Deedee Siytangco, Manila Bulletin’s beloved longtime columnist, passes away

Deedee Siytangco.jpg

The country knew Deedee Siytangco as President Cory Aquino's spokesperson. But her readers in Manila Bulletin know her as an indefatigable columnist who almost never missed her deadlines, and who personally rang up her editors to follow up so she could see her article through—revisions and all—to the very end.

Her Manila Bulletin Lifestyle column, “Angel Thoughts,” which ran for years, always started with an inspiring quote, and tackled personal issues, inspiring stories, and incisive but tame political analysis that was less about personality and more about policy—and latter readers who only knew her gentle voice and warm personality wouldn’t have known how a much-younger Deedee Siytangco had grit and passion as a young writer.

“I worked with Cory (the late President Corazon Aquino) for only three and a half years,” she wrote in an earlier column that came out in 2018. “I was a beat reporter for the Palace before joining her. Presidential advisers pointed out to her that I could help in her media office since I was already a working journalist. Besides, being a woman like her, I could relate (to her). My boss, Don Emilio, told me when I informed him I was joining Cory’s team. The President listened to then Sec. Ping de Jesus and Maria V. Montelibano, who was running RTVM, and I was offered to be an assistant secretary for media.

I took a cut in pay and had no representation funds. All goodwill. During merienda time, my husband Sonny who idolized my boss, would have a fast food store near the Palace deliver snacks for our Press Corp and the photographers who covered the Palace. But then, the ‘Brat Pack,’ savoring true press freedom at last, were mostly disciplined and did not demand ‘freebies.’ I survived mainly because my idol, President Cory, was a joy to work with. She was honest, disciplined, and a no-frills leader. I did not have to lie for her, ever. When talking in her behalf, I vetted everything to her and the hardest thing I had to do was politely turn down numerous requests for interviews, especially from foreign media. My lady boss would tell me, ‘We are not running for public office.’ And that meant, no more interviews. But she also understood how important her pronouncements meant to the people and she would give in and meet the press when I would literally beg.”

Deedee Siytangco’s three years as the President’s close-in defined her career. “She demanded the same kind of honesty and discipline from her co-workers, especially those who had access to her. I was fortunate to have been with President Cory in China when I was just a Manila Bulletin reporter. There, she conquered the Chinese officialdom and the ordinary people who felt great affinity for her after she paid homage to her Chino ancestors in the Co temple in Fujian. I was lucky to be with her in the Bicentennial celebration of France where for two days, she was the state visitor, and our flags flew proudly in the Champs Elysee avenue. She spoke fluent French and this Icon of democracy was everybody’s darling. She also visited the then still-standing Berlin Wall, the Royals of Belgium ! She also was acclaimed in the US and accorded honors by the Congress and the White House. Her Canadian visit was a resounding success and businessmen and women in Toronto wept when in a speech, she recounted her family’s travails during Martial Law. ! was already her assistant secretary for media so I saw the international acclaim for her up close and yes, I basked in the glory of it as a Filipino.” 

And Deedee did bask in the glory of her Filipino-ness, and, later in life, actively participated and headed multiple civic organizations, including Bulong Pulungan, which put in spotlight different personalities and their issues.

Her daughter, Sandee Siytangco Masigan announced on Sept. 28, 2023 Deedee’s death at age 83, due to septic shock from pneumonia, with significant conditions that contributed to her death including urothelial cancer, hypertension, and hypothyroidism. She asked friends and family to make a donation to the Contemplative Brothers of Mary Mother for the Poor, and that, should people want to give flowers, they make these sunflowers, her favorite—as that was what Deedee would have wanted.

In an exclusive interview with Manila Bulletin, Sandee said, “My mother found so much strength and comfort in praying the rosary. She encouraged everyone to do the same.” Even in her sick bed, Sandee said, the rosary hung on her headboard, or clutched in her hand. “Her night time greeting to me, which I will miss very much, ‘Goodnight love, God bless you, and Mama Mary loves you,” Sandee says. “It was a great reminder every night before bed.”

Deedee’s remains will be at Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City from 4:00 p.m. beginning Sept. 30, until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 3, 2023. She will then be laid to rest at the columbarium of Our Lady of Dela Strada Parish on Tuesday after a 10:00 a.m. mass.