MANILA, NOVEMBER 23, 2007  (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - The problem with time is; there’s no stopping it! Tomorrow is the first death anniversary of my mentor and a very dear friend, Sir Maximo V. Soliven, publisher of The Philippine Star who came into my life 21-years ago as I picked him up at the old Mactan Airport terminal as he was the most wanted guest speaker in Cebu especially in the post Marcos Dictatorship era. Everyone who knew Max Soliven knew him as a brave journalist in the years prior to the declaration of Martial Law. His numerous fans in Cebu wondered why he was incarcerated with the famous Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and why he was freed and Ninoy kept for many years more?

Sir Max resurfaced as a columnist of Mr. & Ms. Magazine where his columns were treasured in Cebu… which was then the mainstay of the anti-Marcos opposition. Whenever Inday Nita Cortez Daluz and Rep. Tony Cuenco held street marches, those stories would end up in Sir Max’s columns so at least; Cebu had a voice in the so-called “Mosquito Press” during those times when the Internet or Blogging was yet to be invented. Those were the days when the main-stream national dailies were nothing but propaganda organs of the Marcos Dictatorship and truth was suppressed beyond anyone’s imagination or comprehension. It was only to the columns of brave journalists like Sir Max who told the Filipino people the real truth.

Here I was, waiting to meet an icon or a giant in Philippine Journalism, publisher and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI). I considered myself lucky to be assigned as his driver. I greeted him in the airport tarmac (those were the days when security was not as tight as it is today) and he was lugging a bunch of blue and yellow newspapers, which turned out to be The Philippine Star. I found myself in a difficult situation meeting a man whom we invited as the publisher of PDI and he arrived as the publisher and columnist of a new unheard of newspaper?

Here was Max Soliven explaining to me (I was then the vice president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Inc.) why he was now with The Philippine Star and why the late Betty Go-Belmonte, Art Borjal and the rest of the crew moved out of the PDI. It was a risk that they all took and a year ago… when The Philippine Star celebrated its 20th anniversary, Sir Max (he failed to attend this celebration due to intermittent bouts of pneumonia) told me the next day at the Manila Golf Club that in hindsight, it was the best thing that they ever did. 21 years later, The Star is the no.1 newspaper!

Sir Max as written by his daughter Sara Soliven de Guzman in her column “As a Matter of Fact” last Monday “From being a shoe shine boy to a cigarette vendor who worked his way up to college and established himself as an eloquent speaker and well-respected journalist.” Allow me to add that Sir Max was directly responsible in producing two of the biggest newspapers in this country today, PDI and The Philippine Star and no Filipino journalist can equal this feat in two lifetimes!

I submit that one year after his passing to a better life in eternity I still miss Sir Max a lot… especially those times when Sir Arthur Lopez and Babes Romualdez and I would roam around in the Glorietta whenever I get to come to Manila. Today, whenever I go to the Glorietta, it seems empty. As Sara wrote last Monday, “When you lose someone you loved so dearly, one who means the world to you—the world suddenly seems empty and life is no longer worth living. You feel that joy has left you forever.” How very true Sara!

Whenever I meet old friends or readers of Sir Max, they would always ask, “Who will replace him in The Philippine Star?” I always answer them that there will never be anyone who could ever replace Sir Max. He was a one-of-a-kind Filipino in our nation of 86 million people. This is why when he got a posthumous Order of Lakandula Award from President Arroyo, I felt that it was a fitting send off to the man who told the truth to his countrymen when the Truth and Freedom of Speech was denied to our people by those who seek to ruin our land.

I will never forget one of the stirring words that Sir Max wrote, which was printed in posters with his picture, “Let’s get our country going—on rails, in the air, and by sea. And we’ll see a new dawn for our country weighed down by traffic, inefficiency, bureaucracy, corruption—and a sense of drift.” I knew Sir Max enough to think just like him when faced with our nation’s usual problems of too much politics, corruption and injustice. Today those same problems continue to plague our nation and we must as a duty carry on the fight that Sir Max fought for so long in order to make this nation a better place for all Filipinos. Tomorrow, a Holy Mass will be said in his memory at the Redemptorist Church in Cebu City at 5:30 p.m. We miss you Sir Max!

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved