By Juan L. Mercado

INQUIRER’S HEADLINE was concise: “Corky Trinidad, 69.”  So was Associated Press’ report that followed. “Honolulu Star Bulletin’s award-winning editorial cartoonist, Corky Trinidad died Friday, after 40 years of poking fun at life and politics…

“Born in the Philippines, Trinidad was the first Asian editorial cartoonist to be syndicated in the U.S,” AP added. “He specialized in caricaturing and skewering politicians, most notably Ferdinand Marcos.”

Pancreatic cancer ended another story of how corrupt dictatorships drive the best and the brightest” of a country into nations that “allow them to breathe free.”

Francisco Trinidad, Jr. came from a family of journalists. His parents were broadcaster Francisco “Koko” Trinidad and columnist Lina  Flor. An Ateneo graduate, he joined Philippines Herald, in 1961 as political cartoonist.

International recognition came quickly. Los Angeles Times-Washington Post Syndicate  started publishing his cartoons. Corky created the comic strip: “Nguyen Charlie” during the Vietnam War. He joined the  Star-Bulletin  in 1969.  His cartoons were picked up by diverse papers  from  New York Times to  Politiken in Sweden,  Buenos Aires’ Herald  and Manila Chronicle.

“He  left  the Philippines   because  of  harrassment  by  Ferdinand  Marcos,” recalls  Carl Zimmerman, former  AP chief in  Manila.  Married to a Filipina, Zimmerman   became  Star Bulletin   editorial  writer   “If Corky  stayed ( until martial law)  he’d  have  wound up in prison.

In  early  70s,  I  wrote  for  Star  Bulletin. When I  passed  by Honolulu,  Corky picked  me up for lunch  with  wife, Hana.  He  asked  about the emerging dictatorship — and home. . “I know how men, in exile, feed on dreams,” Aeschylus wrote.

Zimmerman  was  visiting   Press Foundation of Asia when military agents arresting journalists  scooped me in.  Waving   the photocopied  arrest  warrant, with  Juan Ponce Enrile’s  signature, I said: “Here Carl”.  “Are  you  a  foreign  journalist?,” the  agitated colonel asked, snatching away the warrant.  “You’re  not   to  see  this.”

Corky  became  the  first  of  many   journalists  who’d  seek refuge abroad.  Australia opened doors for  columnist-painter Alfredo  Roces and  Amando  Doronila.  Chinese Commercial News’ Rizal Yuyitung  settled in Canada. Brother Quintin  opted for San Francisco.  Manila Times Eddie Monteclaro signed up with Chicago Tribune. I joined  the UN.

Other exiles from  the  Marcos dictatorship  included: Benigno and Corazon Aquino, Raul Manglapus,  Eugenio  Lopez, Jr, Sergio Osmena, Jr  Herherson Alvarez,  human rights lawyer Juan Quijano.  Charito Planas slipped out the backdoor to Sabah, disguised as a nun.

Ambassador Eduardo Quintero  exposed Marcos bribery of constitutional convention delegates. “Persecution drove Quintero to self-exile in the United States where, in December 1984, he died of heart attack at age 84,” Doronila adds. “He was vindicated by the Supreme Court in 1988, four years after his death.”

“By their exiles, you shall know them”. Look  at  what Marcos, Estrada and   Macapagal-Arroyo  tossed up.

Fabian Ver  and Eduardo Cojunagco squeezed into escape helicopter bucket seats. ”   Police officials  Michael  Rey Aquino and  Cesar  Mancao  ran before they could be grilled  about the mastermind in  publicist Salvador “Bobby” Dacer. To  dodge  testifying on kickbacks,  Estrada auditor Yolanda Ricaforte left no forwarding address. Neither did members of  Erap’s  “midnight cabinet:: Jaime Dichavez,  Dante Tan & Co  Agriculture undersecretary  “Joc-joc”    Bolante skipped  town to dodge questions  on the fertilizer scam.

Every day, Corky  would  draw  a color cartoon for the front page and a black-and-white one for the editorial page.  And for  40 years, he did that.  Yet, he found  time to teach cartooning at the University of  Hawaii.

“Corky  enchanted  and infuriated  more readers  than anyone else in this newspaper’s history.”, said  Mary Poole, Trinidad’s editor.  “Politicians he skewered were   first in line to acquire the original drawings. That  included  U.S. presidents visting Hawaii.

He  kept  an eye on twists of  Philippine politics. In December 2007, he emailed me his cartoon  on the Magdalo caper at the Penninsula Hotel.   It depicts a handful of soldiers, perched on a mall stand, demanding:  “Gloria  Resign.” Heedless crowds  walk by   “What’s all that about?,” a woman asks.  A man replies: “Edsa 52.”

Exiles often  sink roots into the country that gave them liberty denied at home. America  became the home of his choice, Corky said  at one ceremony honoring him. . But  he “did not take  any of  citizenship benefits for granted.”.  He  gave  to his adopted country much of  the talents that he brought from the Philippines.

Among other things,  he  trained a new generation of cartoonists.  Cartoonist Jon J. Murakami, for example, met Corky as a fifth grade student.  “Corky really became the face of the Star-Bulletin for many years,” said Zimmerman. “

The paper’s  obit noted:  “Trinidad’s philosophy for young cartoonists was as simple as it was elegant: Take  a  stand”

“Aside from following  basic  aims of informing, instructing and entertaining, the editorial cartoon, first and always, must make a statement,”  Corky  wrote. “It must  BE  a statement…. I have never seen  a great cartoon that sat on a fence…And a few drawing skills help.”

Was  America’s  gain therefore  our loss?  Human lives are  not a zero-sum  game.  A country of migrants,  like  the  Philippines,  must tell  its   sons and daughters: “Bloom wherever you are planted.”