General Admission

Jun V’s wisdom smothered me

By Al S. Mendoza

WAS it in 2005 when Jun Velasco finally succeeded in luring me to write a column for this exceedingly distinguished newspaper of 63 years?

It was a long “courtship” due to complications, both imagined and real.

For one, a column here for me might break rules at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

As the Inquirer’s sports editor then, I was an Inquirer employee full time.

Any other job outside of the Inquirer could make me guilty of moonlighting.

Likewise, writing here might put me in conflict with my column on two sections at the Inquirer.

“I think we can avoid those troubles, even easily at that,” Jun V said. 

“How?”

“One, your PUNCH column will not make you a full-time employee of the PUNCH,” Jun V said. “It’s just a once-a-week thing, Compadre.”

“Two, the PUNCH is not a direct competitor of the Inquirer,” he said.  “While the PUNCH is a community paper, the Inquirer is a national broad sheet.”

“And three, because your PUNCH column will be in the Opinion Page, it will not conflict with your Inquirer columns in Sports and Motoring,” Jun V said.  “Three columns with three different thrusts.”

He got me there.

“But one final question,” I said to Jun V.

“Fire away, Compadre.”

“Has Ermin given his unconditional permission?”

“Of course,” Jun V said.  “I would not have dared to invite you all this time to write for us without Ermin’s go signal.”

I was covering the PAL Interclub in Bacolod City when I was “ordered” to submit my first PUNCH column.

“Ermin wants your column before 1 p.m. today,” came Jun V’s message at about 12:30 p.m. that day.

I wasted no time and pounded away at my laptop full steam.

At about seven minutes before the 1 p.m. deadline, my first PUNCH column was at the newspaper’s central desk.  That was a Friday, March 11.

On March 13, 2005 (thanks a lot to Jules A. for providing the exact date), my first GENERAL ADMISSION saw print here.

Wrote the late Kuya Gerry Garcia then in his PUNCH column, “I am surprised at how speedy Al could write his column.”

Tsamba lang, Kuya Gerry.

I have never missed submitting a column since, if memory serves.

If only to keep my word to Jun V when I took on the challenge to join the PUNCH, I intend to sustain that spotless record for as long as I can.

And, if I may digress a bit, when they buried the remains of Jun V yesterday (February 2), a part of me died, too.

His wife, the charming as ever Bebot, knows deep in her heart the unbreakable bond Jun V and I had so passionately forged—fortified by poetic anger during the darkest days of the unlamented Martial Law.

There were beer-binge nights that had Jun V and me narrowly escaping police arrests on midnight curfews on years 1972-1986, only to see the two of us laughing to our hearts’ content as we repaired each time to our apartment in Sampaloc: More beer till dawn.

Bye, Jun V: journalist, freedom fighter, great father, incisive poet, but, most of all, the love of Bebot’s life.

Enjoy your vacation, Compadre Jun V.  Forced or whatever.

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