A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.
Don came into my room that night and looked at two dozen or so contact prints. He chose one to be used for the illustration of his story about the repatriation of the Chinese from Indonesia he would send to The New Yorker magazine the following day. I made a print of the negative he had selected. Guess what? A month later Don showed me an issue of the magazine which carried his two-page story with my photo adorning the first page running half a page across the bottom part. And he handed me a check for $55 which The New Yorker issued for me as a payment for the use of my picture. The magazine also gave me credit for the photo – photo by Tommy Graciano. I felt really blessed.
I never made any contact with Captain Damanik after that trip to the equatorial city of Pontianak with Asai-san. But when I was working as a marketing director with the property division of the Mulia Group in Jakarta in early 1990’s I read in a newspaper about the appointment of Brigadier General Piet Damanik as the new spokesperson of the army. Then a year or two later I read about him being assigned to the Department of Foreign Affairs. This was usually a process in which an army general was being groomed for an ambassadorial post overseas. True enough, not too long afterwards he was sworn in by President Suharto as Jakarta’s new ambassador to the Philippines, along with a dozen or so other new envoys for other countries. I had hoped to visit him in Manila during his tenure of office there, but it wasn’t in God’s holy will and divine plan for me to do that. So it never happened.
But my desire to see the man again, after all those years following our meeting when he was just a captain in Pontianak, was burning. After his ambassadorial term was completed and he returned to Jakarta, I lost track of him again. However, by the grace of God I finally did see General Damanik again during a reception celebrating the Philippine National Day in one of the 5-star hotels. We talked fondly about our drive in his jeep with Asai-san from Pontianak to the border with Sarawak and to Singkawang.
During those years of being self-employed as a freelance journalist in Jakarta I had the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people. Topping the list of course were the late Presidents Soekarno and Suharto with their respective first ladies – Mrs. Hartini Soekarno and Mrs Tien Suharto. Then there were those ministers under Suharto who were dubbed “the Berkeley Mafia” as I already wrote about in an earlier chapter.
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