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How I lost my Soap Box

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2021 - 12:00am

Many many years ago I used to have a “Soap Box” to stand on.

Every morning I would stand on top of that Soap Box and speak to people about many issues and concerns. Everyday would be a competition of ideas, controversies as well as airtime. That Soap Box was a radio program I carried with me as a talent from one radio station to another. Many people wanted to take the Soap Box and use it for their own purposes but for the several years that I had it, I was blessed by the Lord who protected it, maybe because I used the Soap Box to give hope to many, to help those in need, those denied justice, even to help connect prisoners with their families during Christmas holidays.

Standing on the Soap Box and protecting it from thieves or vandals was not easy. Politicians tried to buy the Soap Box from the people who gave me the Soap Box, others threatened to have it confiscated or demanded that someone else be allowed to take over. It did not take long before I had to “share” the Soap Box with a long list of people who had other reasons for being on the Soap Box or had a very different idea of how to use the Soap Box. All throughout, I prayed and plodded on, but that did not prevent things from becoming worse. It actually reached the point where I had to share the Soap Box while corporate termites were slowly eating away at the Soap Box.

Then one day, I was told that the Soap Box was no longer usable and had to be replaced. It seems that “We” had struck fear in the mind of a company official who, like Caiaphas, felt that it would be better that we lose our jobs and the Soap Box rather than the company losing revenues from a major advertiser. Later that day, I was invited to dinner with the advertiser who vehemently declared he had nothing to do with me losing my Soap Box! He even offered to help get it back for me. Instead I sincerely thanked him but said “No Thanks” because I don’t want to go back to work with people who are more concerned with revenues than justice and relationships.

To this day, all that has served as a very positive lesson along the lines of: “Choose your battles” and “Know and remember the purpose of your Soap Box.” For beginners, find your balance and footing on a Soap Box which may be affected or limited by those above you or personal circumstance. During my early years in media, particularly in broadcast, owners and executives dictated my “role,” capitalizing on the giant shadow of my father Louie Beltran who was in print, radio and TV. More than anything he was known to be hard hitting and a fighter.

That worked in the transition but eventually it caused me much grief and unhappiness because it was the creature in me that I did not want to feed. One day I was offered a TV program where they once again wanted to type cast me with the title S.O.B or Son of Beltran. I balked and took a bold step by saying I want to be the Larry King of the Philippines! The laughter and cynicism echoed in the corridors!

I stuck to my vision and from there was birthed “Straight Talk” on ANC. A space filling Soap Box for others and not just for myself, but a program that became very successful and popular in spite of being under funded, aired in competition with noon time shows and considered light and fluffy instead of hard hitting. It worked because we recognized and honored not only our guests but also a segment of viewers who were not offered anything at the time in history and time slot. It was successful because we focused on success stories, not all happy but successful stories of human struggles and careers. The team got so good at choosing guests that the best compliment we got aside from an award from CMMA for Best Talk Show, was a guest who stated that if you were featured on “Straight Talk” it meant that you were either a success or are about to become successful.”

We definitely found our purpose in that. As for choosing battles, I regularly remind other “fighters” to ask themselves if one battle is worth losing your Soap Box or platform that allows you to fight many other battles and help even more people, those who have no power, connections or influence? Many of those I had to share the Soap Box with are no longer in broadcast or in the public eye. Many have stopped fighting battles. By God’s grace he has kept me here not to fight but to serve, not to attack but to help.

Once in a while I slip but as I constantly realize, reading the Bible, God’s word reorients me.  Not all of us are meant to be fighters, fearless critics and, as the saying goes: there are many ways to skin a cat. You can be entertaining but disarming enough to get people to open up and share or explain why they are the way they are. We all have a side we want to be told and there is always an angle that we don’t all see. Having a Soap Box to stand on helps.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility, value others above yourself.” Philippians 2:3

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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