By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – After getting released from a Marcos jail, I went to Manila in 1975 to embark on a new career – journalism.
Up until then, I did not have a formal training as a journalist, but I always thought I could write (my English teachers said so), and I was sure I could learn along the way.
So I ended up as a reporter on the staff of the Manila Bulletin ( then known as Bulletin Today), writing mostly on sports, and covering the then top sports beat – the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
I worked at the Bulletin from 1975 to 1985, and met some quality people, many of whom are still my friends, and a circle that has provided support in my efforts to create the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.
Ironically, the circle does not include the woman I met there who eventually became the mother of my kids. She’s neither a friend nor a supporter. But that’s a story for somewhere else.
Chelo Banal-Formoso, the top-notch writer then at Panorama, the Bulletin’s Sunday magazine, and Billy Formoso, the assistant provincial editor of the Bulletin’s were some of the first donors to the fund.
They are now both working with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and based in Manila.
Nestor Fernandez of Southern California and Albert Garcia,of Canada, both photography award winners in the Philippines and abroad, also sent cash contributions to the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.
Another former Bulletin colleague who sent in donation was Fe Figueroa Arre, who is now based in Southern California.
I don’t look at the years 1972 to 1975 as lost years, even with the nearly two years I stayed under detention in various military camps in Tacloban and Cebu. I was a little naive maybe, but I thought I was part of a movement bigger than myself.
The seeds of the disease I am paying for now may have been sown during those years of hunger and deprivations, but “Serve the People” was a powerful slogan for me then.
I wanted to die during armed struggle – and be a hero.
Now, I have to do an online “palimos” just to stay alive! Quite ironic!