By Alex P. Vidal
“Don’t be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”—Richard Bach
SOMETIME in June 1993 noontime, I landed in the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) Police Precinct 1 jail after I was involved, believe it or not, in a fistfight.
Then PP1 commander, Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, didn’t order his men to bring me inside the jail, but I volunteered to enter a vacant cell adjacent to a packed cell after the booking.
The police didn’t padlock the empty jail but it remained closed while I was inside.
After about 30 minutes, Atty. Joshua Alim, my former media colleague and kumpare, arrived at past 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
“Gaano ka dira p’re man? (What are you doing there, buddy?),” Alim, clad in Barong Tagalog, gushed.
“OK lang p’re. Wala ako reklamo ma stay lang ako diri (It’s okay, buddy. I have no complaint and I’ll just stay here),” I replied.
“Batian ko sa radyo ang natabu. Gua dira p’re a. Indi ka dira ‘ya angayan (I heard what happened on radio. Get out of that place. You don’t belong there),” he insisted.
Pare Joshua’s gesture showed his true character, how he valued a friend in distress, and how he cared.
Chief Inspector Duco didn’t press charges against me. I was allowed to go but only after “posting” a bail in the Hall of Justice.
Pare Joshua, who served as Iloilo City councilor for 18 years, and I knew each other since 1989 when he was reporter of DYFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo while I was reporter of News Express.
In 1990, Bombo Radyo Philippines became the first network to mandate a Barong Tagalog uniform for all field reporters, thus we always addressed Pare Joshua as “attorney” when we attended the press conferences at Camp Martin Delgado, among other beats.
He took the bar exams in 1990.
One morning in April-May 1991 in Pagsanjan, Laguna, our other kumpare Nereo Lujan (Panay News) broke the news to the three other Iloilo delegates in the Graciano Lopez-Jaena Community Journalism Fellowship hosted by University of the Philippines (UP)-Los Banos: Runji Jamolo (Radyo Ng Bayan), James Cabag (Philippine Information Agency), and me that Pare Joshua had passed the 1990 bar exams.
Back in Iloilo, Pare Joshua’s “victory” inspired his media colleagues.
In 1992, or a year before he “pulled me out” of the city jail, balikbayan Pet Melliza (now Atty. Teopisto Melliza) and I became Pare Joshua’s first media clients in a labor case when he was associate of the Bedona Law Office.
He initially wanted to withdraw when he learned that the legal counsel for the defendant was his law professor in the Central Philippine University (CPU), now Judge Neri Duremdes.
But Pare Joshua changed his mind and won his first case against his law professor.
Even before he became a city councilor, Atty Alim joined forces when the late Councilor German “Kuya Germs” Gonzalez and Atty. Romeo Gerochi fought the Panay Electric Company (PECO) with tongs and hammers.
He also picked up the cudgels for the urban poor and became a household name in Iloilo, aside from his media background, which was instrumental in his impressive election victories.
Pare Joshua never missed some major events in the media, including press club activities even if his presence wasn’t mandatory owing to his schedule and activities while “on the other side of the fence.”
When he became a full-fledged politician, we rarely mingled and would meet only in the coffeeshops.
When I relocated to the United States, social media became our most convenient meeting place.
Pare Joshua was aware of my reputation as a media practitioner who never maintained close friendships with some politicians.
There were times he was tempted to doubt if my being a “hard-hitting” journalist and his “vulnerability” as a public servant would threaten the sacredness of our friendship.
Even if he knew I was among his few former media colleagues not afraid to lose a politician as a friend especially if the politician is corrupt, abusive and evil, he was somebody I can’t afford to lose because he wasn’t corrupt, abusive and evil.
Hours after his demise was made known, the social media burst with sorrow and emotional pain like Iloilo lost a great son and leader.
As a colleague, Pare Joshua was trustworthy who never took advantage of any media practitioner. He wanted to be a friend of all the rank-and-file and the bigwigs in the industry that first gave him a name.
As a public servant, he had the charisma of the late Mayor Mansing Malabor, populist but down to earth and sincere. As a friend, he was the type who would leave last when the captain called for abandonment of the ship.
Even in death, he continued to amaze and make us proud of him.
Farewell, Pare Joshua. Let’s resume our coffee session in the Kingdom of God.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)