In 1973, President Marcos made Sri Lankan Ronnie Nathanielz a Filipino citizen by virtue of a presidential decree.
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“Son, I do not have a choice”: Ronnie Nathanielsz recalls why he refused to leave Marcos camp pre-EDSA

In this excerpt lifted from his posthumously published memoir, the sports analyst reveals the dynamic he had with his children despite stubbornly and starkly different views. Amidst talks of assassination attempts, his oldest son fervently pleaded for him to stand down. But the Marcos defender would not be deterred. 
Ronnie Nathanielsz | Apr 03 2019

We made it a point to enroll our two daughters, Cleonie and Elizabeth, in the University of the Philippines in Los Baños and our son, Clifford, in the University of the Philippines Diliman. I didn’t wish to influence their thinking or their attitude with my own perception of what was the right or wrong. This helped develop their sense of independent thinking and a healthy, but respectful difference with us about the administration of President Marcos under martial law and the manner in which some of his friends or cronies amassed what my son in particular consider ill-gotten wealth.

My two daughters were far less aggressive in discussing these issues over the dinner table. However, there was one incident involving my daughter Elizabeth.

When then Education Secretary Onofre Corpuz addressed a student forum at Los Baños, he was subjected to grilling by Elizabeth. Corpuz recalled asking her, “Who is Ronnie Nathanielsz to you?” She replied, “He is my father, Mr. Secretary.”

When Secretary Corpuz and I met some days later on a TV interview for Face the Nation, he recounted the exchange with my daughter and credited her for being a smart girl.


Months before the snap election of 1986, Clifford pleaded with me to part ways with President Marcos. This was the same request made by two of my most valued and respected friends and tennis buddies: Danny Gozo, who later joined President Cory Aquino’s media operations, and Eduardo “Eddie” Sanchez, who died in a tragic accident along South Super Highway. The last time he visited me at my home in Parañaque, they suggested that I leave President Marcos and join the forces that supported Ninoy Aquino. I clearly recall telling them that I would never abandon President Marcos. After his term ended, however, I would consider joining them in the Ninoy Aquino camp.

Nathanielsz with his children Elizabeth, Cleonie, Cliff, and Geraldine during his visit in the United States in 2011


More memories from Martial Law days:


As the election approached, my son’s pleas became more fervent. On the eve of the TV coverage of the snap election, he went to my office and begged me not to do it. He was concerned about the “country being in turmoil” and noted that I was “in the front and center in the media representing your views.”

He impressed on me the thought that “the country needed a change” and asked me “to step down from the post and not be the front for what others interpreted as a loyalist view.” He said, “While I know you will stand up for what you believe in, I am fearful for your life hence I am pleading with you to step down.”

Ronnie Nathanielsz (middle), together with Malacañang reporters (right) preparing for the interview with Ninoy Aquino On Face The Nation on March 10, 1978.

As Clifford recalled, my reply was something like this, “Son, I do not have a choice. I have to stand for what I believe in and I would do it even if it was not asked of me.”

I tossed in bed for hours, pondering my son’s plea. In fact, I left our home late so the coverage began with my co-host Rita Gaddi Baltazar, an articulate and talented anchor person perfectly capable of handling the task, all by herself.

When I finally arrived, Rita and the staff, which included director and producer Ed Finlan, were somewhat relieved since they knew of my son’s visit and his plea. My son’s fear for my safety were well-founded.

In a book one of my friends at that time, Gerry Esguerra, published later on, he revealed that he wanted “to make a statement” by assassinating me. Fortunately, Colonel Rolando Abadilla had assigned two crack security men; one to Rita and one to me.

On the way to an interview with Dong Puno, I was instructed by my security escort, who rode in a backup vehicle, to stay close to the center aisle so that no gunman could get close to me. My security was positioned in such a way that they would ward off any threats, which they actually did.

Ronnie Nathanielsz with his children Elizabeth, Clifford, and Cleonie in the 60s.

I had been given a snub-nosed .38 silver dum-dum bullets by Malacañang for my personal protection. But I hated guns, convinced that a gun was an invitation to disaster. And so it was Amelia Lupena, my partner, who used to carry the gun in her handbag, ready to defend me at all costs. It reinforced my affection and respect for her.


The recent launch of the broadcaster’s memoir was attended by different personalities in different sports, including PBA great Robert Jaworski, Tim Cone, and Norman Black as well as the widow of boxing legend Flash Elorde, and the Nathanieslz' youngest daughter Rachael.


Click on the arrows for slideshow

Basketball greats Norman Black, Tim Cone, and Robert Jaworski

Dyan Castillejo

Flash Elorde_s wife Laura Elorde

Former Senator and PBA coach Freddie Webb

Meralco Bolts head coach Norman Black

Ginebra San Miguel head coach Tim Cone

Rachael Nathanielsz

Sports analyst Atty Ed Tolentino

Sports analyst Mike Ochosa

The Living Legend, former Senator Robert Jaworski


My Reflection on 50 years in the Philippines by Ronnie Nathanielsz is available at National Book Store.