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So long, Chief!

"Jojo A. Robles, journalist, columnist, and commentator passed away in the early mornings of 23rd May 2019. I write this on the day of his interment, reflecting on the night before, when his friends and family gathered to pay final respects."

Journalist

In a career spanning over three decades, Robles reported and commented on the news. At the Manila Standard, his home for many years, he began his career as a researcher. Over the years, Robles would become one of the youngest-ever editors-in-chief of a Philippine nationwide broadsheet. He took leadership of The Manila Standard first in May of 2005, and then again in December of 2014. Robles also held other positions including editor-in-chief for Azkals Futbol magazine, news editor for the radio station dzRH, and anchor and co-producer of Karambola at dwIZ.

His network of colleagues and friends read like a veritable who’s who of Philippine politics, business, and media. Like many of those who are admired in his field, he was never one to inspire tepid impressions. He had strong opinions and inspired strong opinions in others. He was never one to follow the pack when it came to either his reporting or his commentating.

Having a formal education in journalism, he took the job of news reporting exceedingly seriously, believing in reporting the news as news, balanced, fair, and transparent. He scoffed at the increasing trend of editorializing and opinion-making among those who professed to report the news. As important as the post of editor-in-chief of a major newspaper is, it was as a columnist and commentator that Robles truly came into his own.

He spun his old metro desk editor beat and deep understanding of politics into his opinion column, Lowdown, for which he won the 2014 Opinion Writer of the Year award from the Rotary Club of Manila Journalism Awards.

Chief

Jojo Robles was an accomplished journalist, an award-winning columnist, an opinion-maker and news anchor with a wide following. Over the course of our long acquaintance, he would be many things, including the editor-in-chief of the paper I wrote for. But for me, first and foremost, his most real title was friend.

For those who were not part of our small group in high school, we were probably unlikely friends. He helped run the school paper. I helped run the science club. We didn’t meet until the final year of high school, and even though we were members of the same large “barkada” (peer group), our differing activities meant we did not spend that much time together.

It wasn’t until college when we discovered our common love for the written word, our shared hidden penchant for poetry, and our shared disdain for conformity and blind obedience to rules, that we truly bonded. He enjoyed getting me to skip classes with his stellar logic. I enjoyed driving him nuts with my sheer ignorance of music and most of pop culture. We spent many hours in college with him playing his guitar while I waded through the university lagoon (ok, it was a pond) collecting plastic trash. We regaled each other with our newest snippets of poetry, alternately envious and admiring of each other’s work.

He had a way with words that would come to define many of our shared memories. Many years after high school, he proposed one of my favorite toasts with him—to having known each other longer than we haven’t.

He was the very first person I created a bucket list with. In our teens, we created a list of things we wanted to do before we were too old to do them. Many, many years later, when we both already had families, he had the occasion to hold me to the one promise that came with that list—that, if asked, we would share the experience with each other. Thankfully, he allowed me to experience his scuba diving from the shore.

As our careers progressed, I became his subject matter expert for business and he continued to be my lifeline to politics and pop culture. He also continued to be my Filipino help line. I doubt I could have helped my children through Filipino, or even Sibika and Araling Panlipunan (Civics and Social Studies) without him.

Jojo was my first editor-in-chief at the Standard. Through the years, whoever occupied that chair, in my heart, he was always my editor-in-chief. It is his voice I hear when I decide what to write about and how to write it.

Moments

In the moment I realized I was probably talking to him for the last time in this life, many things passed through my head. I knew he had lived a full life. He had accomplished more than many people can even hope for. He found his passion early and was able to devote his life to it, becoming wildly successful at it. He had two beautiful sons who have always brought him joy. He had someone at his side who stayed with him through thick and thin, whom he loved dearly and who loved him and supported him.

But I will probably never have a friend like him. We had the great gift of being able to be crazy together. He was one of the very few friends who could spontaneously invent drinking games that were both a little bit mad and a little bit brilliant. One of the best compliments of my life was a comment he made during one of these games. Our task was to describe each other as a scent and he said this: “Remember when you were a young child. The scent of a freshly opened box of crayons? That’s you, Maya—the scent of endless possibilities.”

Rest in peace, my dear friend. Wherever you are, I hope you are finding a fresh batch of endless possibilities.

So long, Chief!

Note to the Reader: I deeply apologize for the almost year long absence. There were transitions in both my personal and professional life but I aim to for a more regular output moving forward.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Manila Standard , journalist
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