Remembering Ricky

Ferdinand S. Topacio - The Philippine Star
Remembering Ricky
The author (left) with the late STAR Entertainment editor and columnist Ricky Lo.

Most of the most important people in our lives are those we don’t remember meeting: Parents, siblings, childhood friends, people who were suddenly “just there” as far as we knew.

And so was it with Idol Ricky Lo and I.

One fine day, more than a decade ago, we must have met, of course — sometime, somewhere. But try as I might, I could not recall where and when. It was as if I didn’t know him before, and then I knew him. And then he was my friend.

All I remember is that, when we first shook hands, I tried calling him “Tito Ricky.” He would have none of it. Made him feel so old, he said. So, I started calling him “Idol Ricky.” Which was just apropos: I knew of his writings well long before I met him.

As a serious student of literature (I have a baccalaureate in world literature in English), for years I have admired the way he wrote. And as an unabashed movie fan since childhood (Noranian, Sharonian and JaDine fan here), I dutifully watched most every television show he hosted. It was not pabalat-bunga, as we Tagalogs would say; he was sincerely my idol. My sobriquet for him stuck.

And it was the start of a beautiful friendship, to paraphrase a famous line from the movie Casablanca. A relationship beyond what one would expect between two kindred spirits. We both shared a passion for writing to be sure; but more than that, I can say without exaggeration that Idol Ricky made my dream come true. Starting out with sharing “the buzz” on showbiz personalities during our countless lunches and dinners together, he then went on to become my boss, in a manner of speaking.

After knowing of my love of cinema after we had graduated to comparing notes about movies we both had seen, he invited me — suddenly and from out of nowhere — to write movie reviews for The Philippine STAR. I was flabbergasted: Here I was, being given the chance to fulfill one of my oldest and fondest wishes, and in the country’s best newspaper at that. How could I refuse? “Eight hundred words, more or less. E-mail me as soon as you finish one, please not after midnight,” Idol Ricky sternly speaking as my new editor after I said yes.

Thus, more than 45 published reviews later, I told him in 2019 that I would be compiling them in a book and become a book author, following the lead of my Idol. His enthusiasm over that bit of “good news,” as he called it, was more than overflowing: He even volunteered to write the Foreword. Which he did. A moving piece of writing if there ever was one, a heartfelt favor for a friend. I will use it when times permit that my book will finally see the light of day.

But more than someone to share the latest showbiz happenings with, more than my editor, I could confide in Idol Ricky. I felt quite comfortable sharing my secrets with him, including those about my many well-known entanglements with personalities in the movie industry. Good ole Idol Ricky: He instinctively knew just how much he could write in his columns without breaching my trust; and verily, those “off the record” remained off the record. He took them with him to the grave.

In fine, of all the precious memories, I will best remember Idol Ricky for two things. First, he made me a “sex object,” by putting me in his Sexy Talk, the only middle-aged, overweight, non-hunk featured in a column dedicated to the country’s most physically desirable specimens of manhood and womanhood. Second, for our recent epic battle against Nadine Lustre and her screaming hordes of rabid fans offended by a totally factual and professional article written by Ricky. Together with another old friend (veteran movie writer Jojo Gabinete), I spent days on the keyboard on social media, working our fingers to the bone beating off a fanatical lynch mob. In the end, Ricky’s scoop was proven true and the hysteria subsided.

Now, he is gone. And here it is, the final piece for my former editor, friend, confidante, fellow movie buff, my exemplar. I have only lately come to grips with the inescapable fact that never again will I hear stories from him about the bygone days of Philippine movies, a subject close to both our hearts; that I now have no one to tell my secrets to; and that no more will I get text messages late at night asking me where my review is. And if this were one of my reviews, I would say about Idol Ricky’s life and my friendship with him: TWO THUMBS UP!

So here it is, Idol, 800 words, more or less, e-mailed as soon as I finished, way before midnight. I never missed any of your deadlines, but I will miss you.

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