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PUBLISHER’S NOTES| On Fighting Back Tears: Go Ahead and `Cry Your Heart out’

(I wrote this piece in August 2014 after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he was seen by the audience as “almost breaking down to tears”.)
When  I wrote last time mentioning about President Aquino holding back tears during the SONA, I got several comments from  Facebook. One of them recalled how reputedly  “hardy and  steely”  Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte, unabashedly shed tears holding in his arms a young child who died,  an innocent victim during the rampage of penal colony escapees who shot it out with the authorities, using hostages as shields  attempting to breach the government cordon right in the PNP headquarters in downtown Davao City. Many innocent lives  including  all the hostage takers died in that carnage. That was sometime in 1995.
BEING HUMAN –Yes, I too  fight back tears on occasions — just like all of us do. Shedding tears or crying are perfectly human expressions of emotion  that at certain times are uncontrollable and unavoidable. And just like everyone else, we try and hide and allow a tear to fall without immediately reaching for that ubiquitous handkerchief, or just dabbing   the side of our eyes  to prevent a welling. I enjoy watching public figures like movie stars do that with finesse.
 “CRYING-EST” — I remember my late father, Martin, was the “crying-est” person I knew. He would cry even when angry. Once, he was crying  aloud  as he  whacked me with a broom  after a firecracker  I carelessly ignited  exploded near my face. He would shed tears as he would breakup fights among  relatives or neighbors. At times, I could hear him cry when in an argument with my mother in the other room. “Mababaw ang luha” ( tears are shallow) was  a usual description of him. My mother Amparo however, was always in control of her emotions, as far as I can remember. I have never seen her cry or maybe I just missed those moments. In my case, I confess I am easy to tears like my father but I always try hard to fight them back, especially when in public.
 SENATOR “LANDRING” — The most notable “crying” politician I can recall was the late Dabawenyo Senator ALEJANDRO “Landring” ALMENDRAS  whose public speeches were never complete without shedding tears on stage.  And the crowd loved him for that. Then, there was one movie years ago I watched where I could hear some moviegoers just sobbing away and crying out loud during that movie.
PLANE CRASH — I had a few unforgettables of my own.   In 1998, when I was crisis manager during a plane crash in Mindanao, I could not help but publicly shed tears during a briefing session in a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City with angry and noisy relatives of missing passengers. I recall it was the third day after the plane crash but the remains( there were no intact bodies)  could not be brought down yet from the mountainside by helicopter and the relatives were already angry and shouting at us during the public briefing.  What I felt  then was a mixture of anger, frustration, exhaustion mixed with grief. I stopped in the middle of my talk just allowing tears to flow when I started choking. The good part was that everyone noticed and they all stopped and stayed quiet. Somehow, they felt that we, who were helping, were one with them. Because of  that incident, our succeeding briefing sessions became orderly.
CALAMITOUS — Here’s another unforgettable,  but it happened during  a private chat-interview  with Journalist CAROL ARGUILLAS after   another hostage-taking incident inside the Davao Penal Colony also in 1998 which I handled.
HOSTAGE-TAKING — After about 3 days of futile negotiations for a peaceful end, an assault operations had to be launched resulting to the death ( some called it “neutralization”) of  8 prisoners-hostage -takers and the safe recovery of DAPECOL employees, mostly ladies, except for the death of one hostage,  Mrs. CORDA who was caught in the crossfire in the close-quarter assault.  It ended  a crisis situation that could have  turned worse.   I kept my composure all throughout even in the hospital where the wounded were taken and in the morgue where I had to console the grieving.
 CAROL’S ACCOUNT –When I emailed Carol my recollections of that event,  she gave a  more accurate account.  Here’s how Carol recalled those moments with her. She  sent this to me:
“It was just hours later, in your office ( after the assault) , I think the question was more on the criticisms about collateral damage, that you risked the lives of so many people (a difficult question to ask especially hours later). You were talking about the family of Mrs. Corda and your voice was breaking as you were narrating how you talked to them. Then you fell silent. When I looked up from my notes-taking, tears were welling in your eyes, and as they started falling, you turned around in your swivel chair and sobbed. I didn’t know what to do. I certainly did not expect to witness that very private moment of vulnerability/grief/pain.  I think I rushed to ask your secretary for a glass of water.
I remember the interview continued after you regained composure. “
Yes, although the assault operations was touted as “a success” I  realized that no operation could be that successful, if people died,  whether hostage-takers or the lone hostage.  I grieved for Mrs. CORDA who was helpful during the stand-off giving me secret notes and tips. The pent-up tension that built up for days just gave way.  I just literally  sobbed and turned my swivel chair towards the wall. Of course, Carol didn’t include that part in her one-page story at the PHILIPPINE  DAILY INQUIRER that came out later. ( She emailed me a postscript:.” …you know how difficult it was not to write about your crying????? but it was just too private to be made public…)  I emailed her back saying that I would not have minded if she did.
 CAROL CRIED TOO  — I guess, others have their own “teary” stories to tell. CAROL, the veteran journalist, had this to say, recalling one episode when she joined me in a “mercy mission” to collect the dying at the height of a mass poisoning of villagers in some remote areas in Maguindanao. At that time, the 8- month drought caused by El Nino in 1998 forced residents to scavenge for root crops for food.Unfortunately, a cassava variety that grows in the wild called ” kayos” if not properly washed and cooked could be poisonous. I remembered my wife Beth was with me  in Cagayan de Oro enroute to Manila on a commercial flight when I got a call from President Ramos to immediately proceed to Maguindanao to attend to the emergency situation. Unable to leave Beth alone in CDO, I got her on board a Huey helicopter ( her first heli ride ever) and we flew down south instead to the afflicted areas. Beth who was not used to crisis situations such as this one, however managed to help  attending to the victims, mostly children. Carol, then writing for a Davao newspaper and the INQUIRER was somehow in one of those trips. Here is her own recollection: “Remember, we helicoptered a baby boy from the”kayos” area to the hospital in Cotabato City but the boy died hours later. I called up the hospital when we returned to Davao from Cotabato that same day. I was told the boy died an hour or so earlier. ‘Nihilak gyud ko’( “I really cried.)” . So there.
 GO AHEAD, CRY — Yes, whether they are tears of joy, or of anger or frustration or grief or just plain “letting go” of emotions, go ahead and cry —  not in public if you can help it. But crying or shedding tears is good. And unless they are “crocodile tears” ( defined as insincere or fake or make-believe tears,) then go ahead and cry your heart out. It’s therapeutic! And nothing to be embarrassed about! I now suddenly remember the song that goes something like: “I cry a river over you!”
Yes, go for it but  just be sure, you don’t get drowned in your own river of tears!
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