More than just a game
What a game.
For nearly half my life — 1996-2001 with the Gokongwei family and 2001-2020 with the Inquirer Group of Companies — I had been with Bandera as sports editor and, for the last five years, associate editor of this popular daily tabloid.
Right from the tip-off mark on September 10, 1990, Bandera positioned itself as a major player in the industry.
It may not have a blue chip on its shoulder but Bandera was good enough to be a first-round pick in any basketball draft.
Like ‘old school’ NBA, the tabloid game back then may be a little dirty and rough — others like to call it ‘smut’ — but Bandera served the public well, delivering news and entertainment to Filipinos of all ages nationwide.
The opening quarter of the game was a blowout. Bandera went firing on all cylinders right from the get-go. After all, that’s the true essence of being Bandera, the leader of galloping thoroughbreds right from the opening gate.
In the second period, however, the game changed.
The new owners — the Prieto family — decided to play clean and upright. Bandera was, shall we say, ‘sanitized’ and became ‘wholesome’.
No more hand checks, no more elbows and no more hard fouls. The tough and rowdy image tag was toned down and naturally, Bandera lost its comfortable lead and lagged behind the opponents.
Halftime came and the coach wanted to shake the hornets’ nest and try new plays. This was when Bandera tried to change format from tabloid to a bigger compact size and introduce an ambitious lifestyle section in full color.
Unfortunately, it did not turn out the way Bandera wanted it to be. It was like the New York Knicks signing Amare Stoudemire to a 5-year and nearly $100-million contract and, eventually, the former NBA All-Star played only 29 games in his first year with the new team. Disaster.
Bandera struggled in the third period as the paper grappled to find its identity. Do we play the triangle? Do we try the 2-3 zone? Do we press at full court? Who are our readers?
It was near ‘game-over’ at that point in time. No defense, no teamwork and no profit.
Luckily, by the fourth and final period, Bandera found its bearing and recovered from a huge deficit. Bandera rallied in the endgame and managed to survive on the nick of time.
And so we went to overtime.
Bandera actually had a chance to win the game, thanks to the five-minute (year) extension period and new digital platforms like the Bandera website and its facebook and twitter pages. But when the current pandemic stepped in and fans were barred from entering the stadium, the game had to be called off.
No papers can reach Visayas and Mindanao where most of Bandera’s readers come from. Most tabloid readers in Metro Manila and Luzon have stayed at home during the quarantine. And buying newspapers isn’t actually a necessity these days.
The final buzzer has finally sounded for Bandera.
No talks of curtailing press freedom, of government intervention and of unfair labor practices.
It was time to go. The editorial persona may be the heart of a newspaper but advertising revenues and street sales are the blood that flows through its veins. It was a business decision to end an institution such as Bandera and there’s nothing we can do.
Frankly, I would not miss the editorial work. Well, not as much as I would miss the people I worked with through the years who contributed bit by bit to who I am today.
I’m gonna try to recall as many as I can.
Former sports editor Winchell Campos who hired me to be his assistant in 1996. The late ‘great’ Barry Pascua who I considered my mentor in sports writing.
Columnists who became part of Bandera like Andy Sevilla, Benjie Santiago, Ambet Nabus, Manny Piñol, Manny Pacquiao, Lando Luzong, Fred Lumba and sports writers like Mike Lee, Lito Oredo, Richard Dy, Waylon Galvez, Anna Pesigan, Zenaida Dadacay, Marlon Bernardino, Eric Dimzon, Miramon Nuevo, Olmin ‘Jeks’ Leyba, Joey Villar, Salven lagumbay, Rey Joble, Rey Danseco, Mark Maniquis, King Cortel, Moses Billacura, Jon Develos and Lito delos Reyes.
My gratitude also to other members of the Bandera sports family who has passed on to the great beyond like Butch Maniego, Ronnie Nathanielsz, Cris Daluz and Pompeyo ‘Mr, Action Line’ Navarro.
I also had a bunch of great photographers like Edwin Bellosillo, Chris Villarin, Rey Nillama, Nats Taboy, Boy Inocentes and Fidel Peren, among others.
Thanks to the current ‘lean and mean’ Bandera sports team: Melvin Sarangay, Dodie Gonzalez, Carlo Sebugero, Dennis Hilanga and columnists Dennis Eroa, Lito Cinco and Henry Liao. Most of the time, we needed to be resourceful even without resources.
Shout out, too, for the hard-working Ka-Tropa of Bandera: editor in chief Dona Policar, executive editor Jimmy Alcantara, entertainment editor Ervin Santiago, Bella Cariaso, Djan Magbanua, Billy Begas, Jun Mogol, Francisco Ong, Jenny Bilog, Roy Mendiola, Liza Soriano, John Roson, Pher Mendoza, Yasmin Baron, Tina Pilapil, Miguel Tudlong, Janet Uy, Cherish Huelgas, Christine Mangaoil, Pau Geluz, Marie Yapamancio Po, Aziel Surban, Imelda Limbo and our very reliable “Reggie” Jojo Regulacion Jr.
Thanks also to my other mentor Lito Bautista, Danny Galvez, Ruben Nacion, Ronalyn Paderes-Mawili, Richard Sayson, Nalyn Sola, Renan Javier, Warlito Zacarias, Benedict Navero, Nick Alvarez, Joey de Leon, Vicki Oliva, Eric Bico, Ed Ramos, Mang Mulong and Tita Midz.
I may miss mentioning a name or two of my Bandera Ka-Tropa but all these people contributed a point, a rebound, an assist, a steal, a blockshot and even a turnover or a foul in my game of life. Win or lose, it was a game well played and it was fun while it lasted.
I know someday our paths will cross again in a different arena and another playing field because life goes on even without vaccine.
And as for me? I guess I have to join a new Tribe.
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