Salamat at paalam, Mike Enriquez

KAPUSO DAY - Angel Javier Cruz - The Philippine Star
Salamat at paalam, Mike Enriquez
Artworks paying tribute to Mike included this sketch made by Michael V.
Photo from Michael V’s social media account

Most of us have preconceived notions about well-known personalities based on what we see on screen or on social media. Some of these presumptions are good, while others are not, such as mayabang, maarte, diva, etc.

All these fade as soon as one meets Kapuso broadcast icon Mike Enriquez. In contrast with his strong presence on TV, his pleasant and unassuming disposition instantly welcomes first-timers. Behind the camera, his booming and distinctive voice turns to a rich and warm baritone.

I have been blessed to have experienced over 15 years of knowing and having Sir Mike as a broadcast superstar, colleague, and friend. Referred to as the Imbestigador ng Bayan, he is also fondly called as Ninong ng Bayan and became my kumpare as principal sponsors in some weddings.

In contrast with his strong presence on TV, Mike Enriquez’s pleasant and unassuming disposition would instantly welcome first-timers. Behind the camera, Sir Mike’s booming and distinctive voice would turn to a rich and warm baritone.

He knew that I used to work in a hotel and would call for assistance on special family occasions — with a caveat — that there should be no special treatment, but just a simple reservation.

He had a series of personal health setbacks, which he fought valiantly. But on Aug. 29, Sir Mike’s passing brought a somber tone in the halls of GMA, his home for 28 years. The outpouring of love across the nation strongly attests to his enduring impact on all those whose lives he touched, one way or another.

Mounting a tribute in just two days for one of the country’s beloved broadcast pillars was quite a task, but all the people behind the event did not for a single second mind the challenge. We all felt privileged to be part of this send-off for a dear colleague we all love.

Network bosses lawyer Felipe Gozon, Gilberto Duavit Jr. and Felipe Yalong condole with Mike’s wife of 46 years, Lizabeth ‘Baby’ Yumping-Enriquez, as the GMA family pays their last respects to a much-valued and loyal comrade.

The Kapuso necrological service, hosted by network anchors Pia Arcangel and Arnold Clavio, was a medley of emotions: Poignant, intimate, humorous, tender, and revelatory. GMA’s top management, Atty. Felipe Gozon, Gilberto Duavit Jr. and Felipe Yalong, along with network officers and employees, were present to pay their last respects to a much-valued and loyal comrade.

Super Radyo dzBB broadcaster Melo del Prado shared stories showing how integrity was the touchstone of Sir Mike’s work as he had always been “palaban basta nasa tama at katwiran.”

People also marveled at his boundless energy and his legendary generosity. Susan Enriquez shared, “Hindi lang po galante ‘yan. Si Sir Mike, bukas po ang palad niya sa mga taong nangangailangan.”

Arnold Clavio and Pia Arcangel host the Kapuso necrological service.

GMA Public Affairs head and long-time producer of Mike’s signature program Imbestigador, Nessa Valdellon looked up to him as a father figure, calling him their “Imbestiga-dad” who “always showed up for us. He made time to talk with us, to meet with us, to treat us.”

Mike is probably the most-listened-to voice of his time — but this was not just on radio. He was also a mentor in matters of the heart.

His fellow 24 Oras anchor, Mel Tiangco, said he was “compassionate and extremely generous to many of those he had crossed paths with. Monetary isn’t the only kind of help he extended. He gave life and career advice to the young and old.”

Mike’s fellow 24 Oras anchor, Mel Tiangco.

If there was a common thread running through all of the tributes and conversations — it was his big heart and love — his love for radio, the people, the oppressed, and most of all, his wife, Tita Babes Enriquez.

As GMA Network chairman and CEO Atty. Gozon said, “Mahal na mahal ni Mike ang radyo at ang pagbabalita… he was at his best self at any time of day. He was up at the crack of dawn anchoring his radio program, delivered the evening news with classic confidence in 24 Oras, and still at his best at the close of day — when he anchored the late-night newscast, Saksi. In between those times, he led teams as senior vice president for radio, covered news stories, and did interviews. But most of all, he was devoted to his wife, Baby.”

The GMA Night of Tribute was filled with stories and heartfelt music. The Clash Season 5 grand champion John Rex serenaded Tita Babes with their theme song Baby, I’m a Want You. Thereafter, Asia’s Romantic Balladeer Christian Bautista and Cherry Caballero of Mabel Air Strings opened the necrological service with the classic duet The Prayer.

The author with the late GMA News pillar.

The Queendom singers Julie Anne San Jose, Jessica Villarubin, Thea Astley, Mariane Osabel, Hannah Precillas, and Rita Daniela concluded the rites with a soulful rendition of Lead Me Lord.

Rain poured that night, as if the Philippine skies, too, mourned the loss of one of its greatest broadcasters.

And while Sir Mike’s earthly program has winded down to a close, his legacy will never vanish in time. He left us with powerful lessons, and we will keep them alive by passing them on.

One more story. The security on our floor in the GMA Network Center reminded me after Sir Mike’s passing. “Ma’am, naalala ko si Sir Mike, ‘pag pumupunta kila FLG at JRD (our bosses’ offices are on the same floor) palaging dadaan muna sa office niyo at hahanapin kayo bago bumaba.”

In retrospect, it’s true! No matter how busy he was, he would always drop by my office, even for just a quick hello, sometimes longer chika, and take time to greet everyone in our department. That’s the irreplaceable Mike Enriquez, with all his charm, warmth, and friendship.

We love you and we will miss you. Salamat at Paalam, Sir Mike.

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