Tony goes gently into the night

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying light…

— From a poem by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas

Excuse me for waxing poetic just this once because the life of a friend I’m writing about is, in a sense, poetry in progress which will remain unfinished and therefore unappreciated, rudely interrupted as it was by the thief in the night…the Big C! For more than a month, he lay slowly wasting away in his hospital bed, intubated during his last few days, eventually losing the battle but, as the cliché  goes, winning the war.

Contrary to Dylan Thomas’ stern reminder in one of his poems, Tony Paño went “gentle into the good night,” too weak perhaps to “rage, rage against the dying light,” slipping into an eternal sweet slumber which knows no pain, no suffering, no cares and no worries, lulled by The Great Embrace.

I’m saying that Tony’s life was a “poetry in progress,” which was not just a haiku (three lines couldn’t tell the whole story) nor a sonnet (neither could 14 lines) but long Shakespearean stanzas. Tony loved poetry, music, movies, reality-TV, theater and books (all kinds).

But more than all that, Tony loved his job so much that, if jet-setters are said to live out of a suitcase, Tony lived in the dummies of The STAR’s Nation, Tourism, Telecoms and Science & Technology sections that he would close week after week for more than two decades. He was, in fact, closing his page when he felt a terrible stomach pain and, even when he was looking pale and very weak, initially refused to be brought to the hospital and agreed only on the condition that he would only be checked and allowed to return to work. Stage 4 colorectal cancer, the doctor confirmed the grim diagnosis, and didn’t let Tony leave the hospital until last Friday (Sept. 5) before midnight when he, as I was saying, disobeying Dylan Thomas, went gently into the night in quiet surrender, not at all raging, raging against the dying light. He was 53. The good die young, don’t they?

Perhaps the most quiet editor in The STAR with an invisible “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging around his neck when he was beating the deadline, Tony was actually a funny guy. He got all sorts of invitations for junkets but he seldom went, assigning guys from other sections to go instead. In one of his rare trips abroad, he showed up early at the airport only to find out that his flight had left — the day before! He forgot to check the ticket.

Last year, as was his wont, he dropped by his favorite store along Commonwealth Avenue to buy his favorite bottle of red wine. He found the door sealed but he kept on knocking just the same even if the guard at first didn’t let him in but only relenting when Tony insisted. Woe of woes, Tony walked right smack into a robbery in progress. He was one of the victims stripped of valuables.

On one of my trips to L.A. for a Hollywood junket, Tony as usual asked for a DVD as pasalubong, particularly a copy of The Sound of Music because the musical was being staged at Resorts World and he wanted his grandkids to watch the movie before watching the theater version. As I said, Tony loved music and musicals and during The STAR Christmas Party last year, he competed in The Voice Philippine STAR singing contest and, as Team Tony, we at Entertainment Section cheered him right on! He lost, all right, but he felt like a winner.

Up There, I’m sure Tony is singing with the angels gleefully dancing around him with their harps, keeping alive the Eternal Stage with the sound of music, with songs that have been sung for a thousand years, with us down here cheering him right on!

You are the man, Tony Paño!

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying light.

— Another line from the same Dylan Thomas poem










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