Bohol’s Choice Cuts
By Loy M. Palapos
December 28, 2014
RUBEN BAUTISTA CAL
THE SELF-TAUGHT JOURNALIST
Finding oneself sometimes takes a lifetime. Many perish sans the realization of his purpose for existence. Others believe they have found their vocation and practice their professions until their twilight years, only to find out that what they have been obsessed with is contrary to what they want in life.
There are times when introspection and the resulting realization come too late. How many disciples of God have acknowledged too late that the vow of chastity is impossible to keep? That the vows of obedience and poverty can metamorphose into some other contradictions unavoidable and incomprehensible?
A devoted priest becoming a hard-core politician. A doctor becoming a nurse. A nurse finishing Law and becoming a judge. A teacher succeeding as a businessman, or a businessman wanting to enter a seminary. A poet ending up an alcoholic in search of his muse. A nun bearing a baby and can only seek comfort in the arms of her mother, after being ostracized. All those happen around us. Endless pursuits that lead nowhere.
Among the many who have no defined targets early in life, there are some who succeed in their Odyssey before the curtain falls. One such lucky man is Ruben Bautista Cal, now the Vice President of the internationally prestigious National Press Club of the Philippines (NPC).
He enrolled at Divine Word College (Holy Name University) and took up Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Accounting. He packed his bags and went to Manila, determined to be a success in the business world. Now, after decades of hits and misses, he is acknowledged as one of the best Journalists the Philippines has ever produced.
Ben was born in Tagbilaran City on November 11, 1945, when the Second World War started to fizzle down. His father, Pedro Cal of Loboc, Bohol, was a teacher. He finished BSEED at DWC and taught at Camiguin High School. He later stopped teaching and worked in the Provincial Treasurer’s Office of Bohol, until he retired in 1985.
His father was an accomplished pianist and, true to his vocation, wanted his son to follow his footstep and become a musician. It was, and still is, the trend among parents in the said municipality. At least as a ticket to get a free college education. But the son had other ideas.
His mother was Milagros Bautista of Dauis, Bohol. She concentrated her time as a housewife caring for six children of varying personalities. But at heart she had a literary gift which she nurtured incessantly. In the 1980’s she was the Social Editor of the Bohol Chronicle. Her father, Andres Bautista, introduced his children to the world of newscasts, at a moment when the primary source of news was the battery-operator radio. He required his children and grandchildren to hear all news and issues generated by the radio. It was not just a friendly persuasive he used as motivation. He conducted regular written tests to verify if his offsprings were updated with current events.
For Ben, there was really no hard choice to decide on. His mother’s affiliation with the Bohol Chronicle, paved the way to his becoming a newsboy, vending the local paper around town, especially to church goes after they attend Holy Mass on Sundays. To augment his meager income, he dabbled as a shoe-shine boy, and gathered and sold bottles in-between chores. This time, his addiction to radio newscast (originally required by his Lolo Andres) germinated in his subconscious the love of news and newswriting.
This affinity bought him to Atty. Zoilo “Jun” Dejaresco, Jr., the Father of Bohol Journalists. He was taken in as a newswriter. Wherever he was he had with him a hand-held radio, and even while walking he listened to national news, which he later transcribed for the Bohol Chronicle. Information Technology then was a bit backward. There were times when, in news broadcasts, the radio he had turned “static”. It was at this time when his mentor, Atty. Dejaresco and Ning Romea, noticed that Ben had the rare capability to digest a newscast in its context and, if there were lines he missed, he could make the necessary innovation to make the news complete. This was his first training in the very competitive world of journalism.
Thus, for more than four years he was the main Reporter and Proofreader of the Bohol Chronicle and Radio Station DYRD News Section. It was a hands-on, do-or-die training he had, not the kind of opportunity and privilege enjoyed by those who can afford well-established schools. He learned from his mistakes. He experimented while improving his craft. He was a self-taught Journalist.
After finishing BSC at Divine World College in 1969 he decided to try his luck in Metro Manila, not necessarily in the field of Journalism. He wanted a change in lifestyle… and venture into the world of business. Odd jobs came his way, which he grabbed to keep body-and-soul intact.
But it was in the world of news reporting that he was drawn into. In 1974 he was taken in as Editor of Guidelines Magazines (Manila). That same year he landed a job as a Junior Reporter of Philippine News Agency (PNA). For years he honed his reporting skill under the tutelage of Joe Pavia, the PNA Editor, who gave him direction in his Journalism career. It took him direction in his Journalism career. It took him 4 years before he was made a Senior Reporter. His big break came when he was given the Defense beat, an assignment he held until 1992. In 1994 he was promoted Senior News Editor. At this phase of his career he was given the privilege to cover Malacañang. The self-made reporter from the countryside commenced his steady ascent in the who’s-who world of Journalism. This proximity to the prime-movers of Philippine officialdom made him a popular figure and an acknowledged writer.
In 2003 he was promoted PNA Acting Executive Director, a responsibility he faced unflinchingly until 2006. Simultaneously, he was assigned Managing Editor, a job he holds until today. On July 2008 he was made News Director on detail at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, a distinguished job he has until the present.
These interlocking responsibilities seldom found Mr. Cal in one place. He has traveled across and all over the Philippines more than a hundred times on news assignments. Those include the MNLF war in the 70’s and 80’s, the devastating earthquake in Mindanao in 1976, and the seven coup attempts from 1986 to 1989.
He was the only Reporter who was allowed to cover the military trial of Ninoy Aquino from start to finish. He has been leading a life of risks, putting his life on edges. There was this crash landing in Cotabato City in 1994, where he accompanied combat troops to their battle-destination. He was shot twice by rebels, one by NPA guerillas in Leyte (1990) when he was aboard an Air Force helicopter, when they were about to land in a jungle area (the chopper was 20 feet off the ground). The chopper suffered 15 bullet holes, but the pilot managed to land on a safer place. In another incident, the helicopter they were riding in was fired at by MNLF rebels while flying over Marawi City in 1997.
While covering local peace talks in the island of Basilan in 1997, the group he was in was virtually surrounded by rebels. They felt helpless; and can only thank God for saving them from utter perdition. He again cheated death in near plane crashes, including that heart-rending incident, where the engine burned while flying from Puerto Princesa to Manila. In the 1989 coup attempt by military rebels, his group was fired at the start of the government offensive on December 1, 1989. The man directly behind him was hit by a sharpnel.
Ruben B. Cal has written and published four books: “FVR through the Years”, (Two Volumes: Part I-1997, Part II-2001), “Gallantry in Mindanao” (2000), and “Live the Dream” (2008), about the first Filipino to climb Mt. Everest. Presently, he is working on two more books about the War in Mindanao.
While establishing his name in national journalism, he augmented his studies by enrolling at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Manila for a Master’s degree in Communication (2004). He also earned 15 units, with Thesis, at the Oxford Center For Religion and Public Life, Oxford, United Kingdom (2006).
He had been a Government Summer Worker Volunteer in 1979. He is a Member of the National Press Club of the Philippines, Plaridel Writers Association, Defense Peace Corps, PNP Press Corps, and Gegrapha.
Mr. Cal actively participated in several seminar-workshops as Trainor, Organizer, Speaker, and Facilitator. Among them were: World Christian Journalist Conference, Washington, DC, (July-August 2008); Europe-Asia Christian Confab, Sidney, Australia (May 2008); Fact vs. Rumor Journalism in the 21st Century World Journalists, Conference, Istanbul, Turkey (June 2007); Reporting Religion as News Workshops, Washington, DC (August 2007); London Conference for Christians in Media, Oxford, United Kingdom (July 2006); 3rd Gegrapha Conference, Washington, DC (July 2001); 1st Gegrapha Conference, London (August 1999); ASEAN Journalists’ Training, Jakarta, Indonesia (August 1985); Senior Journalists ASEAN Tour, ASEAN Culture Commission (1988); and Australian Invitation Tour, Foreign Ministry of Australia (1989). These were aside from the countless seminars and workshops in the Philippines.
Ruben Cal was awarded one of Ten Outstanding Journalists in the Philippines by the Philippine Coast Guard on October 10, 1985. The Philippine Navy, Manila accorded him the Sea Power Symposium in 1979. The Philippine Army gave him a Plaque of Appreciation in 1981. The Philippine Air Force presented to him the Kahusayan Award in 1980. Lately, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Civil Relations Service handed him another Plaque of Appreciation as recognition of his journalistic achievements.
Ruben Cal is married to Fe Morales Ensoy of Villaba, Southern Leyte. They have 4 children. Sharon (32) is a Computer Programmer; Pamela (26) finished Mass Communication at FEU; Benny James (18) is a 3rd year Computer Science student at STI; and John Clarence (17) is a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering student at New Era University.
This well-traveled self-made Boholano writer, now calling the shots at the Philippine News Agency (PNA), has found a niche in the highly competitive world of Journalism.