IT was my first week as a reporter of the defunct Today newspaper when I got introduced to a chief executive who either thought journalists covering her event should walk away with cash or that slipping money to reporters ensures the story gets published.
But the CEO was stupid enough to ask the reporter sign a cash voucher, a proof he or she was greased.
Joseph Ramos, then a staff of a press relations firm handling the CEO's firm, got the hot end of the rod when my editor-in-chief, that time Jose M. Galang Jr., sent a letter by facsimile to Joseph's boss protesting the CEO's egregious behavior.
That was how Joseph and I became friends.
He was very apologetic and I can't help but sympathize with somebody who exuded such sincerity.
I still have a copy of my editor's letter but the incident crops up only as a laughing matter when Joseph and I chanced upon each other, especially at Pasay B of Makati Shangri-la Hotel.
Joseph was really affected by that incident but can't do anything about it since the company of that CEO remained their client up until he left the PR agency years ago.
Last month, a colleague of him told me Joseph put up an Internet cafe and focused on raising his kids. And his farm in Facebook, most of his friends in the industry may say.
The last time Joseph and I met was when I covered the same CEO's annual awarding event.
But she has stopped the practice of making reporters sign a receipt. At least, her staff neither asked me to sign a paper in exchange for something or give me anything aside from press materials.
As professional as he was, Joseph didn't take it against me for reporting the incident to my editor and for my editor's letter.
He even tried to appease me by treating me and Cathy Llanes to an open-air bar grill in Mandaluyong where I think he acquired the hepatitis strain.
I told him many times that night to lay off on the inihaw na pusit but the conversation was so animated we forgot how extra-rubbery the pulutan was.
The bright side of that illness was he was able to stop smoking and drinking beer, things most male PR I know do as part of their work.
But Joseph is different; he's a unique breed of PR man.
From out of the blue, he would call to pitch a story or event. But never did he press me for having failed to attend such event or for not seeing the story published.
He remained a Sancho Panza to the Don Quixotes of the media: ever reliable but one of the good people to journey with in this world gone mad.
Farewell, good sir, and good night.


TELLER Marvin is P7-poorer because his bosses at the MRTA refuses to apply a campaign by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) encouraging the use of .10 & .05 coins.
I have collected such iris-sized coins, the lowest denomination punched with a hole like a micro-donut, from supermarket cashiers and on pavements my scuffed shoes pound everyday. This proves the dictum that if you look where you're going, you'll stumble on money.
Apparently, the streets, really, are littered with cash.
Just last week, I picked up a crumpled paper on top of a walkway under the EDSA-Quezon Avenue flyover, aiming to throw it away properly. Lo and behold, it was a P20. Bought a couple of candies with it and gave them to street urchins thrusting boxes for alms to pedestrians.
I avoid giving them coins, especially the ones Marvin said he has to replace out of his pockets.
"Aabonohan po kasi namin yan, sir," he told me when I paid for a one-way ticket with the rust-colored coins I ceremoniously taped in groups of P1.
I asked Marvin why they don't tear down a poster, displayed on the glass window beside Teller No. 3, from the BSP encouraging the use of coins. He just shrugged. I was waiting for him to roll his eyes to make me feel like the loony I was as my mother told me I was sometimes, especially as a long line began to form at my back.
But maybe because I have white hair, Marvin may have just refused to show me a WTF-this-guy-thinks behavior. I got my ticket but I felt somehow guilty, like a pimply-teen caught sucking on a joint.
I checked with the BSP and was told the campaign encouraging the use of coins is still on and, in fact, extended up to February next year.
"It's our advocacy as part of our Tulong Barya program to support children's schooling," a BSP corporate affairs staff told me. I looked for the ever-cordial Tita Fe but was told she's in a meeting.
But the guy at the other end of the line was equally helpful, adding the monetary board even inked a deal with the Philippine Retailers Association to encourage the use of coins by their members. A circular was also issued enjoining all government agencies to support such cause.
The staff was surprised when I told him about Marvin's predicament. He promised they will look into it.
"That's unusual for the MRTA to do," he said when I shared the Metrorail Transit Authority (MRTA) bosses apparently pressure their underlings to discourage the public in using the coins.
Hence, I'm not surprised anymore why some consumers give the coins the worth of the sometime smelly thing that comes out of a human hole.
Marvin's whining means the coins are worth shit; equally so is their valuing of the BSP campaign.
I can't blame the public for throwing these coins like they were that 4-letter word synonymous to excrement.
Indeed, if MRTA people like Marvin whine to discourage its use, what's the point of keeping the coins?
I still do, even after that exchange with Marvin but only because they now look good inside a glass bottle, something BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. frowned upon in 2005.
That year, Tetangco said "roughly 10 billion pieces of coins [are] in circulation or about 100 pieces of coins for every Filipino. "
"This is double the regional average of 50 coins per person! And yet, the perception of a coin shortage persists," he said.
Notably, the MRTA was the source of that perception.
But I now doubt these coins can pay for an MRT ticket much less given as alms for the street urchins scattered like the coins in the metropolis.
I can only pray that the attitude towards coins by government employees like Marvin is different when it comes to street children in grime-covered and tattered clothes who sleep on the MRT concrete floors.