Armando J. Malay:
A Man Worth His Salt
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
honoring Dean Malay were released by the Congress of Teachers and Educators for
Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) and CEGP.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.”
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.
journalist for more than six decades, Dean Malay not only practiced journalism
but also taught others how to be a good journalist.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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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