Gloves Off

Philip Lustre, Jr., (center with candle) at the rally called by Bishop Soc Villegas. Photo by Jessica Silvestre Santos from Lustre’s Facebook page.

by Wilfredo G. Villanueva

His lola on the mother side never saw his lolo again after a Makapili (collaborator) pointed him out to Japanese military and thereafter hauled off to an unknown destination. She insisted he would return to their home in Floridablanca, Pampanga anytime. It was only ten years later, in 1955, a year after her first apo was born, when a howl, scream and shriek of outrage escaped from her lips, finally coming to terms with the execution of her husband, cursing her suspected Makapili, a neighbor, to high heavens till she emptied all sound from her grieving throat.

Her apo, Philip Lustre, Jr. has a well-stocked gene pool, a Filipino Brave at the core. His father is a lawyer, traveling country roads to help his clients in legal cases—pro bono—for they were dirt poor.


his love for them he took from his erudite lola, whose narratives about books she had read, things that happened in her life, her opinion on almost everything, transformed Lustre from a boy growing up in the Divisoria-Asuncion area in Tondo, Manila to a great, fire-breathing socmed warrior, whose lengthy and well-thought-out postings in Facebook and his own blog come almost every hour and are instantly liked and commented on by hundreds of his followers.


is the usual response of those who read him.

Indeed. Do you remember when, before the elections, a newsman revealed that the would-be President had terminal cancer? Duterte denied it, but the newsman stuck to his guns. That newsman was Philip Lustre, Jr.

“And did you receive threats after that?” I asked, knowing that the country is among the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, along with Iraq, Syria and Yemen, countries in the grip of civil war.

“No,” he said, brushing off the thought of fear like a pesky fly so it wouldn’t land on him.

I saw him in action in his nest deep in Quezon city,


all by his lonesome, picking targets and firing for effect, relishing every word. It was the day former President Noynoy Aquino appeared in the Senate investigation of the dengue vaccination along with former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and former Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. His tv was on and he was following the proceedings like hawk to quarry. Later in the day, his posts landed in Facebook, his words a dance of style and precision, delighting his followers once more.

Lustre in his Facebook post on PNoy’s appearance before the Blue Ribbon Committee, Senator Richard Gordon presiding: “Elegant screwing. Treating a screwball by giving him an elegant screwing is still the best. Don’t stoop down so low. Stay elegant and radiant. But don’t forget the screwdriver. A gentle, elegant screwing will make everything clear and aboveboard…”

This particular post was liked by almost 600 followers and shared by 69.

With as many children as there are mothers, and nine apos, a little over 60, an accomplished media man of 40 years, columnist and opinion leader, Lustre is his own man, training his gun on everything that resembles a threat to democracy.


mind you, he is a lothario, doting father, irreverent observer of people he would ride with in jeepneys, for example. A loyal friend, a scholar with his head in the clouds and his feet on the ground. And a steel trap of a mind.

“I have a photographic memory,” he said. No wonder he can switch subject matter with the ease of a grandmaster playing simultaneous chess games blindfolded. His essays carry the same grand and sweeping manner of his oral narratives, talking nonstop, typing nonstop, sentences forming paragraphs flowing into sentences forming the next vast, kilometric paragraphs as if he had all the time in the world to regale you with the most important thing in the world this instant.


his essay an APO song in prose, or an encounter in the MRT with an odd twist that comes as a surprise to him and his readers—anything that happens to him assumes a significance in his indefatigable mind—even if it’s only about a kid’s fascination with his white mustache.

He doesn’t mince his words, always frank and heavily-laden, impervious to the passage of time and the possibility of pain which truth brings (“Dying doesn’t faze me.”).

His political posts are particularly effective,


being the Tondo boy that he is even if he is decades removed from his boyhood haunts.

Growing up in a place where revolutions are born, Lustre wasn’t a batang kalye, bucking the odds. His lola and mother made sure of that. He was interested and immersed in the culture, but he made studies his priority. His mother supported his schooling by hawking cigarettes and slippers in Plaza Moriones. Holy Child Catholic School where he heaped honors and was accelerated; University of Santo Tomas Education High School; graduated major in sociology, University of the East.

He is an old soul, steeped in nationalism at a young age, and he had a grand vision of the future with him in the middle of it. If it weren’t for his prodigious love life and his liking for beer (“I can drink five bottles, after that I stop counting.”) he’ll be the very definition of nerd.

But no, no one would suspect him of being grist for the bully mill, for he would defend his honor


anytime he saw fit. He also saw OXO, Sigue-Sigue, Batang City Jail battle for supremacy, even learning how to make razor-sharp arrows launched by slingshot, a deadly avocation of his friends when he was growing up. He learned life in its primal stage, of men naked above the waist strutting like peacocks, women crying over dead bodies, children becoming orphans in ruthless fashion, the living mingling with the suddenly dead in daily musical chairs.

But he is unsullied, Exhibit A of my case against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte who said he is that way—cursingly murderous—because he grew up in the streets, snarling like a rabid dog, kissing everyone in a skirt, swearing like God is deaf. Wise choice is possible in the streets, as Lustre shows by what he has become.

I met Lustre in the Office of the Press Secretary in 1986 where I worked, having torched an advertising career to help out President Cory Aquino in a minor role. We struck up a friendship, but we faded away as the post-Marcos republic graduated from baby steps to Olympic 100-meter dash pre-trials, only to be sideswiped by the Davao mayor and his cohorts, the Marcoses, Arroyos, China. We rediscovered each other in the time of another testing of democracy.

“Are you yellow?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“I’m in media, ‘di ba? So I can’t take sides. But you know where my heart is. So do other people who know me.”

“And why do you write?” I asked.

“I am writing solely to advocate the democratic agenda,” he said, “which means adherence to rule of law, human rights, democratic principles… and therefore to be an archenemy of authoritarianism, populism and indolence.”

Three decades after EDSA One, Lustre is still unscathed by the lure of power politics in Tondo mode, preferring to be part of the boiling mix of humanity but


pages and pages of books in his head, and a vision of a beautiful Philippines—like a woman’s shape he adores—in his prolific mind.

Lustre isn’t Lustre if he doesn’t call it as it is, for he is an academician with the audacity of a kanto boy. Dick Malay—another media man who captures the political situation in the country as chronicler and participant in history—and Lustre see a counter revolution being waged by the far right. Says the latter:

“The counterrevolution has been initially launched as an anti-drug campaign in the 2016 presidential elections. Since then, it has expanded to include assaults on democratic institutions, including the Supreme Court, Commission on Human Rights, and Office of the Ombudsman. It seeks to weaken democratic traditions too, including the adherence to human rights, rule of law, and due process.” (Source: Rappler)

Malay sees the fall of the Philippine Fourth Reich in a year, while


“The November 30 nationwide show of force by the authoritarian groups was a dismal failure. Several rallies were held in major cities, but they attracted only a handful of participants. They hardly created any impression in the national consciousness.”

And so it goes. We need men and women who can rise above the fray, who can separate fact from fiction, who can look at modern OXO, Sigue-Sigue, Batang City Jail gang members with honorable titles straight in the eye and join battle in civil, libertarian and nonviolent ways. We need men and women like Lustre, Malay, Jover Laurio, Joe America, Jim Paredes, Jozy Acosta-Nisperos, Florin Hilbay, Chair Chito Gascon, Senators Leila de Lima, Sonny Trillanes, Kiko Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Chief Justice Sereno, Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, Mar Roxas, VP Leni Robredo, PNoy to call out malfeasance and bring our country back to



56 Responses to “Gloves Off”
  1. arlene says:

    He was a schoolmate at UST Education High School, ahead of our batch by two or three years I think. I follow him at FB. Good morning Wil, good morning Joeam!

  2. karlgarcia says:

    Thanks to your series, I get to know more about the famous personalities, and I get updated on personalities that I read here first.
    Thanks for updating us.

    The aim of course is shared vision and shared values. We shoukd also know what to emulate and what not to emulate.
    We live, we learn.

    I am more than disapointed with the current admin.
    I also did not like Erap, liked Gloria first until she sucked, but in this admin, I feel daily despair.

    As guru Edgar said, we are in a near death experience and we need to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Thanks for guiding us to the light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. Jenni Bulan says:

    This is cult following of the good kind. In the face of tyranny, we must remain steadfast and strong to stand for truth. I am proud to be counted with great company! Salamat sa inyong lahat.

    Merry Christmas to us and to all our families. Tuloy ang laban! 🇵🇭

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Merry Christmas, Jenni! It’s good that you’re with the rest of us who still believe in our innate goodness as a people.

  4. edgar lores says:

    1. Before Duterte, I was not aware of many illustrious journalists, Mr. Ilustre being one of them. After Duterte — perhaps I should say during Duterte because we are not yet in the post-Duterte period — I have had the privilege of encountering, in the FB circles that I dwell, Mr. Ilustre’s oft-quoted posts.

    2. Isn’t it ironic? If Duterte is heading a counterrevolution to EDSA One, then he has awakened many counter-counterrevolutionaries — Mr. Ilustre being one of them.

    3. Mr. Ilustre posits that the political aim of the counterrevolution is to install a new dictatorship that will rule beyond 2022. The dictatorship could be led by:

    o Duterte himself under a RevGov form
    o Bongbong Marcos under a republican form
    o Gloria Arroyo under a parliamentary form (per MLQIII)

    3.1. The dictatorship will be made possible by the elimination of CJ Sereno and Ombudsman Carpio-Morales from their official posts.

    3.2. I wonder what will happen to the ambitions of Senate President Pimentel, House Speaker Alvarez, and wannabe-president Senator Pacquiao.

    4. Whatever the outcome from the listed possibilities — including the ascension of torpid Pimentel, abominable Alvarez, and indescribable Pacquiao — the prospects are alarming and unpalatable to the extreme. We would have to conjoin several idioms to describe the plethora of unwanted choices:

    Filipino are caught among a rock, a hard place, Scylla, Charybdis, the devil, and the deep blue sea.

    4.1. If the prospects were not so ridiculous, they would be laughable.

    5. In 3 days’ time, the nation celebrates the birth of the Redeemer. With the wars of nation against nation, the rise of false prophets, the fall in moral standards, the possible great tribulation of nuclear war, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel — all of these could presage the return of the Redeemer.

    Given the alternatives, wouldn’t it be nice?

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Yes, but the return will not be as joyful because it’ll be a judgment, The Word having been made accessible to almost everyone living and dead. Fear of the Lord replaces Joy to the World. Hang in there, for the hour of return will not be announced and will catch us by surprise. We have nothing else to do except keep on loving, hoping, praying, doing good, fighting evil in all forms. Life has never been clearer.

  5. karlgarcia says:

    Try another name and email like TSOHguru as long as we know it is you.

    • edgar lores says:

      Thanks, Karl. I am already using a new email address and, as can be seen, my short posts go through. I cannot think of any reason other than it is a timing issue due to the length of some of my posts.

    • I suspect it dumped one comment because of the enumerations and ‘learned’ to do that, but has not unlearned it by my recovering the posts. It may have your name or computer ID on record, and catches it even with a new e-mail. I have absolutely no idea about what is going on.

  6. Sup says:

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all !

  7. NHerrera says:

    To Joe, TSH blog article writers, TSH commentators and readers:

    May you be blessed in the company of your family and friends this season, and may the emerging moral consciousness and momentum for a just environment gather strength in the New Year.

  8. Sup says: request…a joke…
    Doctor Paolo………………
    ”“Why did they take the courses for several months only? Because as elective officials they have already the real and actual experiences how public administrations are ran,” Seen explained.”

  9. Micha says:

    I could accept that Cory was just a transition president holding back rightist military coup – not much to be expected in terms of really meaningful social transformation. But when Ramos took over and handed the country to the terms of WTO-IMF-WB triumvirate, all hopes faded in bringing the country to its right footing. From there, it will be history repeating itself

    And so, here we are.

    A counter-revolution would not have been possible if a really transformative national policies were adopted free from the dictates of international bankers whose preference for trade liberalization destroyed the local economy, exacerbated great income and wealth inequality, and subjected millions to virtual serf-hood.

    Driven to desperation, the serfs elected a murderous maniac not knowing he’s just another deceitful accomplice and fodder to another set of (China-based) international bankers who, like their Goldman Sachs counterparts, have been likened to a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.

  10. madlanglupa says:

    OFFTOPIC: As if daily bombastic speeches weren’t enough, we’re also served “reality TV” style drama that would rival The Kardashians.

  11. Francis says:

    Off-Topic—A Christmas Miracle:

    While I’m no fan of the administration’s tone and rhetoric—I honestly feel that the executive branch under President Duterte should be congratulated for one particularly brave move:

    One of the sad features of TRAIN was how it eliminated the automatic “85% to Universal Healthcare/DOH” provisions of the Sin Tax Law. I know someone who is a doctor—and I distinctly recall them remarking how one of the great things about the Sin Tax Law was how it made sure that congressmen couldn’t touch the revenues raised, as it made sure (via the provisions mentioned above) to automatically direct those revenues to healthcare spending.

    Thankfully, President Duterte vetoed this part of TRAIN. Truly, a Christmas Miracle.

    • Sabtang Basco says:

      Philippine fake news and fake journalists do not want Duterte recognized. These so-called “newspaper journalists” are extremely biased. Well, they should kowtow to their readers, 260,000 (infamous circulation of Philippine Daily NOT Inquiring) of them out of 110,000,000 Filipinos because the rest cannot afford to buy misinformations from Philippine Fake News.

      Trump Tax Reform got the HEADLINES in the U.S. but not in the Philippines. Duterte Tax will have save P4,1666.66 a month those earning greater or less than P20,000 a month.

      Philippine Journalists is nothing compared to Al Jazeera.

    • Sabtang Basco says:

      Donald Trump unpacked his present to middle-income American families before U.S. big-boys journalists and television before going to vacation in Mar-a-lago ….

      Duterte to this day remains secret Santa when Filipinos open their pay envelope and they got more than they expected … then the next pay day … and the next forever …. without Filipinos knowing who signed-off on huge tax cuts because amateur journalists are intentionally not covering it. It is buried deep in the business section using arcane Harvard-school language.

      The difference between Duterte Tax from Donald Trump Tax is Duterte Tax is PERMANENT !!! In Donald Trump Tax, Poor-and-Middle Income Americans are actually paying for extremely wealthy Americans to have more tax cuts than poor Americans and NOT PERMANENT. It reverts back to higher brackets in 2027 !!!


  12. Sabtang Basco says:

    Well “read” Filipino loves the ideals of democracy. Not U.S. Democracy, Virginia, PHILIPPINE-STYLE DEMOCRACY.

    They may have read the constitution that was copied from America but when they are faced with investigations they lose all the constitutional principles they prefer affidavits and witnesses without forensic evidences (with due respect from MRP).

    I just wonder how many Filipinos languish in their jail because of typewritten evidences because of biased witnesses …

    … My quick-and-dirty estimate is more than 13,000 Filipinos killed by Duterte. But they prefer the 13,000 than those hundreds of thousands sent to jail over inexperienced defense and prosecution attorneys not counting parroting Fake Journalists who are complicit because of their ignorance.

    But they just rock-and-droll over this quote: “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”

    Philippine journalists love quotes and quotation marks but not questions marks because they have very little brains to inquire and ask I am not talking about Philippine Statistics survey method: Ask-and-Tell Statistics.

    Don’t they have shame at all? Well, how can they be ashamed when what they think they know is what they know.

    • I fear for your sanity, SB. You are trying to figure things out. That’s like trying to breathe under water. Or speaking sense in an asylum where both the story and the audience are disconnected from logic.

  13. Sabtang Basco says:

    “A record 36 summa cum laude graduates led Class 2017 at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus last Sunday, topping last year’s 30 who graduated with the highest honors, and 29 the year before. Last year, 325 graduated magna cum laude (with high honors) and 936 cumlaude (with honors).”

    That is a lot of LAUDEs. Where were are these LAUDEs took/taking the Philippines to?

    If Philippine GDPs, GNPs, rate of incidence of OFW, unemployment rates and other “statistical” information still done by surveying:

    There must be something wrong with their loud laudes.

  14. Sabtang Basco says:

    New Filipino words on top of “Descarte” is “Naka-Belo”.

    Naka-Belo means cosmetic surgery by Dr. Vicky Belo. It has become an adjective. Filipinos wear the adjective with pride. It means they got money for plastic surgery.

    “You come in looking like a Filipino you come out looking like a Caucasian.”

    In Thailand, they are experts in de-gendertrification. They can make you looking like a woman or looking like a man.

  15. Sabtang Basco says:

    Who needs to charter a Philippine AirBus when you can have an AirBus fly you home that costs around approximately $50.00 ?

    Yes, Virginia, seriously !!! Because the Philippine fake journalists are just parroting Mactan International Airport administration press release. Journalists in the Philippines are just so clueless.

    Here, Virginia, read this awesome piece from Philippine journalists:

    Let us bring this down to simple chunks of numbers:
    1. According to the news report 30 flights are cancelled
    2. 200 passengers stranded
    3. divide 200 passengers by 30 flights
    4. THE ANSWER Issssss ? Use your calculator while I use my short-cuts:
    4a. What is common between 30 and 200?
    4b. Zeroes ….
    4c. Cancel one zero in 30 and one zero from 200
    4d. What is left are 3 and 20
    4e. We wanted to know how many passengers in each flight
    4f. Divide passengers by flight and the equation looks like this
    4g. passenger / flight = passenger per flight
    4h. The answer is ……




    • Sabtang Basco says:

      I have a challenge to these journalists: ELEMENTARY BASIC MATH CHALLENGE against SABTANG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PUPILS

      Betcha know the answer: SABTANG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PUPILS !!!

      Sabtang Elementary School Pupils may not write good English but their math knowledge can send satellites to Mars because the language of science is Math not English !

    • Sabtang Basco says:

      Symbiologist Professor Robert Langdon better look at the news article from Island of Cebu. “666” is the number of the beast and coincidentally it is close to birth of God: Where December is the 12th month of the year and 25 is purportedly the birth day of God. Add the two together you get 37 then divide that by 6.666 you get 5.55 a number that precedes 6.666.

      Here: “back to the Bible, where in Chapter 13 of The Book of Revelation, it reads: “Let the one with understanding reckon the meaning of the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is 666.”

      • I’m reminded of the day the good professor hung out in some nook at a church, waiting, waiting, waiting, to spy on someone and save the world. He had to pee bad.

        There’s a life’s lesson there somewhere. His creator also said Manila is hell, and not too many people disagree these days.

    • Journalists follow the method of rote reporting. They parrot what they are told. They don’t investigate or use critical thinking. It’s rather a national autocratic style, just as the Admin demands that everyone agree with what they say, even if it means we dine on a corral full of manure.

    • chemrock says:

      Sabtang — I think the 200 referred to were those left stranded at the airport. They could’nt find a connecting flight out. The rest somehow found a way out of the airport.

      From the linked article, this roused my curiosity :
      “Quiñonez has been working as a domestic helper in Singapore for the past nine years. She only gets to go home twice a year that’s why she was looking forward to spending 25-day Christmas vacation with her family.”

      Not bad is’nt it, if you got an overseas job that allows you to go home twice a year. I think it’s more like once in two years. Probably a typo error and a lousy proof-reader.

  16. Sabtang Basco says:

    “When you’re a prosecutor, you put your head down, you do your job, and you try as much as you can to ignore the outside world,” said Patrick Cotter, a former U.S. prosecutor who worked in the 1990s with Mueller and others now serving on his team. “This case is not to be tried on cable TV. It’s to be tried in a courtroom.”

    “The way Bob has been doing this is out of the prosecutor’s rule book 101 as to how you handle an investigation,” Twardy said. “There is the court of public opinion, but the court he’s playing in is the district court. And he’s staying there.”

    “It’s a tactical change,” Cotter said. “If you convince people that whatever the investigation comes out with is bad, just because of the people who did it, then you don’t ever have to deal with the facts.”

    – Bloomberg –

    Lawyerly analysis which is lacking in the Philippines DESPITE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF UNEMPLOYED Philippine Law Graduates who are now typing and writing affidavits and notarizing it.

    Or, they just do not have that brain to analyze?
    Or, if they did and proven wrong nobody go to them for notary?

    I just do not get it at all.

    • Sup says:

      Having an bad night and feeling ”red hot” Sabtang Tabasco? 🙂

    • I’m inclined to think that promises and oaths in the Philippines are attached to very fine print, sub-conscious perhaps, or “Kings X”, that provide an escape route in the event that money is available in such quantities that honor can be set aside. For a poor person, 100 pesos can lead to cheating, for a lawyer a bit more. The attorney profession has been so downgraded and besmirched that expectations are low and delivery exceeds expectations.

  17. madlanglupa says:

    Offtopic: few steps closer to achieving “rogue state” status.

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