Book 2: Nice and Nasty


by Dr. Luis Esteban Latorre 

            As an ex-Opus Dei priest, I came to know Dr. Hilarion M. Henares Jr. only a short time ago.  In the greatest crisis of my life, he played a big role reconciling me to my new status as a married man and parent, as a son to my widowed mother, and as a stranger to the world outside cloister walls.  Contrary to his public image as hard-boiled columnist, Henares is a compassionate human being, with a personality unique in Philippine contemporary scene, and his column “Make My Day” in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, unique in the history of Philippine journalism.

            Grandson of Don Daniel Maramba, Governor, Congressman, Senator, and Grand Old Man of Pangasinan, Henares acquired the distinction, in one of the first experiments on IQ tests before the war, as a Third Grader, of getting the third  highest rating among all the teachers and students in his province.

            A graduate of Ateneo de Manila, University of the Philippines, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Henares is a scholar, an engineer, an economist, dean of two colleges at 25 years of age, a businessman, an industrialist who made his first million at 30; Young Businessman of the Year, Industrialist of the Year, winner of the FAMAS Academy Award for the Best Documentary of the Year; as Chairman of the National Economic Council, one of the youngest Cabinet officials of the land; radio amateur, computer enthusiast, a politician who ran for the Senate together with Ninoy Aquino, and a writer with a compelling masterful style.  Carlos P. Romulo once said that instead of climbing to the peak of one career, Henares jumped from peak to peak in many diverse fields.

            As a columnist of “Make My Day” in the years 1986 to 1992, Henares abruptly changed his style from a lofty scholarly one laced with gentle humor, to one of a slash-and-burn iconoclast, nationalist crusader, a culture-vulture and muckraker, sometimes sentimental, sometimes inspiring, sometimes racked with belly-aching laughter, but always knowledgeable, witty, well-informed and contemptuous of stupidity, colonial mentality, corruption and official abuse.  In those few years, he became the most-read columnist in the Philippines, with 15 readers for every two to five readers of the best columnists of other papers, according to the 1991 and 1992 report of the Philippine Survey Research Center (PSRC), which rates the media for advertisers.

            Just as abruptly, Henares quit writing his column in February 1993 to assume a low-keyed constructive role as Presidential Consultant on National Affairs in the service of the friend of his youth, President Fidel V. Ramos, a role in the decision-making process he has always played with competence and discretion.

            For his many readers who have requested a memento of his years as a columnist, we print a series of volumes to be sold at reasonable prices.  In this his second volume, we present 41 of his columns, chosen at random, circa 1989, for no particular reason than that they represent a smorgasbord of what he wrote every day, something for everybody, yet they are no indication of the breadth, range and reach of his cultured mind, for truly Henares is a Renaissance Man of the 21st century..

            The newspaper column is meant to address the current issues of the day, and is necessarily dated.  But Henares always adds a “millennial component” to every essay that brings into play his masterful grasp of the subject, his appreciation of the past and his vision of the future.

            For convenience of the reader, we grouped the essays under four chapters: Family and Friends; Philippines and the World (Nationalism and in defense of the Filipino); Onstage, Shadows on the Wall (stage and movies); and The Local Scene (commentaries on current and contemporary events).

            We also included an index of every name mentioned in the book (for those who love to have their names mentioned); background of important events and a glossary of terms used, marked in the text with asterisks, and conveniently arranged alphabetically within the index.

            The purpose of his writings, Henares said, “is to enlighten, to educate, to astound, to delight, to amuse, and to imbue with a sense of wonder.”  Enjoy yourself.

Dr. Luis Esteban Latorre
Dept. of European Languages
College of Arts and Letters, University of the Philippines
Columnist, Abante and Manila Standard