RUBEN Alabastro, a Thomasian journalist known for his sterling work as a correspondent and editor in newsrooms both in the Philippines and abroad, died on June 20 after a long battle with dementia. He was 83.

His daughter, Rachel, announced his death in a Facebook post, and was confirmed to the Varsitarian by his daughter-in-law, Jo.

“It is with a heavy heart to let you know that our Tatay passed away yesterday,” Rachel posted on June 21. “Please pray for the repose of his soul.”

According to Jo, Alabastro, fondly called in the journalism industry as “Tata Ben,” had been battling dementia.

“Ruben, a beloved grandfather and retired journalist who succumbed peacefully after battling dementia for many years,” she said. “[He] leaves behind a legacy of excellence in journalism that will continue to inspire future generations of journalists.”

He obtained his journalism degree from the now-defunct UST Faculty of Philosophy and Letters in 1960.

From 1958 to 1959, he edited the Varsitarian Cadets page, a section dedicated to stories about the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. 

Alabastro began his extensive journalism career in 1962 as a Manila correspondent for Agence France-Presse and later joined the United States-based United Press International in 1978, where he worked until 1980.

During the later years of the Marcos Sr. regime, from 1980 to 1986, Alabastro wrote for the Associated Press, and he was among the first reporters to cover the assassination of former senator Ninoy Aquino in 1983.

Alabastro also wrote about the events that transpired right before the dictator Marcos was ousted in 1986, as well as the surrender of the last remaining Japanese soldier in the Philippines in 1974.

In 1987, Alabastro joined the Manila bureau of Reuters, where he worked until his retirement in 2003.

Manny Mogato, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who had also worked for Reuters, described Alabastro as a “legendary journalist” known for his persistence during tumultuous events.

“He was the king for decades, filing news alerts even when the ground was shaking in July 1990 and when rogue soldiers occupied the Makati business district,’ Mogato, an adjunct journalism faculty at UST, wrote in a Facebook post. 

“His eye for detail was impeccable, grilling news sources for the smallest detail of an event, asking stringers the source of information, and always aiming for accuracy, fairness, and impartiality.”

Mogato, who eventually filled the post Alabastro left at Reuters due to retirement, also remembered how masterful Alabastro was even in pre-writes, or embargoed obituaries for prominent personalities. 

“His flowery prose was much better than that of the English writers and poets. The news stories he wrote read like fiction,” he said. “He was the most superb storyteller. He was a legendary journalist.”

Coming out of retirement, Alabastro took on an editorial role at the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2004, serving as the chief of its news day desk.

Armand Nocum, a UST alumnus who worked under Alabastro at the Inquirer, described him as a “terror editor” who upheld the dignity of his profession.

“When he needled you for facts or background, it is because he believes in the dignity and purity of his craft,” he wrote. “[I]n all these days of terror, my respect for the dignity and professionalism of Tata Ben never waned or faltered.”

“Thank you for enriching Philippine journalism ‘Tata Ben.’” he added. 

His wake will be held in the St. Luke room of Loyola Memorial Chapels and Crematorium in Guadalupe, Makati City, with public viewing beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.