By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – In what I still consider as not a very smart decision, I quit my secure and cool job at the Manila Bulletin for an iffy and uncertain future in America.
Coming to America was something I would not jump with joy, having been here a few times before, and the lifestyle was hardly impressive.
But with two young kids and a third on the way, I was prevailed upon to give it a try, with the Marcos regime on the brink of falling and the threat of anarchy in the Philippines a distinct possibility.
So in 1985 we packed our bags and uprooted my family, landing in San Francisco in a cramped apartment, and my in-laws not too thrilled to baby-sit a couple of unruly toddlers.
It was not easy to say the least. I hopped from one job to another – sometimes three at a time – while keeping an eye on a potential newspaper job, the only work I knew I could do.
I wrote for several Southern California community newspapers, hoping to get the much-needed local experience and clips I could use to apply at a more prestigious American newspaper.
That paid off and I found work with the Los Angeles Times Orange County edition, covering local government, school districts, police, courts, and community issues.
From 1992 to 1996, I worked for the paper under an astute editor, Randy Hagihara, who put together a gang of young but eager reporters – and friendships were born that remain strong until today.
One of my closest friends was Mimi Ko Cruz, whose father is Korean and mother Guatemalan, and we found kinship in our Asian heritage.
She was one of the first donors to the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund, spreading the word around about the fund-raising drive, and getting tremendous response from other L.A. Times colleagues.
Hope Hamashige contributed $500, one of the largest donations. Nancy Wride and Shelby Grad chipped in, too. With a planned meeting in August of the BB Club, a group formed in memory of former colleagues Bill Billiter and Bob Barker, more donations may still come.
Those were happy times at the L.A. Times, and I was not only able to hone my writing skills, but also gained the confidence that I can make it to any newspaper in America.
Which may have turned into a curse, not a blessing, as I jumped from one newspaper to another after the Times’ gig. I joined the staff of the Stockton Record in Stockton, California; the Asian Week in San Francisco, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Florida and the Press-Journal in Vero Beach, Florida.
A marriage that has gone sour triggered partly this seemingly endless journey – and when that misadventure finally ended, I had the good fortune of finding the woman I truly love and who loves me in return.
So, it’s now Las Vegas and another writing stint, this time online with the Inquirer.net. I also write a couple of blogs (including Vegas Pinoy), with high hopes of keeping this work for a little longer.
My editor at Inquirer.net, Rene Ciria-cruz, also former editor of Filipinas Magazine, at one time the premiere Filipino-American magazine in the U.S., contributed $100 to the Bert Eljera Kidney Transplant Fund.
For sure my tank is not empty yet, and if I get a new lease on life, I want to continue this writing thing. But that can only happen with a new kidney. A transplant is truly a life and death issue.
I can only achieve it with your help – and the continued support of my Circles of Friends.