A ‘must read’ from Kit Tatad

Published September 25, 2021, 8:00 AM

by Marie Buenaventura

An Autobiography
Francisco S. Tatad

At 82, 50 years as a journalist, writer, Cabinet minister, Batasan member, Senate majority leader to six Senate presidents, and international pro-life worker, former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad has come out with his autobiography, entitled, All Is Grace. It is a “must read.”

Published in Manila by La Solidaridad Publishing House, which is owned by F. Sionil Jose, the novelist and national artist for literature, the book comes in a handsomely bound volume of 612 pages, printed by Inkwell Publishing Company in Pasig.  An international edition will be published by Europe Books in London, this fall.

All Is Grace is Tatad’s first major offering since his political blockbuster, A Nation on Fire: The Unmaking of Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Remaking of Democracy in the Philippines, Icon Press, 2002, and The Last Holocaust, a dystopian novel.

Tatad has written several books on politics and a trove of uncollected columns and essays. These had appeared in major Philippine newspapers and some international publications, including The International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. Tatad used to write a thrice-weekly front-page column for The Manila Times. This enjoyed a wide following, but in March 2019, the Times stopped the column after it reported a presidential surgical procedure, which drew a threat of something physical from the president. The report was never shown to be false.

In his autobiography, Tatad gives a richly detailed account of his journey from his boyhood in Gigmoto, Catanduanes to become one of the most remarkable political personalities in the Philippines. Born on Oct. 4, 1939 to a large and poor family, Tatad walked barefoot to school until second year high, hiked 27 kilometers every week to the next town to attend third year high, then boarded a ship from Virac to Manila without a paid ticket to finish high school.  

He worked his way to college, read philosophy and letters at the University of Santo Tomas. An academic dispute with the school authorities prevented him from graduating and he became a working journalist instead. Six years later, Marcos made him (at 29), the country’s youngest Cabinet appointee, and the first and only information minister in the nation’s history. He sat there for 10 years, then served one term for six years at the Batasang Pambansa (National Assembly) and two consecutive terms (for nine years) later as senator. He authored critical legislations and championed the defense of the rule of law, press freedom, and the sanctity of human life, the family, and marriage.  

A journalist and a man of letters at heart, he recounts the events he has witnessed, taken active part in, or come to grips with in his political career with simplicity, impartiality, and rigor. Ever since his debut as Marcos’s spokesman, Tatad has lived the nation’s historical moments as both witness and participant. These included Marcos’s declaration of martial law, which Tatad, as spokesman, read to the nation on Sept. 23, 1972; the 1986 EDSA revolution, which he covered as a committed journalist with friends on both sides; the 2001 ousting of Estrada, which he, as Senate majority leader, documented in his book, A Nation on Fire; and various controversies and scandals where he played no part.

In his foreword to the book, the national artist F. Sionil Jose says that although Tatad worked long for Marcos, he did resign his Cabinet post (the only one to do so) six years before the EDSA revolt, and his “understanding and compassion” made him many friends in the press.

In his foreword to the book, the national artist F. Sionil Jose says that although Tatad worked long for Marcos, he did resign his Cabinet post (the only one to do so) six years before the EDSA revolt.

“As press secretary during those turbulent years, Kit was a figure of calmness and goodwill,” Sionil Jose writes. “He was extremely helpful to the foreign journalists, the cultural leaders, and the writers who visited Manila to plead for press freedom and for the imprisoned writers, their liberty. He facilitated meetings between PEN [Poets, Essayists, Novelists] writers and President Marcos. I know for one that he interceded for several of them. I myself was not allowed to leave the country for four years. It was Kit who saw to it that I got my passport back.”

“Kit Tatad never stopped being a journalist,” Sionil Jose continues. “As such he has continued to raise probing questions about the performance in office of whoever the country’s sitting president might be. For doing so, he is now often at the receiving end of the incumbent president’s vulgar attacks. It is such a shame that the response to many of the questions Kit raises consists of smugger and gutter language.”

Why did Tatad write this book?  Was it to “square accounts with history?”

 No, he says.  He recalls that when Cardinal (now Saint) John Henry Newman wrote his Apologia Pro Vita Sua, he did so to defend his religious convictions and respond to attacks questioning his truthfulness and impugning his honor. Tatad, a great admirer of Saint John Henry Newman, says he had no such motive.

But having lived for 80 long fruitful years, he said, he thought he had incurred the duty to make an act of thanksgiving for the life that he thought perhaps properly belonged to someone else, but which by God’s grace had become his own instead.

“I wanted my friends and grandchildren to read the story of a poor kid from the storm-tossed Philippine island beside the Pacific who became a journalist, a politician, a social critic, a humanitarian worker, and part of the nation’s search for its inner self,” he says. “However, what unfolded, as I retraced my steps, was not just the passage of an earthly traveler trying to find his place in the sun, but the journey of a soul in search of his true meaning in the overall scheme of things, with the irrepressible hope and dream of finding at the end of the road, not himself, but his Maker and Father, who alone is the source of all that is good within and beyond the material world.”

The autobiography is not only the story of a politician and public intellectual. It is, above all, the story of a man who has let his faith guide him in every step, who has dedicated his life to the good of his country and people, and whose individual destiny has been intertwined with that of his nation.

In public and in private, Tatad has always linked his thoughts, words, and actions to his strong Catholic faith, which has guided him in every choice and made him one of the strongest voices in the pro-life and pro-family campaign around the world. 

Tatad, the writer, is always a joy to read. All Is Grace offers a feast.

All Is Grace: An Autobiography is available at Solidaridad (02) 8254 1086 or (02) 8254 1068.