A friend named ‘Ex’

By September 28, 2021Punchline

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


I just lost another dear friend in Pangasinan – Ex Exconde. He passed away last Saturday September 18, not from Covid but from aneurysm at age 92.

I actually wondered what Ex’s real first name was when I first met him at the Rotary Club of Dagupan way back in 1969 when I joined the club at age 22.  He was simply called “Ex” by everyone in the club… and in Rotary, that was all that was important – call your fellow members by their first names.  (I had to call my grandfather – Dr. Luis Garcia – as “Louie”).   I only became aware that his first name was “Edmundo” a year later when I read press releases about Nazareth General Hospital.

But these was something different about him on meeting him the first time.  Unlike other Rotarians who spoke Tagalog with Pangasinan accent, he had a pure unexpurgated Tagalog accent, and that’s because I found out, he was a native of San Pablo, Laguna, who migrated to Dagupan having married Caridad Dizon of the Dizon clan.

With the way, Ex was responding to calls to community service, one would easily think he’s a native Dagupeño.

It was easy connecting with him even if he was 20 years my senior. He treated me an equal in Rotary and became comfortable overnight working together on community projects of the club initially with the likes of insurance man Mente Nava, Dr. Germy Galvan, hotel owner Zaling Favila, Dr. Badong Zuleta and banker Danny Santiago.

I distinctly remember one situation how Ex – the always ready to help guy- responded to a problem when we both served as volunteers in the Operation Quick Count in 1971 local elections.

I received a SOS call from one eastern town saying the volunteers there had no way of delivering the counted votes to Dagupan where the headquarters were.  When no one could spare a vehicle for me to drive to that town, I thought of Ex who had just left. I rushed to the Nazareth hospital and told him about the need to get the tabulated results. He left me for a minute and returned with a set of keys. “Itong ambulance gamitin mo na… bahala ka na!” So I drove off like I was driving a brand new car… and turned on the blinkers to add to the excitement! I got back in an hour and he said: “Mabilis pag ambulance di ba, “and he laughed.

When martial law was declared in 1972, I was exiled from Pangasinan and my exciting days in the Rotary ended. I stayed in Quezon City and only managed to sneak back to Dagupan City on weekends to do my presswork in Sunday Punch. Ex would occasionally ask me to join him for lunch. And he continued his habit of inviting me to a a quick get-together to catch up on local politics for the next 50 years till 2021.

Two weeks before he passed away, we still talked about getting together soon as the quarantine level in Dagupan eases up. We had not done our usual meet-up since the pandemic started.

A week later, I had difficulty accepting the news from his son Ed who posted his father’s passing on Facebook. I had to see Ex before he could be cremated. Memories of his sincere friendship had to be sealed with a final prayer in his presence.

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CALL THE SWAT TEAMS. In our issue this week, we have the good news that the number of active cases has declined, perhaps an indication that the worst is over. But it really isn’t.

For as long as infection in towns and cities continues at the same rate, and absence of strict enforcement of health and distancing protocols, particularly in the towns and cities constantly with high number of infections, continues, the COVID-19 situation here will be critical.   

The only common denominator for the constant increase in cases is the absence of strict enforcement of protocols.  The treatment protocol is working for more recoveries but it cannot help reduce new active cases.

Our sports columnist Jess Garcia laments the absence of any semblance of enforcement inside the Mangaldan public market.  Last week, Councilor Tess Coquia said the same. What’s happening in Dagupan City and Mangaldan can only be true in other cities/towns.

The provincial IATF should come to terms with the lax enforcement of the health and distancing protocols. It needs serious drastic action and solution to address the constant rise in infections with strict enforcement. It’s time to call in the PNP Swat teams to impress upon the communities that covid infection is serious business. More people are dying.

Worse, families are being wiped out wholesale!

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IS PANGASINAN READY FOR OFFSHORE MINING? Our headline about the planned large-scale offshore mining at the Lingayen Gulf is a development that should alert all communities in the province not only the five towns and Dagupan City.

What is at stake is not only the province’s fish production for local consumption but the sustainability of the sea environment amid destructive and unpredictable climate change impacting on the country.

Mining the seabed of Lingayen Gulf will be nothing like the mining in the mountains where activities are clearly visible and can be easily monitored. Who can possibly monitor the extent of damage done in the depths of the ocean on a regular basis unless local governments organize and deploy teams of divers to check developments every week.

I’ve seen how the Nickel Asia Corp. rehabilitated its mining areas in Palawan, Surigao del Norte and Dinagat.  It has been doing exactly and more than what the law prescribes to mining companies. There is the model standard and the communities gained fully from these operations.

But recall how then DENR Sec. Gina Lopez tried to stop mining in the country because of the rash of irresponsible mining in other areas in the past and during her incumbency.  Hills and mountains were dug and left unrehabilitated.

Then consider offshore mining . It will completely put all communities literally in the dark even if the mining area will only be three kilometers away from the shore.  If not closely monitored, damage to the seabed will definitely be irreparable.

But I’m afraid, objecting merely to the project based on fears of destruction will not weigh in against the projected gains for development and revenues that can be earned.

The provincial government must on its own do a research how offshore has fared in the country and in other countries.

The offshore mining at the Lingayen Gulf is actually the second to be approved by the Duterte administration. The first was the 1,903 hectares in the seabed off Cagayan, located 14 kilometers offshore from the municipality of Gonzaga. (Note: In Pangasinan, the project area is only three kilometers away).

Reports have it that the communities in Gonzaga deplored the way the agreement for the mining was finalized. This should raise alarm bells.

In August, a study led by University of Hawaii oceanographer Craig Smith showed possible adverse effects that may be brought by mining the ocean floor. Provincial government should secure that study and a team from the six LGUs must reach out  to the communities in Gonzaga.

To boost its position, provincial government must seek to study the offshore mining in other countries that include China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the lnteroceanmetal Joint Organization (a consortium of Bulgaria, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Poland, the Russian Federation and Slovakia), Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Singapore and Tonga.

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