Macasaet.
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