Maguindanao massacre victim’s daughter speechless during ceremony
By Joseph G. Lariosa
Emotion got the better of Julia Mae P. Reblando as she struggled for words after accepting the US$ 1,000 scholarship award from Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association, and Karen Pettite, CJA Charitable Fund president, during the CJA’s 71st Annual Dinner awards ceremony held Friday, Oct. 1, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza in downtown Chicago, Illinois.
As a result, the 14-year-old Julia Mae asked her mom, Mrs. Myrna P. Reblando, to read her message before the CJA officers and several dozens of guests, thanking them for reaching out from another part of the world to give her the award once reserved for Chicago-area senior high school and freshman and sophomore college students.
In one of her stirring messages, the junior high school student said: “There’s no doubt the death of my father, Mr. Alejandro “Bong” M. Reblando, was the reason I am here. If I have my choice, I would rather have been in the Philippines with my father seeing me grow and guide me to be responsible adult individual.
“The absence of my father made me grow a little bit older because I am trying to find an answer why the powerful warlords and politicians would kill my father and 56 other people, including 30 journalists, who were just trying to do their job – write the biggest story of the day – the first time in our area that a politician would like to beat a well-entrenched Philippine Provincial Governor, who does not want to cede his office to anyone he does not like.”
But Julia Mae also interjected a self-deprecating humor into her 520-word prepared message. After thanking Mr. Rafalson, Ms. Petitte and National Press Club of the Philippines in the United States’ director Joseph G. Lariosa, she also paid tribute to “the Philippine Airlines for giving me and my Mom, Mrs. Myrna P. Reblando, Business Class (accommodations). But I really cannot tell the difference between a Business Class and Economy Class because this is the first time I took an international flight.”
She went back to serious business when she said: “From the very bottom of my heart, my mother and my whole family, I have pledged on the grave of my father that there is no rancor in our hearts and that we would like to be model and God-fearing citizens that can contribute to world peace and justice!”
Julia Mae added: “As I said in my application for this scholarship, I just want to continue the profession of journalism that my father started. But also I want to show the people how much I really care about everybody most especially my fellow countrymen, the Filipinos.”
As she ascended the stage, popular Filipino-American community torch singer Ellen Balmadrid warbled the haunting song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” At this point, Julia Mae broke down and summoned her mom to speak on her behalf.
Her presence in the ceremonies prompted the CJA to decorate the event with a Philippine flag for the first time and had Ms. Balmadrid sing the Philippine national anthem (Pambansang Awit), also for the first time. They even asked for the first time to be seated on the presidential table a Filipino newsman (Joseph G. Lariosa) and have him speak during the event to describe Lariosa’s previous association with the fallen Bong Reblando. Lariosa and Reblando were both former staff members of the Manila Bulletin.
Other awardees in the event included Current TV vice president Laura Ling and Current TV Film editor Euna Lee for the Daniel Pearl Awards; Chicago Readers’ Ben Joravsky for the Chicago Journalist of the Year; Former bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune’s City News Paul Zimbrakos for the Lifetime Achievement Award; the Sarah Brown Boyden Awards winners in Commentary, Don Rose of Chicago Daily Observer; Public Service, David Jackson, Gary Marx and Sam Roe of the Chicago Tribune;
Online Journalist, Roger Ebert, Editorial, Editorial Page Staff and Sports, Rick Telander, all of the Chicago Sun-Times; Features, Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune; Investigations, Tim Novak, Art Golab, Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney for of the Chicago Sun-Times; and
Spot News, Ted Cox and Dann Gire, Jim Slusher, Elisabeth Mistretta and Christy Gutowsky, Madhu Krishnamurthy, Deborah Donovan, Ashok Selvam and Ginny Lee, all of the Daily Herald; Photography, Rick West of Daily Herald; Best Series, Jason Grotto and Tim Jones Grotto of Chicago Tribune.
Retired broadcast journalist Dick Kay of WMAQ-NBC acted as the emcee.
The Reblandos arrived in the nick of time Friday afternoon in Chicago for the awards ceremonies. They were provided with complimentary round-trip tickets by Philippine Airlines. They were met at their port of entry in Las Vegas, Nevada on the night of Thursday, Sept. 30, by Mr. Renato Avenido of the usnewslasvegas.com. Mr. Avenido met Bong Reblando, who visited Las Vegas in 2001. (PNA)