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Ode to a Good Friend


By David Haldane

June 10, 2024



I woke up this morning to the kind of news no one wants to hear.

“My papa is gone,” the message began, and immediately I knew that a piece of my world was gone too. It took a while, though, to fully comprehend just what a dear piece it was.

The message came from the daughter of Al Jacinto, a correspondent for this newspaper and my friend of nearly 20 years. The man who called me brother, she informed me, had succumbed to cancer at age 59.

“Thank you so much for visiting my papa when he was still fighting,” she wrote, referring to the last time I saw him. That was just three months ago in Zamboanga City where he spent most of his life.

The visit reminded us both of how we first met there in 2005. I was on assignment for the Los Angeles Times, and Al was my photographer. Our most vivid shared recollection was interviewing a woman in a house pierced by the bullet holes of Muslim rebels. Al and I reminisced on that memory in March as he gave me a tour of the new modernized city in which he took pride.

My other vivid memory of those early days in Zambo was marrying a local woman with Al as my best man. The marriage didn’t last, but the friendship did. And so I can say without reservation that he was my first real Filipino friend.

Al was the consummate newsman. If there was something going on and he could get there, he would. Writing for The Manila Times or The Mindanao Examiner, which he owned and operated, he told his stories in clear, crisp tones. And if there were photos to get, he would get those too even at the risk of his own life or limb. Once during an uprising in Zamboanga, Al told me, he got so close that a rebel bullet nipped his ear.

He was also the consummate family man. He had four children—two boys and two girls—all of whom he put through college on paths to noble professions. And he supported Maritess, his devoted wife of 32 years.

Al did all that by becoming the most disciplined and hardest-working man I’ve ever known. As the monstrous cancer slowly enveloped him, he never gave up. In and out of the hospital, he posted periodic updates on Facebook documenting his medical journey. Here’s the last one, dated just days before he died:

“Admitted to Zamboanga Doctors’ Hospital for a battery of lab tests ahead of my chemo. Chilled a lot of the past nights, on-and-off fever, body ache, weak and tired, headache. Need six blood donors for six units of platelets…Doctors are dealing with [that] now, hence my stay in the hospital is prolonged for several days. So it’s work-from-hospital mode now…”

Probably the kindest thing Al ever did for me was recommend me to The Manila Times which now carries this column. Thanks, brother, I hope you can hear me.

About two weeks ago, Al posted a poem by Dr. M.A. Chaudhary, which I’d like to share.

You came naked,

You will go naked.

You arrived weak,

You will leave weak.

You came without money and things,

You will leave without money and things.

Your first bath? Someone washed you.

Your last bath? Someone will wash you.

This is life!!!

So why so much malice, so much envy, so much hate, so much resentment and so much selfishness?

BE KIND to everyone and do good deeds.

We have a limited time on Earth, don’t waste it in uselessness.

Last Christmas, he gifted me with a magnificent kris, the iconic wavy sword of the Philippines representing bravery, honor, and the resilient spirit of these island people. I have mounted it on a wall of my house that I pass every day. From now until my dying breath, seeing that sword will remind me of Al.





David Haldane is an award-winning American journalist, author, and broadcaster with homes in Southern California, and Northern Mindanao. His latest book, A Tooth in My Popsicle, is available on Amazon. This column appears weekly in The Manila Times.












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