Letters to the Editor

Proud to be duck

Kim Atienza - The Philippine Star

Here’s trivia on Fr. James Reuter: his favorite animal was the duck. “Duck” was how he would call us Reuter babies, whenever he spoke to me, I was “Kim, my duck.”

I began to be under Fr. Reuter’s wing back in high school in 1982. I wanted so badly to get into theater. Wanting to meet and work with him, I auditioned for a role in one of his plays called “The Bridge.” This was the beginning. I can recall acting in over 20 plays for Fr. Reuter, both here and abroad.

I remember when as a 17-year-old, I was part of an ensemble he brought to Italy to perform for the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz. It was my first time out of the country and it was there when I learned the first of many life values he inculcated in me — to be on time, all the time.

From the airport, we decided to go straight to the Roman Coliseum. Excited, I left my baggage in our bus to explore the place. When I went back all the excitement faded away. They left me because I was 5 minutes late.

Scared out of my wits with no money and no basic Italian phrases to use, I hailed a cab and made most of the broken school learned Spanish I can come up with. All I knew was we were to stay in a street called Via Aurella. (which happened to be as long as Marcos highway pala!) Through God’s grace and after a lot of crying, I eventually found our home.

Immediately, I asked Fr. Reuter why he left me and he began to position his arms like a clock’s hands. He said: “When the clock is like this, it means we have to go and you were not there.” So I learned my lesson. From that point on, I was never late for a Fr. Reuter play. Up to now, I am seldom late.

Off stage, Fr. Reuter continued to be a driving force in my life. He also gave me my first break in media. At 19 years old, I became part of Radyo Bandido, the underground radio station he established with June Keithley, the Mercado brothers and the rest of us Reuter babies during the 1986 People Power Revolution.

My beat was EDSA so I was there with my radio, using my body to block the tanks with other people. But that was not the most challenging experience I had as his ward. In one of the coup attempts during President Cory Aquino’s administration, I was beaten up by military people in Manila Hotel after they caught me reporting on them. After a few traumatic hours, they took my radio and set me free.

When I came back all bruised to Papa Bear, our code name for Fr. Reuter, he just told me “what happened to my radio?” That was his sense of humor.

As my stories would show, I trusted Fr. Reuter so much. Whatever he told me to do I did because I had the zeal and passion to do it, and mainly because I respect him and look up to him so much. He taught me a lot of life values that I still use today and will pass on to my children.

Another important life lesson I learned is to see my work as my prayer to God. Fr. Reuter always reiterated to all of us, “when you work hard and you offer your work to God, and the harder the work, the closer you are to Him.”

So that’s why I worked really hard in every play we did, in every beat I had to cover for him, and now in every role I play as a host, a journalist, a triathlete, an advocate. Everything I do is a prayer to God. I would have not realized that so early in my life if not for Fr. Reuter. 

A few days ago, I got a call from Tita Cherry Aquino, saying that Father is about to go. From the airport, I went straight to the hospital to see him before he “leaves”. Unfortunately, I got stuck in Baclaran traffic and when I got to the hospital I was five minutes late. Father Reuter died already.

I thought, “Father you did it to me again, you didn’t wait for me.” Up to the very end, Fr. Reuter did not wait for anyone. And all I could do was just smile. I smiled because I knew he lived a full life. I smiled because he was forever a part of mine.

I am so proud and so blessed to be a duck, and I will always will be. 


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