I turned my back on a government job

By Herbert Vego

AS a columnist of the Daily Guardian, I am probably the oldest living media practitioner in Iloilo City. It has been 53 years since I started writing for a living in 1970 at the age of 20.

My early days as a freelance journalist in Manila saw me covering the entertainment beat.  One of my achievements in that decade was a book on the then popular singer-actress Nora Aunor, “Getting to Know Nora”.

I have written three more books since then.

I drew modest monthly compensations as a PR man for a music-recording company and a movie outfit.

One of my contemporaries with whom I was writing for the defunct Daily Express, Ricky F. Lo, has died.

One of my trainee reporters then, Cristy S. Fermin, has replaced the late Inday Badiday as the “queen” of gossip purveyors in the print and TV media in Metro Manila.

With the declaration of martial law in 1972, however, even we in the entertainment beat felt the heat of censorship.  Remember the story about TV host Ariel Ureta being made to ride a bicycle for hours as “punishment” for joking, “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan”?

It was a spoof on the widely-aired government propaganda, “Sa ikauunlad ng  bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”

A fellow journalist in the entertainment beat, Linda Buen, applied and was accepted for government work at the government-owned Philippine News Agency. She is now a happily-retired pensioner.

The late Pete Vael of what was then the Bureau of National and Foreign Information (BNFI) – which was under the jurisdiction of Information Minister Francisco “Kit” Tatad – asked me to join him there in 1974. As an AB-Journalism degree holder, I stood a good chance of qualifying.

My immediate reaction was to refuse because I had criticized President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos while still a student journalist at Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU). I could not see myself turning around and bootlicking the regime.

Pete’s persistence, however, changed my mind. He assured me I would not have to praise Marcos to work for a government office.

I comforted myself with the thought that I needed a well-paying job; I was not making enough money for my young family from PR work and freelance-writing.  If I rejected Pete’s job offer, it would be like rejecting the “future.”

I reminded myself of the famous quote, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Armed with a recommendation from Mr. Vael, I went to Secretary Tatad’s office in Malacañang for my pre-employment interview.  The receptionist, however, clarified that Tatad would not be doing the interview. It would have to be his military aide.

She ushered me to an adjoining office where a uniformed, good-looking Philippine Army official came into view. “Col. Vicente Tigas,” so the nameplate on his desk revealed. He stood up to shake my hands.

“Young man,” he intoned firmly, “We have intercepted clippings of your columns in the Quezonian, where you had written negative opinions against President Marcos.”

The Quezonian was the school publication of MLQU.

He asked me to see another military official at Camp Aguinaldo. Only then would Tatad approve my application for employment.

I did, only to be made to sign an affidavit to refrain from hitting Marcos again. Against my will I signed. I made up my mind, however, never to go back to Tatad’s office.

It has been five decades since then.

To cut my long story short – thank God — I have survived and thrived as a private newspaper columnist to this day at age 73.

If that is not more rewarding than retirement in a government office at age 65, I don’t know what is.



THROUGH the initiatives of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas and MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, the Farmers Federation of Iloilo City has grown green leafy vegetables in commercial quantity.

Hundreds of square meters of harvestable vegetables in the urban gardens have presented themselves as proof of sustainable agriculture in the city.

Donated by MORE Power, the seeds were planted in February 2023 in support of City Hall’s food security program and in line with the third anniversary celebration of MORE Power’s third year as the sole power-distribution utility in the city. With such healthy plants sprouting and thriving, expect its lasting impact in community health from now on.

It was actually the second cycle of the mayor’s edible landscaping urban gardening project under the watch of City Agriculturist Iñigo Garingalao.