OUR family joined the throngs of people who flocked to cemeteries last weekend to honor the memories of their departed loved ones to visit my dear son Reyster’s resting place. Reyster Langit, my eldest son, succumbed to malaria 10 years ago after going on assignment to the hinterlands of Rizal in Palawan to document the situation of the Tau’t Batu tribe whose members were succumbing to an illness that would eventually take their lives. Little did my son know that he would fall victim to the same disease, cerebral malaria, along with two other members of our crew.
The Kasangga team walked for eight hours through thick vegetation and spent two days with the tribespeople in hopes of bringing their plight to light. Going in, they knew the assignment would not be easy but what they did not count on was that the media attention would come at a cost of their lives.
After that trip to Palawan, Reyster and I flew to the United States to gather the support of the Filipino community in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. It is there, in a hospital room, that Reyster breathed his last after exhibiting the classic symptoms of infection by Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest among the three common malaria parasites. The doctors in the States, competent as they were, found it hard to diagnose Reyster’s illness at first.
They were untrained in tropical medicine and it was only when news of two other crew members being stricken in Manila that the doctors were able to determine the true nature of his illness. That was one of the darkest times in our family’s life.
In recognition of Reyster’s costly sacrifice, he was honored with the Serviam Award by the Catholic Mass Media Awards. The Serviam Award is given to those who have shown to serve God and the Filipino people by promoting human values through mass media. True to our battlecry of being Kasangga, an ally, my son had always believed in harnessing the power of mass media to help those in need. He had once written, “I have seen the value of helping others. And the most rewarding as a media man, is not exposing the wrong doings of others, but the smile and acknowledgement you receive from people whose lives you have touched and changed in some wonderful way.”
Despite my son’s passing, his legacy lives on and we continue, through the Kasangga Mo ang Langit Foundation he established while he was still with us, to live up to his greatest ideals. In this way, we believe that his sacrifice was not in vain.
I hope that you were able to spend a meaningful All Souls’ Day with your loved ones just as we have.