Saturday, July 21, 2001


Writer was strong
opponent of martial law
in native Philippines


By Lisa Asato

As a writer and magazine editor in war-torn Philippines, Ligaya Fruto witnessed her country's independence from American control. And while she made Hawaii her home after the war, the former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter never forgot her native land.

"I was one of the hundreds of thousands who saw the Stars and Stripes come down in Luneta on July Fourth of 1946, and as we watched the flag of the Philippines go up, we wept, not only with joy, but with sorrow for that which had come down," she told a group gathered for a 1968 dinner promoting good will between the two countries.

Fruto, a Star-Bulletin feature writer from 1952 to 1968, died Wednesday night in a residential-care facility in Redwood City, Calif. She was 87.

In 1930s Manila, Fruto was a rising star in literary and journalistic circles until the war intervened. She later wrote two books on life in the Philippines, "Yesterday and Other Stories" and "One Rainbow for the Duration."

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, Fruto wrote wartime editorials in a women's magazine urging readers to keep calm until the Americans returned. She later told a newspaper reporter that she "expected to be picked up by the Japanese anytime."

Born Ligaya Victorio, she married newspaper reporter Ramon Reyes, who died during World War II. Originally a teacher, she considered her success as a writer accidental. She won several best short story of the year awards in the Philippines, one for a story she whipped up while trying out a new typewriter.

In 1946 she joined the press office of the Philippines' first president, Manuel Roxas. Shortly after that, she came to Hawaii to help start the new republic's Hawaii consulate. Here, she married Honolulu engineer Lorenzo Fruto and became a naturalized U.S. citizen, as well as a leader in the Filipino community.

"She was very, very active in the national protest movement against (Ferdinand) Marcos and martial law in the Philippines," said Belinda Aquino, director of the Center for Philippines Studies at the University of Hawaii.

Fruto's grandson Howard Reyes said she was "a strong opponent of dictatorial regimes in the Philippines" and was a key Hawaii-based supporter of Corazon Aquino's presidency.

Fruto complained about the heavy media attention on Marcos during his exile in Hawaii.

In a 1988 guest commentary in the Star-Bulletin, she wrote that the only things that would justify such attention would be "if (Marcos) returns the wealth he stole, and ... if he dies."

Reyes said the Frutos were well connected to the University of Hawaii, where they established a scholarship fund for civil engineering students and helped start the Newman Center.

Fruto was "a good woman, a great human being," said Belinda Aquino, who used to attend parties at the Frutos' Manoa home. "We'll miss her."

Fruto founded the Filipino Women's Civic Club in 1951 and, among other memberships, was a longtime board member of the Pamana Dancers, one of the first Filipino dance troupes in Hawaii.

Fruto is survived by son Ramon Reyes of San Jose, Calif., sisters Estrella Victorio of Manila and Fely Barles of Southern California, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Services are tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Newman Center, 1421 East-West Rd. For information, call the center at 988-6222.

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