Rico Yan overkill

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -
With the passing away of Rico Yan last Good Friday, a lot of other issues had been sidetracked: the Erap trial, the still-unsolved murder of Nida Blanca, the Joey Marquez-Alma Moreno/Jomari Yllana-Aiko Melendez separation, the Abu Sayyaf loot and the fact that we are a starving and backward nation.

Please don’t think I am being insensitive and unsympathetic, but I think the media coverage of Rico Yan’s death was blown way out of proportion.

I was in a barrio called San Joaquin in the Western Visayas when I learned about the actor’s death. A text message from Maila Gumila read: "Rico Yan died in his sleep at the Dos Palmas resort. Dominic (Ochoa) found him stiff already. Cardiac arrest." My initial reaction was to text her back and my message to her was: "I hope this is not a joke." Then, I decided to call Maila’s number and spoke to her to verify the news. She said that yes, it is true.

A few minutes later, a lot of other text messages came in – including one from Sharmaine Arnaiz asking people to pray for the repose of Rico’s soul. But there were also other nasty text messages implying that the actor died of drug overdose. (This was, of course, later proven by the autopsy report to be untrue.)

The media man in me, of course, saw the newsworthiness of it all. But, alas, there was no live broadcast that day – being a Good Friday and, supposedly, even the following day, Black Saturday. (GMA-7 and ABS-CBN eventually decided to do special news features last Saturday.)

By Easter Sunday, however, all local networks were scheduled to return to regular programming. But I suddenly remembered that the two showbiz talk shows airing that day, S-Files and The Buzz, had already taped their respective episodes and everyone was supposed to have been on vacation. When I checked in at the pre-departure area of the new airport on my way to Bacolod City, in fact, I was told by the people manning the x-ray machines that Paolo Bediones, who was on his way to Cebu, had also checked in minutes ahead of me.

But with Rico Yan’s death, everyone was called back to work and made to do a live broadcast. Both S-Files and The Buzz enjoyed high ratings last Sunday – and this didn’t come as a surprise to me anymore because, with the absence of regular programming days before, everyone was hungry for news about the death of Rico Yan. (And with all sorts of speculations about his death coming from all directions, everyone was curious to know the truth).

I really salute the men and women of S-Files and The Buzz for the very comprehensive coverage they did on Rico Yan’s death. (It was a pity Startalk couldn’t go on air that week because it was Black Saturday.)

However, I was bothered by the coverage done by the news programs on television with regard to the actor’s death. It was hysterical, to say the least. It was as if there was nothing else going on in the world except for the death of Rico. (I’m sure the Yan family really would have preferred to have just been left alone and grieve in private.) And for one week, every other show in ABS-CBN – except for the cartoons in the morning – had nothing but features on Rico Yan.

I can’t blame television, of course, for harping on this issue no end. After all, that was what everyone was talking about. At the pre-departure area of the Iloilo airport on my way back to Manila, for instance, copies of a local daily, The Informer, were distributed to the waiting passengers at the lounge. From the back area where I was seated, I could see how everyone was glued to that page that carried a story on Rico Yan’s death.

Even now that Rico had been laid to rest, people still haven’t stopped talking about the circumstances surrounding his death. And I won’t be surprised if I’m told by my writers as we walk into the GMA-7 studio this afternoon that our main feature in Startalk would still be about Rico Yan’s death.

It is easy to understand all the hoopla about the actor’s death. To begin with, his death came all too sudden. And even if he was really no superstar, he was a certified heartthrob. He was young, good-looking and had seemingly boundless energy. It was really a waste that he had to go this soon – especially after we are told he had helped a lot of people in his own little way. It is sad to see somebody with a whole life and a bright future still ahead of him die so young.

But I feel saddened still over the fact that while the entire nation mourned the death of Rico Yan, no one seemed to have cared about the almost simultaneous passing away of Lucio San Pedro and Levi Celerio, two National Artists who have contributed a lot in the field of Philippine music.

Although I don’t condemn those who chose to spend time, energy and even resources pushing and elbowing their way through the crowd to get a final glimpse of their favorite matinee idol lying in state – rather than paying their last respects to our two national treasures, San Pedro and Celerio, I have to say that, surely, we’ve got our priorities mixed up. This is really something to grieve about.

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