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Only In Hollywood

Readers inspired me all these years

By: - Columnist
/ 12:40 AM July 30, 2020

LOS ANGELES—As my column is terminated by the Philippine Daily Inquirer after 15 years as a cost-cutting measure, I look back with fondness and gratitude on the comments that readers sent me, mostly via email.

Tomorrow, July 31, my “Only IN Hollywood” column makes its last appearance on this paper.

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Reading these emails made the late nights, care, effort and attention to detail that I poured into the columns so worth it. These notes came from folks of various ages, from all walks of life and different parts of the world.

Of course, there were the usual brickbats. What I have learned since embarking on this column in 2005 was that you can’t please everyone. You make one lapse and folks like to latch on that one, while never bothering to drop you a note on the 99 other times that you did not err.

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Some of the readers who wrote emails to me became my personal friends. I met them in person.

I share below some of the notes I received. They were edited for brevity and picked to represent the feedback I received with gratitude over the years.

Elton John

Reader name withheld upon request: “I’m sure you don’t know me but I’ve been a regular reader of your columns for years, along with those of Nestor Torre and the late Mario Hernando… Your recent article (first part) in the Inquirer (May 30, 2019) on the great Elton John was very moving, personal and compassionate.

“It actually almost moved me to tears, but I had to suppress it since I read it in the middle of a coffee shop here in Manila. Nonetheless, I just wanted to express my gratitude and pride that a Filipino journalist like you, a kababayan, can contribute to great writing in the global arena.”

Jose “Pete” Lacaba, a respected man of letters, whose many awards include a Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for poetry, wrote in 2009: “I read your column regularly, especially when you write about what you call ‘the Filipino connection.’ My own term for that is ‘Pinoy connection,’ but I like your term because I can abbreviate it as TFC.”

This made me smile—from director Raya Martin’s father, Perfecto “Boy” Martin, also in 2009: “Many thanks on behalf of … the Martin-Lopez family, for your two-part column on Raya! I will always remember what my 7-year-old grandson Miguel asked when he saw the Inquirer: ‘How did Tito Raya get into the newspaper?’ ”

Ali Caronongan: “I’m a huge fan of your column. I have been following it since it started. It was one of the things that inspired me to pursue my path as a features writer. What you’re doing is actually what I consider the best job ever—you get to meet people, exchange and hear their stories, and write it down for people to read about. It’s one of my projects to actually write a book about the people I’ve met so far and my sit-downs with them.

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“Right now, I’m starting out with upcoming bands because I love music so much and can’t wait to actually meet the musicians who inspire me. My parents are doubtful of the path I’ve taken. But reading your column gives me hope that I can one day make something out of what I’m doing.

“I may not earn the big bucks the ‘corporate standard’ currently preaches. But the thrill of meeting people and listening to what they have to say is something I would devote all my lifetime to doing.

“I’ve been wanting to write to you for the longest time, Sir. Your articles make the celebrities real. I find it fascinating how I get something out of each and every piece you’ve done—it’s entertaining and heartwarming to read about how normal they are. Underneath the celebrity facade is really another person with stories waiting to be shared.”

Rita Amigable: “Thank you so much for all the years of your service to the Inquirer. I will certainly miss your column. While I cannot exactly pinpoint which articles you wrote that are memorable (since there are too many to mention here), I have thoroughly enjoyed your engaging stories with Hollywood royalty.

“My favorite part is when you inject Filipino flavor in most of your interviews, which makes me proud that you are representing our country in Hollywood. Indeed, your work is miles away—no, they do not even compare—from the trashy and controversial tabloid pieces of today.”

Moli Galian: “I wrote to you a couple of times about how I am a big fan of your column. I was so disappointed when I read that they will discontinue your column because of cost cutting … Please, don’t go.”

Mindy Kaling —PHOTOS BY RUBEN V. NEPALES

This was one of Moli’s earlier emails: “I am an Indian who was born and raised in the Philippines. I read your article about Mindy Kaling a while ago. I was so glad that you wrote an article about her. Growing up, I was watching American TV all my life. I never saw a character who looked like me. When I came to the United States, there were no Indian actors on TV and film.

“Everything changed when Mindy Kaling came along. I look up to her because like me, she is also a writer. She is a wholesome character. Because of her, a new wave of Indian actors was seen on both small and big screens. I am proud of that and I am proud of her. Thank you.”

Christina Gladson: “I first got interested in your articles in PDI in July 2006. I was just naturally drawn to them. When I sent my comment that time (although I can’t remember anymore for what article), I was so excited when you replied. You just recovered from an accident. You were even apologetic for not replying right away. Nabaitan ako sa iyo.

“From then on, I got so inspired sending my comments to you. I don’t have a PC at home kaya pumupunta pa ako to my kuya’s house or to an internet shop.

“All of your articles are very interesting. I can’t single out a particular favorite. You are so humble and charismatic. I’m very happy, honored and privileged to have known you.

“Even if your column at PDI came to an end, I know that better opportunities are still coming your way. I look forward to that. You won’t be forgotten.”

August Palma, who has become a friend, started emailing me when he lived in Bohol and now, he’s in London where we met for the first time:

“I’ve been an avid reader of your column for more than a decade. I remember when I used to get PDI print copies back home. Anticipating to flip the pages to read your next article is like opening a gift!

“Your column is also where I found out about our shared fondness for Blackberry and from then on, we stayed in touch. Eventually, it paved the way for me to meet you and Ms Janet in London a few years back. Thank you very much, Sir Ruben! I hope your award-winning column will find a new home!”

E-mail: [email protected]
Follow him at: twitter.com/nepalesruben

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