Much as I'd like to refer to him as "Teddy" Benigno, I'm sad to say that I didn't know the man personally. Many of the eulogies I expect to write, in fact, are for people I don't know personally. But I think that Mr. Benigno gave us more than a few words throughout his life, and I think that he deserves more a few words from us in return.
Teodoro Benigno was a journalist.
Yes, that's all: Teodoro Benigno was a journalist.
How else can I sum it up? He wrote articles for various publications. He got a little biased at times (which would be normal for any journalist). He saw what it was like to work for the government. He realized that the bureaucracy really didn't hold a candle to the power of the written word. He formed educated opinions. He stood by them whenever the pundits were knocking at his door. He took them back whenever he realized that he had made mistakes.
Come to think of it, that would all make for a much better summary: Teodoro Benigno was a writer.
Mr. Benigno had this odd ability, this fantastic power to put things in metaphorical perspective. He went for the touchy analogies. He struggled to use only the most perfect verbs. He knew when to start and stop the paragraphs of varying lengths. His sentences gave us images that made us laugh and think, and perhaps look very closely at what he was talking about.
Even his column had a very appropriate title: "Here's the Score".
Some people write short fiction, and some people write novelettes. Some people write romantic drama, and some people write cyberpunk fantasy. Some people write technical manuals, and some people write anarchist speeches.
Mr. Benigno just wrote,and somewhere in that writing was the universe as only he could put it, using words that only he himself could carefully choose. He knew perfectly well that opinion was opinion, that it could not be traded away in the face of intimidation, yet could still be recanted in the realization of personal error. He was just simply marvelous when it came to telling you what he thought of things.
My mother actually ran into him once, and it was in the most unlikely of places. I think it was a couple of years ago, sometime in the waning months of the year, at the all-you-can-eat buffet in Saisaki (a large Japanese restaurant in Makati City). She even caught him with one of their garish orange plates in hand.
"Mr. Benigno?" she asked him.
"Yes?" he answered.
"I read your column," she told him.
"Oh?" he asked.
"Every time I see it," she told him.
And with that (if my mother can be believed), he simply smiled and said, "Oh, thank you!"
I always thought it was funny, somehow, seeing what he thought about himself at that precise moment.
That writer is gone now, though. And the many, many things that he saw fit to opine about still remain.
Maybe Mr. Benigno himself is now wondering why we haven't started writing about them yet.