Goodbye Mang Neal, super guard of journalism | Inquirer Sports
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Goodbye Mang Neal, super guard of journalism

He was easily a couple of inches shorter than the small Filipino basketball guard.

It was hard to picture the great journalist Neal H. Cruz donning a basketball uniform. But if he ever tried his hands in the game, it would’ve been as a quiet facilitator, no swagger, no meanness, nothing fancy; but definitely sharp, fearsome and effective.

Neal Cruz was a vanguard against  all forms of foulness, mainly in our national life.

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It was with sadness and disbelief that Mang Neal, a firm and towering  press freedom warrior, fell and hurt his head, thereby resulting in a fatal brain injury that was usually incurred in hard contact sports.

A man of mild manners, he was a magnificently hard-hitting journalist.

There are three adjectives that readily come to mind in describing Mang Neal: sincere, vigilant, committed.

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The great man always had an honest humble smile, even when dealing with subordinates.

He was once overheard telling a visiting group of journalism students, “If you have nothing to say, please don’t say it here.” His candid way of explaining that journalism is not merely meant for employment and livelihood alone but, above all, for service to flag and countrymen.

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A two-time president of the National Press Club, he broke away from the NPC when it fell into disrepute. He formed the respected anti-rot Samahang Plaridel.

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During his years as managing editor of the martial law Philippine Daily Express, he gathered a group of promising artists and photographers, some of them fresh out of college.

He put them, gladly indeed, in what looked like a giant glass cage, the Express Art section, where the talented aspirants were made to interact with selfless masters that included Hugo Yonzon and Larry Alcala, to name only two.

From that informal faculty would emerge the likes of artists Benjo Laygo, Boy Togonon, Danny Franco, together with accomplished photographers Manny Goloyugo, Jun de Leon, and a few others.

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Mang Neal preferred to remain in the background. He fought his own battles but, at the same time, never tired selflessly guiding others to make a mark in their own field.

A man of simple tastes, he was ever the poor boy, in old knee pants, longing for the unspoiled young years in his native Malabon.

It’s no exaggeration to say he had helped provide the difference in raising committed Filipino journalists, who are also equipped with competence and integrity.

Mang Neal, maraming salamat po sa friendship, wisdom and inspiration.

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The cremated remains of Neal H. Cruz, 85, lie in state at the Mt. Carmel Church on Broadway St., Quezon City.

TAGS: Journalism

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