LJM rushed to the altar as I turned to the guests after the wedding Mass. The photographer was preparing to take the traditional shots of the entourage, and my boss noticed that the train of my baby pink duchesse silk satin Auggie Cordero gown (her gift!) needed a little fluffing.
She was working on my veil next when LJM whispered, “Your gown also has to be photogenic.” After that, she took her place beside me and smiled as the photographer counted to three.
I remember the day when I applied as an entry-level reporter. I had just turned 26. Carelessly, I stepped out of my own drunken birthday revelry, went straight to the Philippine Daily Inquirer and took a psychological exam while nursing a hangover.
“It says here you’re not a team player and you’re difficult to work with,” LJM noted as she perused the results.
“But your aptitude tests are good… Do you know Dorô?” she asked. LJM was reading my references and noticed the name of Amando Doronila, erstwhile publisher of the Manila Chronicle where I was still writing at the time.
LJM excused herself and conferred with my previous boss two doors down the hall. When she returned, LJM appeared relieved. “Okay, you’re hired.”
And so, LJM became my new boss. Once, a senator whose child was a victim of a petty crime called to complain that I asked too many questions during an interview. “But Cathy is just being a reporter,” she replied in my defense.
Stern and soft
LJM could be both stern and soft. After the birth of one child, I asked for an extension of my maternity leave. The SSS allowed it but she was adamant.
“Hindi ka naman nagpa-Caesarean, eh,” she blurted out. LJM signed my leave form anyway.
Before I left her office, she reached for her bag, drew out a bill and pressed it in my hand. “Buy something for the baby,” she said.
Years ago, she created Inquirer Libre. I asked for a transfer and explained that the move would allow me to have more time raising my children.
She was hesitant. LJM approached another editor. “What do you think?” she asked. “Payagan mo na,” the other editor replied. “Kesa naman lumipat siya sa (insert the name of another newspaper here).”
So LJM let me have more time with my kids. As the 2010 elections drew near, she issued a memo ordering me to report to the broadsheet. I was heartbroken, but it was clear she needed more manpower.
My father died a few weeks before the polls. Just as I was preparing to leave the wake one night, LJM arrived straight from work with her then secretary (now Inquirer reporter) Nancy Carvajal. It was quite a long trip, but she made the effort. I will not forget that.
I got a call from her a few weeks after the election. “Welcome aboard!” she exclaimed. I was being transferred to the day desk. Eventually, it became clear that I was happier writing stories than editing them, and she allowed me to be a reporter again.
We had dinner soon after. “If you didn’t transfer to Libre you’d be (insert coveted news desk position here) by now,” she said while swirling her goblet of Montes.
LJM appreciated reporters who made an effort to look good on the beat. “Best dressed,” she told me once when I showed up at a meeting in a business suit. I always insist that because Inquirer reporters carry the newspaper’s name wherever they go, they must make an effort to look the part.
She was also happy when reporters made an effort to read and learn new things. She was visibly glad when I showed an interest in paintings.
And LJM really loved inside stories about news sources. She once chided me for not telling her enough. “We’ll have dinner sometime and do that,” she insisted.