Commentary: Thanks for the journey

Lito A. Tacujan (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2018 - 12:00am

There’s this eight-foot black metal sheet which company security guards would frantically assemble into a tiny bridge on the first sign of flood in front of The STAR’s main office in Intramuros.

For close to two decades, it would serve as some sort of a rescue tool, a slippery passage for employees who would brave roaring rains and howling winds to be able to report to work and put to bed the issue the following day.

We worked and helped build that wobbly steel span. And for the volume of footsteps this poor dirt-filled structure would have to endure, we love to think it literally serves as the first step in linking The STAR to its generations of readers.

“The Tacujan bridge,” say some of the editors at the desk in jest.

“It’s a sort of legacy, keeping you dry,” I would fire back.

Looking back, I feel a tinge of sadness for I am certain I will miss crossing it in haste in some rainy days now that I take my final leave.

Retirement beckons. A few weeks from now I will be leaving the small space where we grappled and toiled everyday, taking with me some mementos and faded photos that had gathered dusts.

Thirty-two years. How time flies.

I will surely miss the daily banter and fun and pun-filled exchanges particularly with a close neighbor, Doreen Yu of the Starweek.

“We miss you, Ms. Yu,” we’d say when she came home from one of her forays in China.

Miss as well Amy Pamintuan losing her cool when the traffic turns horrific or one of the reporters misses a big story.

“@#$%!!...grabe traffic,” she would say, the clutch of section eds getting smaller before the expletives run their full course.

Thirty-two years. More than three decades of editing one of the best, if not the best Sports Section, in the country, giving readers a breakfast dose of the tests and travails and pains and gains and triumph of the human spirit.

We would soak it all in with a press-box view, the real coup in a sports scribe career, watching the world’s best in action.

And being able to use some resiliency in style to capture the drama, the thrills and chills of memorable contests long before the advent of on-line streaming and PPV (pay-per-view).

We had it all.

In 32 years we had our share of covering the greats and The Greatest, the emergence of Manny Pacquiao who displayed the courage and heart of the Filipino, five Olympic Games with Onyok Velasco’s silver medal finish in Atlanta 1996 one of the highlights.

It’s living the dream.

An incredible trip for a guy bound to write sports, growing up in a milieu of sporting excellence in a small town in Laguna.

Canlubang was then the seat of a baseball dynasty. It shimmered in glorious reign in late 50s and 60s and we would walk and talk baseball with the game’s icons any time of the day and share a bus ride to many a championship war in old Rizal.

At the same time, it stirred up in a wide-eyed boy in a big happy family of 10 children interest and love for sports that he would proudly carry to his waning years.

Early on, I was fascinated and smitten by the printed word and was torn between a course in agriculture in UP (Los Baños) or journalism until our eldest brother ended my dilemma when he enrolled me in proxy in journalism in Philets in UST. And that’s how I became a writer.

Despite being freed from the tyranny of daily deadline, I take my leave with a heavy heart. The STAR has been a second family the past three decades. My five children have long accepted the fact their Dad wouldn’t be home all the time.

And my loving wife has long doubled as mom and dad attending to the school works of our kids while I was holed up in the sports desk, waiting in the dead of night for the final whistle ending a game somewhere in the metropolis.

The STAR has been good to us. For this we will be forever grateful.

In return we have invested the best years of our lives, particularly the pioneer members of The STAR, to help secure its future and make it the nation’s No. 1 newspaper.

It was one amazing journey.

We are confident we lived up to the challenge. We love to think that we took in the best and the worst and swung at all the pitches thrown us and walked away from the plate wiser and a better person.

We knew we gave it our best shot.

We will miss the daily grind, the pressures to come up with a competitive page and the pleasures to learn it gets by the morning after.

Now we take our leave. Not grudgingly, but heartfelt for the long years. And a little wish that, perhaps, in some rainy nights, they would somehow remember, while crossing that wobbly footbridge, this old grump of a deadline beater.

– Lito A. Tacujan is to retire Sept. 30 and will write a weekly column for The STAR.

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