He is now 82 yrs. old, so he told me at the recent command visit of PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar at the mess hall of the Quezon police provincial headquarters in Camp Nakar. We – Ace Fernandez, Sol Luzano and Anna Gob, Opinyon news team – are supposed to have come just in time for the arrival of the PNP chief and for the expected press conference which we are eager to attend but only to realize we arrived late when we discovered the presscon has already been done.
Among the multitude of local media practitioners you would be seeing are of course the usual suspects of media veterans – Gemi Formaran, Sonny Mallari, Bayani Hilario, Celine Tutor, Tony Sandoval, Nida Junco, Boots Gonzalez, Rico Catampungan, Belly Otordoz and a few up and coming young radio broadcasters like Fannah and Joy Roales.
And among the noisy and frisky press of print and broadcast journos in the PNP event was no other than former Quezon provincial chief of the Phil. Information Agency (PIA) Jose Asensi Jr. (I was expecting to see, another grizzled and seasoned veteran broadcaster Johnny Glorioso, who I think is almost of the same age as Manong Joe, but no, I have not seen Manong Johnny on that occasion. Or he may have left earlier).
Direk, (he has been PIA director for perhaps almost 2 decades) or Manong Joe, as others call him, still gets to mix up with the younger and even young generation of journos even at his advanced age of 82. Others of his generation have simply faded away, died, retired and while he said he has already retired as an active mediaman, why was he still there among us in that occasion of the visit of the PNP chief?
It turns out that as founding president of Kabalikat Civicom Lucena North 888 Chapter, Manong Joe was there to welcome the arrival of the PNP chief. Kabalikat Civicom as you know is considered as a Force Multiplier of the PNP since 2001 up to the present and lending its support during the conduct of the PNP’s Oplan ‘Lakbay Alalay’, Oplan Kaluluwa, Oplan ‘Covid Shield’ and other worthy PNP activities. He unfurled a welcome banner of the Kabalikat Civicom together with Bay Hilario and Ronald Agbaya and I gamely took a shot of them.
Manong Joe, when he was able to corner me in that event, said he was thinking of me, of inviting me to a coffee chat just to talk about the past, especially of course, his varied and colorful past as a media man. He said, perhaps to flatter me, he considers me as one of the reliable print journalists, like the late veteran print journalist Benny Luzentalez, also of the PIA.
I tell you, Manong Joe does not hesitate to rattle off what he has accomplished claiming he started in his early 20s during the time of Pres. Marcos, has done media work in Malacañang for 30 yrs. perhaps up to the time he retired as a PIA director sometime in the 90’s. He said he has already accumulated 60 yrs. in the media industry, the longest as a media practitioner in Southern Tagalog region, starting as a radio announcer at DZLT station and has garnered up to 400 various awards and citations including Quezon Medalya ng Karangalan in 2004 and as one of the Natatanging Anak ng Lucena in 2002.
Manong Joe has also dabbled in politics, having been elected as Lucena city councilor for two terms, I think, has been involved in many civic organizations, programs and activities and has even become designated a colonel in the Army reserved force. His pretty daughter, Marie, who could have also been elected as Lucena councilor had she not been disqualified for being underage for the position, is married to outgoing Vice Gov. Samuel Nantes, son of the late Gov. Rafael Nantes.
Whenever I get to think of accomplished media practitioners I think of one Manong Joe and of course, a certain Joselito ‘Tito’ Ojeda of DWTI, former mayor of Mulanay, another of my ‘aydol’ whom I look up to who, amazingly, is now back anew reporting nonchalantly in the airlanes like he used to do in his greenhorn years.
Perhaps, like real soldiers, media veterans like Manong Joe Asensi, and yes, Mayor Tito, are hardened souls and fierce spirits in the battleground of life, and they just keep going on, still at it while they can, tenacious and resilient to the end.