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Master wordsmith passes

Chito Lozada

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Crispin Martinez

Veteran journalist Crispin Martinez, former Daily Tribune executive editor, passed away yesterday; he would have turned 85 on 19 November.

Mang Cris, as he is known in the industry, can be the last of the knights of Philippine journalism in the league of Roy Acosta, Cip Roxas, Pocholo Romualdez and Butch del Castillo who had earlier moved on to the great divide.

They were considered knights because they hold on to the commitment to keep the integrity of the newspaper business through accurate reporting of stories.

Among the pioneers of Daily Tribune, Mang Cris would proudly recount his having started as a proofreader at the Philippines Free Press before he was assigned to do stories in the same paper, which started off his long years in the newspaper industry.

In all, Mang Cris had put in more than 50 years to the trade, which is among the longest for a Filipinos writer.

“To become a journalist, you might as well start from proofreading, that’s the best training ground,” he would always tell members of the new generation who are eager to learn.

Old hand
From the Philippine Free Press, he went on to Manila Times as a reporter when the late Chino Roces was the publisher. He covered then the immigration, foreign affairs and education beats.

He would fondly recall that Roces was easy to deal with, “and he took good care of his reporters. Whatever you needed he would provide as long as these were job-related.”

From Manila Times, Mang Cris moved to Evening News from 1966 to 1971 and then to Manila Chronicle as deskman when martial law was imposed that resulted in the newspaper, owned by the Lopez clan, being padlocked.

Mang Cris, along with some other newsmen who were affected by the crackdown on opposition newspapers then, opened Evening Post, which was an afternoon paper. He first worked as a deskman in the newspaper and progressed to section editor and managing editor.

In 1981, he then joined WE Forum, which was the only opposition paper during martial law and had Jose Burgos as publisher.

“We (Burgos and he) started at the same level as reporters when I was with the Manila Times. He was the chief of the police reporters. I was covering different other beats,” he recalled.

WE Forum was ordered closed by the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos as a result of a story about his supposed fake medals in World War 2.

Press defender
He was arrested along with Burgos, the late Iloilo congressman Raul Gonzales, Soc Rodrigo, Dean Malay of the University of the Philippines, Chino Roces, former National Library director Ernesto Rodriguez and other personnel of the newspaper.

Mang Cris said they were detained for seven-and-a-half days and were released in “the spirit of Christmas,” since it was almost the holiday season then.

Being arrested under martial law was a badge of honor, according to Mang Cris.

Over bottles of beer, he would unveil his rich experiences as an editor and his being one of the richest source of guides in writing eloquently or what is known as the King’s English.

A salute to the old guard of the newspaper business is in order. May his tribe increase.

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