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Nestor’s legacy

By Jullie Y. Daza

The twilight of the paper gods has come. And gone. It is now the eleventh hour, the hour before midnight.

Midnight being the deadline when print journalism is supposed to go out like a light, paperless forevermore.

Whethermidnight comes in 5 or 10 years, friends and colleagues bid a fond farewell today to the oldest member of their tribe, Nestor Mata, 92, who reported and commented on the fables and foibles of ten presidents from Magsaysay to Duterte.

Nestor had two birthdays: Jan. 16, 1926, the day he was born, and March 17, 1957, when he was reborn as the only survivor of the plane crash that killed President Ramon Magsaysay and everyone else on board, on a lonely mountainside in Cebu.

Nestor did not like talking about the crash, but occasionally he let down his guard to share bits and pieces of the story. At that time, JV Cruz was RM’s press secretary but he missed the plane that fateful day “because he had had one drink too many the night before.” Before his assignment to Malacañang, Nestor covered the Philippine contingent (PEFTOK) in the Korean war, where he met an army lieutenant who would decades later become president of the Philippines, Fidel V. Ramos. Also in Korea then was Benigno Aquino Jr., whose widow would become president, whose government would label Nestor a “crony” of her sworn enemy, Ferdinand Marcos. Eventually, Nestor was dropped from the PCGG roster, but in the meantime the joke was that secretly, he did not mind the tag despite his so-called conspicuous absence of wealth.

I am not anywhere near Nestor’s age, but our paths crossed in so many ways. As loyal alumni of UST, we taught in the same Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. When I was editor of the original Lifestyle Asia magazine, he was our Gray Eminence, managing editor. At Manila Standard, he was leaving just as I was going in. At Myther’s Thursday Club we shared the same table, where the rule was no smoking, no shouting, no political debates (only “factual” if unprintable rumors were encouraged). In other conversations, we snickered at the gaffes that appeared in our own and other newspapers. Nestor, baritone, loved to sing, and I was there to enjoy the music and the food.

Linda, Nestor’s nanny, cook, secretary, bodyguard, and fellow churchgoer – he attended mass every day at dawn – will try to gather every page of a flurry of sheets of paper that are all over the house. If an editor can be found to do the work, his memoir will form the history of a nation as witnessed by a journalist of his time(s).

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