Banking reporters pay tribute to BSP’s Tito Mon

Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - When you get assigned to cover the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), you must have done something that impressed your editor because the banking beat is one of the toughest beats to crack.

It’s not for the faint of heart or the onion skinned because it’s one big jungle, with the most intimidating veteran reporters as your competitors and brilliant public servants, who have no time for stupid questions, as sources.

But along with the difficulties, you get to enjoy and experience so many things reporters in other beats won’t have any of – from the most mundane to the market moving. For one, your stories will often land on the front page of the paper, if not on the front page of the business section. Anything that the BSP Governor says makes for the next day’s headlines.

You get to interview the best and the brightest monetary authorities and the geniuses of the banking industry. You get to cover the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank meetings in Manila and beyond. You get to cover one financial crisis after another. And if you’re lucky enough, you get to bring home journalism awards, too.

You get to moonlight for the news wires, or if you’re tough enough to bear the stress, move to one permanently.

You get to collect uncut bills, commemorative coins, Papal coins, coffee table books on the finest gold collections, and of course, crisp peso bills in exchange for your very soiled ones.

But more than all these perks, there is one other thing that every banking reporter who has covered the BSP – at least before Jan. 29 – is privileged enough to enjoy: to be in the stewardship, care and even the mentoring of ‘Tito Mon.’

BSP’s Ramon ‘Tito Mon’ Lozano, in charge of media relations and the press office, is the guiding light to every rookie reporter and for the veterans, a dearest friend. He is the foster parent you never had, the generous godparent you wish you had, an adviser, father confessor, guidance counselor, driver, cook and what-have-you.

Tito Mon has been with seven central bank governors starting with Governor Gregorio Licaros in 1979.

After decades of handling BSP’s media relations – 37 years in all – Tito Mon did what banking reporters thought would never happen: He stepped down and retired.

And so with heavy hearts, generations and generations of banking reporters gathered for a surprise farewell party for Tito Mon on Jan. 28, a day before his retirement.

Held at the Suez Boutique Hotel in Makati, owned by veteran PR man Resty Perez, himself a former banking reporter, the event brought together more than 50 former and current banking reporters.

The bosses of the country’s major dailies were all in his care at one point and they were all there to wish him well: Ray Eñano of The Standard, Corrie Narisma of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Fil Sionil of Manila Bulletin.

From the wires: The two hosts of the night, Clarissa Batino, Bureau Chief of Bloomberg and Cris Larano for DowJones/Wall Street Journal.

There’s also Roel Landingin, editor of Forbes Philippines, Daxim Lucas of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the indefatigable Stella Arnaldo of BusinessMirror who organized the whole thing.

Of course, the current crop of BSP reporters, too: Jimmy Calapati of MalayaBusinessInsight, The STAR’s Lawrence Agcaoili and BusinessWorld’s Mel Lopez.

But the guest of honor who came for a last ditch effort to convince Tito Mon to change his mind and stay for a few more months was no less than BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr.

“I don’t really know why you’re celebrating,” Tetangco said in jest, in denial of Tito Mon’s impending departure.

Right there, in front of the crowd, Tetangco tried to convince Tito Mon to stay on until July 2017 when Tetangco’s term ends, to the applause of the reporters.

But Tito Mon would not budge, excited perhaps to have some peace and quiet and to finally be away from the never-ending demands of banking reporters.

Yet even though nobody could convince him to stay on, it was a night filled with laughter, banter and good memories.

The oldies told about enjoying beer at the BSP press office on Friday nights. The revelation came from The Standard’s Eñano while The STAR Business Editor Marianne Go said Tito Mon could write a book of secrets because he knows all the secrets of banking reporters.

Manila Bulletin’s Sionil revealed the squabbles among reporters for meryenda,  something that would be replayed generations later as revealed by The STAR’s Agcaoili who said they often fight over rice before they could partake of Tito Mon’s usual baon.

The stories are endless as they are varied, but all good memories for sure.

He indeed played a thousand and one roles to every banking reporter who covered the beat, but Forbes’ Landingin captured it best when he said in his tribute that Tito Mon, through his good relations with the media, played a huge role in keeping the country’s monetary environment stable.

We all agree!

Thank you dear Tito Mon for the best of times in the banking beat. Hats off to your public service career, which you have served well.

As you leave the hulking BSP building along Roxas Boulevard to roam the world and walk toward the rest of your life, we will cope with the thought that someday soon, as ANC’s Cathy Yang once said, we will reunite again with our Tito Mon, perhaps over lunch or dinner with your famous binagoongan.

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