Education and Home

Goodbye, Father Reuter

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz - The Philippine Star

I met Father James B. Reuter, S.J., through Cecile Guidote Alvarez. Cecile, one of Reuter’s babies, considered him her second father. Allow me to quote extensively from a tribute that Cecile wrote, entitled “Farewell, Father Dearest.”

“I cannot think of my life without Father Reuter. Every way, every crossroad, he was an anchor for discernment and encouragement, a beaming Papa Bear to relish the thrill of every success and the oasis of hope to share the anguished moments of doubts and distress.

“Father Reuter saw me as a 14-year-old freshman acting on stage with the Paulinian Players. Right away, he offered me a scholarship in the Ateneo Graduate Summer Drama Program. By osmosis, I turned into a workaholic and learned ‘never to say die.’

“I served as an assistant of Father Reuter, who was running 13 programs a week. I was also part of his stable of actors in Family Theater, in Santa Zita, in various stage and radio plays. One day, he excitedly said, ‘Cecile, my child, get ready. I’ll kill you in Santa Zita and you must run a Sunday Free Time on Channel 11. We can’t waste this offer. I’ll give you the Loonilarks as your mainstay.’ Thus was born ‘Teenagers,’ which I had to produce, host and direct live. I was only 18 when I was charged to dynamically use television as a creative classroom to serve as an antidote to juvenile delinquency.

“Father endorsed me for a Fulbright Hayes scholarship and then a John D. Rockefeller Fellowship for my master’s degree in Theatre and Communications.

“He visited me at the Dallas Theatre Center, checked out how I was, talked to my professors and my friends. Upon my return in 1967, he readily offered a nourishing home in Ateneo (Padre Faura) where I could base PETA, working also with my students from St. Paul’s Manila. He shared his wisdom as a trustee of PETA. He even agreed to act as himself in the special Balintataw serial ‘Sali-Salising Buhay,’ that was featured by CNN as a soap opera for social change.

“When Martial Law was declared, Father Reuter joined in a ‘mission impossible’ plot with Anding Roces for Sonny Alvarez to escape from a shoot-to-kill order and run a democratic opposition overseas. Likewise, he gave his blessing to a scenario when it was my turn to do a dramatic exit at the airport.

“When Sonny’s brother Marsman was tortured and killed, Father Reuter was in New Jersey. He was ‘a balm in Gilead’ at the height of Sonny’s grief through a special mass he celebrated, providing encouragement for Sonny to carry on his opposition where others advised him to keep silent and merely bow to the selective terrorism approach of the dictatorship.

“Father Reuter was our secret avenue of communications for fund assistance in the snap elections, as well as to coordinate visits of human rights and media watch teams in liaison with Lupita, Ninoy’s sister.

“When I was diagnosed with cancer and warned by doctors that I had only three years to live, Father Reuter forcefully stormed the heavens to spare my life. He was part of a cheering squad that designed a treasured tribute at St. Paul’s Quezon City. I believe the threat of cancer spreading to the ovary and then the colon was aborted with prayers.

“When I was deliberating whether to accept or refuse working in the NCCA, I sought his counsel, which was to ‘accept the challenge and make a difference.’

“Once a month, I would bring him his favorite Bailey’s Irish Coffee drink at Our Lady of Peace, with a little allowance to ensure that he could get his orders of pickles, spaghetti, and hamburger when he wanted a respite from hospital food.

“Father Reuter always pointedly asked about my health. The last time I visited him, I confessed that it was disconcerting to be half-blind. He cheerily comforted me by declaring, ‘I am also blind in one eye. Just make sure you save the other eye. Anyway, you have a third eye.’

“He said how pleased he was that ‘you are an earthshaker but remember it is a sin for you not to act.’

“16 years ago, as a birthday gift, my husband sponsored a resolution to recognize Father Reuter as an Honorary Filipino Citizen. I was also privileged to be tasked by Speaker de Venecia to organize a program tribute to him when the House of Representatives bestowed on Father Reuter the Congressional Medal of Achievement.”

Starting this week, Cecile’s Radyo Balintataw on DZRH is putting on seven plays written by Reuter. The plays are Night Shift, Jenina, Stolen Symphony, Little Ms. Juana, Maurita Party, The Lieutenant, and My Family. The Reuter Broadcast Theatre Festival will last until Jan. 31.

Cecile Guidote Alvarez was a James B. Reuter baby. I am a Cecile baby. I am, therefore, a Reuter grandchild.

As Cecile puts it, “Father Reuter is now our special singing angel in heaven, looking after us!”


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