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Volume 3,  Number 16              May 25 - 31, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Dean Armando J. Malay: 
A Man Worth His Salt

Dean Malay’s patriotism and activism live on in the national democratic struggle that continues to be waged. As former UP Dean Luis  Teodoro in his newspaper column said, Dean Malay “was more than a human rights and anti-dictatorship activist. He was also committed to a radical vision of a better society and nation.”


His bushy eyebrows and large polo shirt that hanged loosely made me stare at him the first time I saw him. Aside of course from the fact that he was one of the two quiet adults in a crowd of almost 200 constantly chattering campus writers.  But when Dean Armando Malay gave his speech, I stared again, no longer at the eyebrows and colorful shirt, but at the ideals that he passionately intoned.

Dean, as everybody called him, was a favorite speaker in writers’ forums, workshops and conventions. He consistently hammered to us the need for vigilance in defending press freedom and to never compromise and keep our journalistic ethics high.

Thus, although I entered the University of the Philippines long after Dean retired from teaching, our batch of campus journalists had the good fortune of being closely guided by him and his colleague, Ernesto Rodriguez. The two of them attended all major activities of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) at the time, even sleeping in the same sardine-packed dormitories we slept in and taking long, hot trips with us to Cebu, Dagupan and other places. He continued to be a teacher to us, not just of journalism but also of politics and life.


Dean Malay passed away at the age of 89 shortly before midnight on May 15 after suffering a stroke. Within minutes, e-mail and text messages circulated the sad news. 

His relatives, friends, colleagues, former students now editors and senior reporters, and even young activists who did not get to know him, paid tribute to Dean Malay on the last night of the three-day wake.

The first part was initiated by the UP Journalism Department and supported by media practitioners and former CEGP officers and members. Department chair Marichu Lambino hosted the tribute, with Pinoy Times publisher Vic Tirol and former CMC Dean Luis Teodoro, both former students of Dean Malay, sharing their experiences. Former Malaya publisher Joe Burgos also sent a message which was read by his son, while Inday Espina Varona, current vice-chair of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, talked about the threats to journalists today and Dean Malay’s legacy of fighting for freedom of expression.

Lambino and other members of the department also presented a resolution to name the Journalism room in CMC Dean Armando J. Malay Room. A three-minute video that flashed footages and photos of Dean Malay in various activities was also shown.

The second part, hosted by former newsman now corporate executive Mon Isberto, featured speeches by whose lives at one time or another were touched by Dean Malay. They included Today editor Lourdes Molina Fernandez, Bayan Vice Chair Dr. Carol Araullo, artist Boni Ilagan, journalist Malou Mangahas, human rights leader Benjie Oliveros and Magsaysay awardee Bienvenido Lumbera. Present were Sen. Joker Arroyo, former Agriculture Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan, Behn Cervantes, Ricky Lee, Randy and Karina David, Ronalyn Olea and other protest and media figures.

Statements honoring Dean Malay were released by the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) and CEGP.

A journalist’s journalist

Dean Malay was born in Gagalangin, Tondo in 1914 to writer Gonzalo Malay and Carmen de Jesus. He was already into journalism when he was in high school, writing a column in the Torres High School campus paper, The Torch.

He entered UP in 1931, taking up AB Philosophy. Not surprisingly, he became editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian in 1934. After graduation, he wrote for The Tribune where he would spend his first 10 years as a professional journalist.

Dean was also a UNESCO fellow at the Centre d’Enseignement Superieur du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, and an AID fellow at the California Polytechnic and Ohio University in Ohio.

He was with the The Tribune when the country came under Japanese rule. After the war, he and his colleagues put up the Manila Chronicle which the Lopezes later on acquired.

Dean Malay’s column in Manila Chronicle and, later, We Forum was called “With a Grain of Salt.” Cum Grano Salis in Latin, it means to look at things with caution, to be critical. Dean wrote pieces critical of the powers-that-be, but with a sense of humor that made his column enjoyable reading. For example, he poked fun at former President Elpidio Quirino’s rumored golden orinola (spitoon) and his brand new bed worth P5,000, a princely sum in the ‘50s.

Dean was proud of the initially adversarial role of the newspaper. He wrote, “The realization that one can write everything and anything under the sun, without running the risk of being fired for it or his attention called by the management, spurs a newspaperman to giving his best.

“…We in the Chronicle realize that where the issue is one of right and wrong, there can be no choice. Righteousness of a cause, or its lack, is the only consideration taken into account when we sit down to write editorials and columns.”

But when Fernando Lopez decided to run in the 1949 elections with Elpidio Quirino, whose corruption Malay despised and lambasted in his column, the paper started to pressure Dean Malay into toning down his attacks against the president and businessmen who were campaign contributors. A month before the elections, Dean resigned. 

He became editor of the post-war Daily Mail and his columns appeared in the Star Reporter, Evening Chronicle, Malaya, Philippine Review, Manila Times and other papers.

Twice he published dramatic columns that had only titles and with the rest of column blank. The first was for the Chronicle, with the title “The Achievements of Quirino.” The second was for Malaya’s martial law anniversary edition. The title was “The Good Things Martial Law Gave Us.”

In 1982, Dean Malay, together with journalists Joe Burgos and Soc Rodrigo, was detained after We Forum earned the ire of Marcos for its exposé about the dictator’s fake medals.

The Dean

A journalist for more than six decades, Dean Malay not only practiced journalism but also taught others how to be a good journalist.

Dean Malay started teaching in UP in 1954. Even before the Institute of Mass Communications, now a full-blown college (CMC), was established, he was already teaching newswriting, feature writing as well as Rizal courses.

According to a former student, columnist and former CMC dean Luis Teodoro, Dean Malay came to class in a bow tie of which he seemed to have dozens and gave 20-minute quizzes every day.

He was relentless in demanding accuracy and excellence from his students, rebuking those who fail to meet his standards. His irrepressible humor and many stories and anecdotes, mostly from his own experiences as newspaper reporter, columnist and editor, however gave substance and life to classroom discussion.

Even Communist Party of the Philippine (CPP) founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison, who attended journalism and Rizal classes under Dean Malay, wrote in a tribute sent to the family that he was a very engaging teacher who expressed his ideas seriously and enlivened the class with funny anecdotes. Sison said Dean Malay was among the professors who contributed to his maturation as a patriotic and progressive liberal.

He soon became dean of student affairs, holding it from 1970 to 1978 - turbulent but historic years for the student movement, particularly at the premier state university. Despite his position in the school administration, the good dean earned the respect of student activists, whom he supported in their activism. He defended the students who put up barricades in the campus in 1971 to protest oil price and transport fare hikes, an incident which later became known as the Diliman Commune.

The activist

Dean Malay, wearing his Mao cap, was a common sight in rallies from the martial law to Aquino years. He did not only lead the fight for press freedom but was actively involved in the broad anti-dictatorship movement.

He headed Selda, the organization of former political detainees, and Kapatid, an organization of relatives of political detainees, for several years. He was a member of the Council of Leaders of the National Alliance for Justice and Democracy, an alliance of anti-dictatorship organizations. He was also the founding chairman of Karapatan or the Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights.

In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Chelo Banal Formoso was undoubtedly correct when she wrote that Dean Malay need not be remembered with a monument or hall or street named after him. His influence lives on in the work of his former students who are now leading media practitioners.

But in addition to this, Dean Malay’s patriotism and activism live on in the national democratic struggle that continues to be waged. As Teodoro in his column said, Dean Malay “was more than a human rights and anti-dictatorship activist. He was also committed to a radical vision of a better society and nation.”  Bulatlat.com

(Sources: Chua, Yvonne and Sison, Maritess, Armando J. Malay: A Guardian of Memory, Anvil Publishing, 2002; Banal-Formoso, Chelo, “Students’ work is Malay’s Monument,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 17, 2003; Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, i magazine “A Journalist Worth His Salt,” April-June 2002)

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