Hapless Bicol

    1939

    ‘Rolly eventually spared Central Luzon and NCR, sparking a wave of rejoicing and gratitude among many people…’

    PRESIDENT Duterte leaving Manila for Davao as super typhoon Rolly approached Luzon was really beyond us. It was the first time in recent memory that a sitting President had “vacated” the seat of power at the height of a calamity, never mind that the President pointed out that he could monitor the dire situation in Bicol and give timely orders to concerned government agencies.

    The startling thing is because, if some opposition leaders are to be believed, there’s no love lost between him and Bicolanos from whose ranks have come Vice President Leni Robredo, former senator Antonio Trlllanes IV and detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

    Shortly after dawn the following day, the Vice President was in Guinobatan, Albay where a dozen houses were buried by massive rocks and lahar. After distributing food and clothes at the evacuation centers, she proceeded to Catanduanes. Her constant presence on radio and TV news and on social media that day amplified the President as “missing in action.” This compelled Duterte to fly to Albay and Catanduanes in the afternoon. The trip seemed unprepared since there were no relief goods for distribution, a common fixture of the President’s trip to calamity areas.

    We recall that then President Noynoy Aquino ordered then DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to personally lead the government’s evacuation and relief efforts in Leyte as Yolanda approached Tacloban. Roxas and other government officials, along with national broadcast media anchors and news teams, were shocked at the deadly onslaught of the storm surges that also threatened their lives and safety.

    Super typhoon Rolly brought many of us on our knees in prayer. PAGASA had warned repeatedly of its ferocity. Its regular posts online projected massive damage to life and property, but very rarely did its forecasters mention about it weakening in strength after hitting land. Rolly eventually spared Central Luzon and NCR, sparking a wave of rejoicing and gratitude among many people, who exclaimed: “Trust God and not PAGASA!”

    ***

    The popular broadcast newsman Edwin Fargas of Channel 9 has passed away after a lingering illness. He was 78.

    Fargas was news director, news manager and vice president for News and Public Affairs of a leading network back then. He tried to create a semblance of independence in the daily newscasts even if the company belonged to Ambassador Roberto Benedicto’s Kanlaon Broadcasting System (KBS). He would argue numerous times with Marcos’ information chief Greg Cendana that balance was important in preserving the news credibility. Several times, he banged the phone after bawling out a Cendana or a Francisco “Kit” Tatad underling trying to intrude into the contents and videos of the newscasts. (Tatad was then the Press Secretary.)

    Fargas was my boss and good friend, although I did not treat him as one when a new board of directors appointed by President Estrada had forced him and all senior officers to resign.

    I had joined the new management in reorganizing the company and gone up against Fargas until he left along with the other vice presidents. The sad thing was that, as I look back, I personally benefitted from his misfortune, as I took over the News and Public Affairs Dept.

    It was a hard lesson in life I have since embraced, that value of true friendship transcends ambition, power and wealth.