April 26, 2018, 7:29 pm
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They don’t make publishers like Jake Macasaet anymore

At Malaya’s Christmas party last Dec. 14, Sir Jake’s eyes lighted up while telling me that the Batuan fruit tree that I gave him many years ago that he planted in his farm in Lipa has been bearing fruit nonstop.

He complained, however, that he can’t seem to grow seedlings from the fruits and asked me to bring him another seedling.

I got him one when I went home to Antique for the holidays and was supposed to give it to him when I go to Malaya’s office.

It was therefore a shock to learn that he would no longer be around to plant it.

Ma’am Karen, Sir Jake’s wife, posted this in Facebook morning of Jan. 7, 2018:

“Amado ‘Jake’ P. Macasaet peacefully was brought home by his Creator God at 8:35 am, January 7, 2018 surrounded by his family.

“Thank you for your concern. Today (Sunday, January 7, 2018) will be reserved for immediate family. We thank you in advance for understanding our desire to spend the day with Papa. We will announce the schedule of his wake in Heritage Park, Fort Bonifacio immediately. Thank you.”

One of the reasons I have stayed with Malaya since I joined it in 1983 was Sir Jake, who took over the ownership and management of Malaya from Jose Burgos Jr. after the 1986 People Power Revolution that ended the Marcos dictatorship.

Before he bought Malaya, Sir Jake was the paper’s business editor. He had been a business writer of the Roces-owned Manila Times before Marcos closed it down when he declared martial law on Sept. 22, 1972.

A major change Sir Jake introduced upon taking over Malaya was to make it a “regular” newspaper. 

Malaya was founded during “abnormal times” when the country was under the Marcos dictatorship. It was an “alternative newspaper,” publishing reports that were not touched by the government-controlled mainstream media,” and bore the “leftist” tag.

Malaya’s makeover disappointed a number of people, but Sir Jake, who has never been known for diplomatic language, would say, “If there’s money in communism, I’ll go into it.”

His being a journalist made a lot of difference in the way he ran a newspaper compared to those owned and managed by capitalists.

For one, he was fiercely protective of journalistic independence. I know that first hand. A government official I was covering once complained to Sir Jake about my coverage and wanted me pulled out of the beat. He bluntly told the official that Malaya’s policy on beat assignments didn’t include securing the approval of offices and officials its reporters cover.

Libel suits are a given in a journalist’s life and Sir Jake had plenty of it. But he dealt with it matter-of-factly.

A number of Malaya reporters and columnists led by Sir Jake were among the 45 journalists sued by former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo for libel. One case was memorable because of the strategy Sir Jake and his lawyer used: they put Arroyo in the witness stand.

On the first day that Arroyo was in the witness stand, he was arrogant. Resenting the questioning of the lawyer, he challenged him to a fistfight which the young counsel readily took up by asking the judge for a break so they can “settle the issue outside the court.”

The judge restored order in the hearing but it inspired other respondents and their lawyers to adopt the same legal strategy of putting Arroyo on the witness stand.

The stress must have been too much for Arroyo that he fell seriously ill prompting him to withdraw the cases he filed against the journalists. When Arroyo’s lawyer manifested to the court his client’s decision to withdraw the case, Sir Jake vehemently protested saying, “I want this case to be resolved up to the end.” 

The judge was perplexed. Nawindang.

He has not met anyon like Jake Macasaet.

Sir Jake loved good food and we benefited from the fact that he needed company to indulge in this. 

He liked to think that he was an expert in Chinese dishes and would jokingly and affectionately scold Tsinoy journalists Jullie Yap and Yvonne Chua for not knowing to order the best Chinese dish whenever we ate out. 

One time, she expressed mock irritation when Yvonne was taking time to order. When Yvonne said she was considering the price of the dishes, he poked fun at her, “Why, are you the one going to pay?” 

For all his tough talk, Sir Jake was a softie. He couldn’t refuse anybody who asked for help, financial (a child’s tuition or a family member’s hospitalization) or otherwise.

And he offered help even when he wasn’t asked. When I was undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, Sir Jake reassured me: “You pray, I pay.” During one of my chemotherapy sessions, he personally delivered the money for my medicine at the Philippine General Hospital where I was confined.

They don’t make publishers like Jake Macasaet anymore.
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