I was still a student when I came across his name in the letter to the editor column of a broadsheet. Every time, I read the newspaper I looked for his letter. He was Paul Mortel. His last letter was published this early month of July. It was his own obituary. He died on July 5, 2010.
MANILA, Philippines – It came in a plain white envelope in his own handwriting.
Former advertising executive Paul R. Mortel had been sending letters to the editor for the last three decades but his last piece to the Philippine Daily Inquirer proved to be a shocker: It was his obituary.
Mortel, 67, died in his Marikina City home that he shared with his maid on Thursday night due to complications caused by diabetes, but not before he could send his own obituary to the newspaper.
He started writing letters to the editor in 1969, sharing his views on various issues, from the need to cut down on the number of holidays, help the endangered tamaraw, and to decongest Metro Manila.
Mortel gained a lot of friends through his letters, including public officials like former Sen. Juan Flavier. He also got replies even from abroad, including the White House.
He kept his letters and the replies at home. Some of them he even framed.
“By the time you read this, I am gone, taken away by the Lord in His bosom,” Mortel wrote in his last letter to Inquirer opinion editor Jorge Aruta.
“I would like to request to you, my last, to have my obituary published so that my friends and coworkers in the advertising industry who still remember me will be able to see me for the last time,” he added.
Enclosed was his obituary titled “Paul R. Mortel writes 30,” referring to the custom of journalists to write ‘30’ at the end of their articles.