Jullie Y. Daza

There must be more than 5 million Manuels but there’s only one Manoling. Manoling Morato, 87, who held his moral compass close to his chest for use in his personal, social, and spiritual life.

There was no gray with Manoling, only black and white, good vs bad, the beautiful or the ugly. It was his second nature to show by example that living a good life meant being true to oneself before anything else.  Yet he would yell to be heard above the din, to turn blue in the face, for he would not be outshouted. His reign as chairman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board during the Cory years showed how he refused to budge an inch (of exposed skin on the screen, for example) or bargain away two seconds for a hot kiss in close-up.

Those were the years when watching him on TV arguing with film directors, producers, and actors of a liberal bent was the equivalent of savagely cheering for or against a gladiator:   Thumb up or thumb down? Die or live?

Alas, that stubborn streak may have cost him his life. When his relatives confirmed that Manoling was a COVID-19 casualty last week, I recalled our chatty phone conversation little less than two months ago. He said he did not believe in vaccines and he was not taking Ivermectin or whatever drug was being prescribed by experts. He said he was safe staying home and not going out, and wondered when we could meet up for lunch and a pitcherful of his cook’s green mango juice. He said friends living in Europe told him that “Angela Merkel isn’t requiring  Germans to be vaccinated.” Days later, BBC showed the German Chancellor getting her vaccine shot. I should’ve called Manoling to break the news to him, but then again, I had a feeling it would not have changed his one-track mind.

Like everyone else, Manoling was wishing for safer, saner times ahead. For years he had resisted all kinds of pressure to sell his beloved low-rise building on Tomas Morato street (named after his father), and he was now primed to attend an art auction “one of these days.” Where you are, Manoling, let bliss be all the art you’ll ever need.