A calm center in the midst of frenetic activity—that was my first impression of Letty. Or at least, it’s the one that remains nearly 30 years later.
It was the first few weeks after Edsa ’86, and I had come to the bedlam that was the old Madrid restaurant where Mr. & Ms. Special Edition and the newly minted PDI were crammed together during that brief window before the torch was passed between the two publications.
I had come to pitch a story, a profile on Gringo Honasan, about whom there was still intense public curiosity. I made the approach through my compadre Billy Lacaba, who was Letty’s right hand at Mr. & Ms.
I was nervous because Letty was already a legend in Philippine journalism after her stint at Panorama, widely admired for her spunk and fearlessness. I was half-expecting some kind of holy terror.
Besides, I had a very thin portfolio as a freelance writer, having published only a handful of stories in the legitimate press.
It was the voice that set me at ease, instantly. Something about its low register, with the slight hint of a rasp, punctuated by the occasional cackle, seemed to calm my nerves on a vibrational level. (To this day, even just the memory of that voice has the same effect.)
I made the pitch and—to my surprise—she said yes. A few days later I returned with the piece, neatly printed double-spaced from a dot-matrix printer. I sat nervously as she gave the copy the once-over. I was dreading, well, not outright rejection, but at the very least a scathing critique and a major rewrite.
Another surprise: She accepted it. Several days later, my piece appeared in Mr. & Ms.—a cover story, no less.
I was over the moon, despite being roundly chided by my friends on the Left for writing such a puff piece on someone they considered a human rights violator.
For a moment I did entertain some doubts. But it had passed Letty’s scrutiny, and that was good enough for me.
That Mr. & Ms. piece became my calling card when I applied at another newspaper a few months later. And when I joined PDI after five years and was reintroduced to Letty, who had just been named editor in chief, I was extremely flattered that she still remembered that one story.