Conrado de Quiros passed away Monday.
It’s unlikely that the country will see another writer like him. He was an oddity in journalism.
While most columnists are read for their viewpoints and their occasional “exposes,” I suspect many more read Conrad simply for the joy of reading. I know I did.
Many read him not just because they liked his views, but also because they loved how he expressed them. There were people who disagreed with what he said, but still read him. In the cacophony of column writers, his short essays stood out because there was a kind of melody to his words. That was the power of his writing.
When his column stopped being published in 2014 after he suffered a stroke, Philippine journalism felt a little less vibrant. There was a voice missing in the conversation.
Conrad often wrote about poor people who sought justice, the foolishness and abuses of those in power, as well as the mundane struggle of finding something to be thankful for in everyday life. Other columnists and journalists wrote about these things too, but just not like Conrad.
During the height of the so-called war on drugs, our newsroom was flooded daily with reports of ordinary people being killed, with their bodies tied up and faces wrapped in packing tape, the victims’ families wailing beside bloody corpses.
Many of my friends would wonder: “Paano kaya ito isusulat ni Conrad?”
A lot of stories have been written about those times, many even told with elegance and wit. But still people wondered how Conrad would have written about it. His style was unique, and people missed the wisdom, melody, and power of his words.
I was able to work with Conrad for a couple of years in the late 90s. He founded a group called Policy Review and Editorial Services (PRESS) which sought to help NGOs get their stories across to the media. I was already a fan of his back then and jumped at the opportunity to work with someone I deeply admired.
A saying goes: “Never meet your heroes.”
It is wise advice, as far as I know, because you may end up disappointed, even disillusioned.
But that was not the case with Conrad. If anything, I just grew to admire him even more.
While he was already a rockstar of sorts, he never put on any airs and was easy to get along with. He always displayed a sharp intellect and deep understanding of issues, but he never made anyone feel intimidated by this. At the office, he treated everyone like a friend. He was always generous with his time, which was often spent swapping stories, anecdotes, and jokes over beer and brandy.
A lot of times, work would end with a jam session with him playing the guitar, leafing through songbooks, playing the Beatles, James Taylor or Don Mclean while everyone sang along in a semi-drunken haze. He loved music almost as much as writing and drinking of course.
Almost a decade ago, when I heard that Conrad suffered a stroke and would be taking time off from doing his daily column, I was hoping, like everyone else who knew him, that he would bounce back and return.
But the years went by and his pen remained silent.
As the political landscape changed and the same abuses he warned and railed against returned, I prayed even harder that he would come back. As many “influencers” turned ethics on its head and proclaimed viciousness as virtue, and diminished the value of truth, I held on to the hope that someone like Conrad would come along and unravel the foolishness of this lot.
Conrad is unique, and there may not be another voice like his.
Still, one can only hope that he was not the last flower from the rubble.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.