Rod Reyes risks his life

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2014 - 12:00am

The name Rodolfo “Rod” Reyes is a familiar one to those who are in the world of journalism. It is not an occupation that parents tell their children to embrace since it may often be dangerous. In fact, it is not an occupation, but a calling. Rod is best remembered as the Manila Times reporter who on Feb. 13, 1961 went undercover to document the notorious dope den in Malabon. Disguised as a heroin user, he penetrated the den and mingled with hoods, thieves and drug users in the area.

Rod recounts his experiences and ordeals, which made the front pages of The Manila Times. “The owner of the house, incidentally, is a barber. While Mike was giving Juaning a haircut, I slumped on the wooden bunk and some of the addicts and bouncers inside struck up conversation with me. Their first question was always, ‘How long have you had the vice?’ I told them that I had been smoking heroin for less than a year. One suggested I take the drug by injection saying I would feel better and stronger if I took it through the mainline. I could see their arms pock-marked with needle scars and I told them that my parents would be up in arms if they saw the scars on my arms. They let me alone afterwards when I pretended to look very sleepy from the effects of the drug.

“All the while, I was listening and half-opening my eyes. From their conversations, I learned that all the hangers-on at the den were either ex-convicts or men in hiding wanted for some offense or another. One was flashing a warrant for his arrest for serious physical injuries. Another recalled how he allowed himself to be ‘used’ in an abnormal sex act inside Muntinlupa. Still another recounted how he was nabbed for vagrancy at the South Harbor. I learned that the place was not only a dope den, but a thieves’ hideout. The young addicts stole, snatched, picked pockets and robbed people just to satisfy their craving for dope. Many are members of the notorious Bahala Na gang. There were other things I learned as I sat sleepy-eyed inside the damp den. I found out that to camouflage their drunken appearance, the dope addicts drink beer — but not more than a bottle — to give them alcoholic breath. (Heroin and alcohol don’t mix. Anyone who takes both at the same time blacks out).”

Two days later, with proper planning, coordination and upon the signal of Rod, the NBI raided the place. As expected, the feat was all over television, with each station competing with one another to get the best interview first.

In 1977, Rod’s exploits and experiences were captured vividly for the big screen produced by Sining Silangan. The movie, Sa Piling Ng Mga Sugapa, directed by Gil Portes starred Mat Ranillo III in the role of Rod, with Bembol Roco, Chanda Romero and Julie Ann Fortich. Rod had made a name for himself in 1961 by posing as a dope addict to expose a drug den and won the Journalist of the Year Award, the TOYM Presidential Award Medal from President Carlos P. Garcia and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University.

(E-mail your comments to bibsyfotos@yahoo.com or text us at 0917-8991835.)

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