Losing one of us

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By May Anne Cacdac

The Iron Maiden

Thursday, September 4, 2014


WE LOST Kuya Dino Balabo Monday.

When I say "we" I meant Bulacan, where he was an active journalist and teacher, the Philippine Press Institute, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, the Philippine Network of Environment Journalists and many more whose lives this man has touched.

Reading posts on his Facebook page Sunday night, I began to wonder.

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"Get well soon, kasamang Dino. Kaya mo yan," read one.

I began to worry. He was diabetic. We knew this in the PPI, where we chose him as my co-trustee for Luzon.

I asked God to keep our kuya safe.

I woke up Monday to the sad news of his passing due to cardiac arrest.

It was 4:14 a.m.

It took me a full hour to process the news before I was able to text Jane Cadalig of Baguio Midland Courier, Leilani Adriano of the Ilocos Times and Leia Castro-Margate (formerly of Midland).

Their responses were all of shock.

Even Frank Cimatu who saw my post in the Facebook page of PPI.
Even Harley Palangchao who later texted me, "I can't believe Dino is gone."

Yes, we were all shocked.

Just last week he texted me asking if I was home from the US and if I was going to the forum for the formation of a citizens press council in Pampanga to be led by the PPI.

"Importanteng andun tayo. Kelangan tayo ang manguna sa mga kaganapang ito," he said.

He was serious that way. He took our calling as journalists and took it to a new level. To prove this, we often called him as the "one-man army" of Mabuhay, the newspaper founded by kuya Dino's mentor and former executive director of PPI the late Jose Pavia.

Kuya Dino was always working. He was described by our good friend PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino as "indefatigable". Because kuya Dino was that.

"Yes, kuya. I will be there. Babawi ako at wala ako nung last na seminar," I assured him.

"Pero wag mo na ko pasalubungan ng stateside na chocolate. Alam mo naman, bawal sa ken yan. Tshirt na lang na stateside. O kahit anong may amoy ng Amerika," he answered.

He was a joker that way.

I have never seen him in a bad mood. Not even when we're all so tired from preparations for the national press forum or whatever seminar we are together in.

He'd walk into that room with a full smile.

He was always with his camera. It has become almost a twin.

I wrote in our PPI Facebook page where I affixed a picture of him taking a picture. "This is how I will always remember you. Always with a camera. Always wanting to capture a piece of history. To capture life. And you did, kuya. With gusto, passion and a real dedication to our calling."

He has received awards for his thought provoking photos and yet will never leave the hall without a wacky picture of PPI Luzon members.

He was always making kulit our mothers Sonia Daoas, Juliet Pascual and Elnora Cueto (Lucena Herald).

Kuya Dino was one of the first ones who congratulated me when I became editor-in-chief of this publication.

"Maan, mabigat na responsibilidad ang naibigay sa iyo. Alam kong ito ang pinaghahandaan mo. Nawa'y gabayan ka lagi ng Diyos at ng iyong yumaong ama na palagian mong sinasabi na syang pinakamalaki mong impluwensya at inspirasyon sa pagiging isang peryodista," he told me.

He challenged my very limited Filipino vocabulary but those words stayed with me.

Community journalism has lost a pillar.

More than this, we lost a historian, a mentor.

We lost a son, a true friend, a brother.

This early, I already feel the emptiness the PPI Luzon table will feel once we get together again for the 2015 national press forum.

Rest in peace, kuya. Thank you.

We will miss you. We miss you now.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 05, 2014.

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