Goodbye ‘tocayo’: You’ve Got a Friend

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak - The Philippine Star

One of my favorite songs is an original and timeless piece composed by Carole King and popularized by James Taylor, titled “You’ve Got a Friend.” This song has survived through the years and has stayed in the hearts of so many. It’s a simple and humble melody written in an era of marijuana, free love, long hair, and mini skirts. I’m sure that many of my contemporaries still remember those golden years, which continue to live on in our minds and memories.

The song “You’ve Got a Friend” popped into my mind this week when I was contemplating on what to write about. It became all too clear when I realized I couldn’t let the week pass without writing about my experiences with a good friend that I lost far too soon. I know that many of my colleagues have already reminisced about their personal experiences with Tony Paño, but I can’t help but feel the need to share my own thoughts and feelings about the passing of my good friend and ‘tocayo’ whom I shared many good years with at undoubtedly the best national newspaper in the country. Tony still had so many good years ahead of him when the Good Lord chose to take him into his embrace, but I am certain that God had his reasons. As they say, only the good die young.

Tony joined The STAR earlier than myself and quickly amassed a wealth of knowledge coming to work for the paper right out of college. He was a true workaholic, always willing to go above and beyond and never complaining about any additional work on his shoulders. The fact is, he truly loved his work. He would always take on added responsibilities, closing up to five sections, and even pitching in whenever the slotmen were absent or on vacation. He believed in his work and it showed in the amazing job he did throughout all his years.

Tony never married. He did not have time for a girlfriend. Instead, he focused on taking loving care of his widowed mother and nieces and nephews, putting them through college and always being so generous. He was a very thoughtful person and would always give us pasalubongs from his travels. I look back now with fondness at how he would always ask for a souvenir keychain whenever someone went out of the country, despite the fact that he didn’t drive. They were just for his collection. Keychains were the only items he would request whenever we would leave.

I remember Tony would only leave his desk to either use the restroom or go for a smoke, he was that focused on his work. I remember trying to get him, on several occasions, to give up the smoking habit. Even to the point of nagging. I would tell him my own experiences with cigarettes and remind him how bad they were for his health.

I have since retired from The STAR, but Tony and I have remained friends throughout the years. Our friendship went beyond just being colleagues and I am grateful to have known him and have been friends with him all these years.

Adios ‘tocayo.’ You will always have a friend.

*     *      *

I am so glad that Manila Mayor Erap Estrada has finally seen the light and realized that you can’t solve one problem without creating another, possibly a worse one, and call it successful. While his initial intentions might have been good, after all the truck ban that he began in Manila did lead to a lesser traffic situation, but in addition to the positive added to a real problem — the further congestion of the Manila Port.

Now, to be fair, there were already port congestion problems even before the daytime truck ban in Manila. But, let’s face it, these problems were only exacerbated when trucks were prohibited from traveling on the city’s main roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when there is more coming in than going out, you are going to reach a choking point.

Which is where we are now. The port congestion problem, which began as a small problem and hindrance, has turned into a national problem with some of our import and export partners like Singapore and Hong Kong already expressing their ire over the situation (our own port congestion has caused some congestion in their ports as well). It is important to address this problem now before it’s too late. The effects are already felt by everyone in their daily lives with the rise of the costs of simple goods like lemons, garlic, and ginger just to name a few.

Indeed as economists have said, since what passes through the port are tradable goods, the cost of doing business and the cost of living will inevitably go higher if their problem is not solved. This was evident when inflation rose in the third quarter of the year and food prices spiked along with the cost of utilities.

I just feel that this problem could have been solved much earlier. Once again we are reactionary instead of proactive and we’re only looking for solutions now because the problem is reaching it’s breaking point. Another solution they tried to present was to use the Batangas or Subic ports to help ease up the stress on the Manila port. However, this is also not completely feasible because of logistics like the fact that many of the businesses are still in Manila. Plus the ports are much smaller in Batangas and Subic as well.

Which brings me back to the removal of the truck ban. While this may help it has also caused car-mageddon on the road. Motorists have been advised to leave a good hour or two earlier because they are sure to get caught in traffic.

I’m grateful that steps are at least being taken, but I can’t help but feel that it’s another Band-Aid solution. So the removal of the truck ban may ease the port congestion situation, but it brings us back to catastrophic traffic. What do we do about this? Hopefully now that everyone’s eyes are open this will open the door to a better and long-lasting solution. Solving one problem but creating another is no way to make things better. Again, I only hope this is the first step to a better overall solution. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.











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