VM Labella: I used to sell The Freeman newspapers
Niña G. Sumacot-Abenoja (The Freeman) - July 18, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Before he became a prominent figure in Cebu, holding posts in government such as Ombudsman director, Sandiganbayan prosecutor, Cebu City councilor and now Vice Mayor, Edgardo Labella was once a deliverer of news, literally.

 For more or less a year, back when he was still 13 years old, Labella sold The Freeman copies when this was revived in 1965 by Jose "Dodong" R. Gullas as a weekly magazine, coming out every Sunday.

"My usual route was, from our house in Mabolo, I would walk through Tres Borces St., then Gil Tudtud St., then reach an empty place with cogon grass where the Grand Convention Center now stands, cross a little creek then cross the runway toward the old Lahug airport where we sell the newspaper," he narrated.

Labella said he got his copies of The Freeman from his father, Eugenio, who was a History teacher and at the same time director of student affairs of the University of the Visayas, which is owned by the Gullas family.

"Being a faculty member, he was given by Sir Dodong a quota of 100 copies every Sunday because the revival of The FREEMAN newspaper was only every Sunday," shared Labella.

The vice mayor recalled that Gullas' driver then, Boy, would deliver the newspapers to their house using a Volkswagen Kombi. He added that the copies were considered sold, so he had to help his father in selling the copies.

Labella said the newspaper then was sold at 15 centavos each, his father getting a 5-centavo share per copy.

 "I had to see to it that they would all be sold out because my father already gave 10 cents times 100 pieces and we had to turn over to Boy the next day the amount," he said, adding that selling The Freeman copies was his routine every Sunday, until the paper turned daily.

Labella said a neighbor, Viviano Bacug, who was also a good friend, religiously went with him every Sunday to sell the newspaper.

"Sometimes tag 50 pie-ces mi. Sometimes, I brought with me 70 pieces, iya ang 30 kabuok. Mag-iyahay mi'g baligya. Mag-abot mi sa airport," he said.

From about 9am, after attending Mass, Labella and Bacug would then start selling the newspapers. They each had sukis so a little after lunch, all their copies were already sold out.

"They would shout, 'Oy, Freeman oy!'" Labella fondly recalled. "The 100 pieces were just enough for our route," added the vice mayor.

An unforgettable experience while selling newspapers then was when he and Bacug got scared of an approaching plane while crossing the runway of the old airport.

"We thought that we will be run over so we scampered. We were in a hurry that the newspapers were thrown away because of the wind sa propeller. Nagligid-ligid gyud mi," Labella narrated.

Eventually, however, they were able to sell the newspapers that they were able to save. "Ang uban wa na namo mahipos, there were only a few copies sold. My father got angry at me," he recalled.

Labella said most of his sukis were old people, government officials and congressmen from Mindanao, who used to take planes to Manila via Cebu since there were no direct flights to Manila from Mindanao during that time.

He said former Danao City congressman Ramon Durano was one of the prominent buyers of The Freeman.

"He was living in Da-nao but he would fly every Sunday afternoon to Manila to attend the session in Congress. So I would always hurry to reach Lahug airport, mga 11 am, kay that's about the time he will be there with his wife to fly to Manila," Labella further recalled, adding that Durano would always tell him to "keep the change" every time he buys a copy of the paper.

He said he would get a "pahalipay" from his father after selling the newspaper. "Tagaan sad ko gamay inig human, but almost practically akong ihatag niya tanan," he said.

Labella said Sir Dodong did not know that he used to sell The FREEMAN newspapers until lately when they chanced upon each other and talked about the old times. "I will never forget Sir Dodong," said Labella, as he recalled an unforgettable experience involving the chairman of The Freeman.

He said that while still a second year high school student in UV, he represented the school in the Voice of Democracy Oratorical contest.

"I got to wear my first Marsoto wool and jusi barong from Syvls, a famous tailoring shop in the city, courtesy of Sir Dodong," he shared.

 "And you know what, when Sir Dodong gave me the barong, he said 'Do not be scared of the judges because they are just like us, they are just human beings. When they go to their homes, they just wear their short pants and play with their kids. They are just ordinary people, so when you look at the judges do not be intimidated'," Labella recalled.

Although he did not win the top prize in the contest, Labella said Sir Dodong's words, from then on, became one of his guiding principles in life, apart from the great experience he got from selling and delivering newspapers to the people. — /QSB

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