ANGELO "Sonny" Lopez Jr., TV broadcaster and head of Clark Development Corp. (CDC) External Affairs Department, will be laid to rest today at the Holy Memorial Park.
Sonny expired June 10 from multiple organ failure secondary to a triple heart surgery at the Philippine Heart Center after being stricken sick at his Clark residence on April 21.
Except for a brief moment of consciousness when he woke up from a deep coma and asked for Coke, he was unconscious most of the time, said his namesake Atty. Pinggoy Lopez. "I brought him to the hospital alive, and took him home dead."
Punto Editor Bong Lacson led media practitioners in sympathy visits to the fallen colleague, among them Ashley Manabat, Deng Pangilinan and myself.
The last time I met Sonny was in April this year. He confided to me that he has enjoyed smooth and effective work relations with his boss, CDC chief Arthur Tugade. Sonny was not known to be in good graces always with former CDC presidents; he would not kowtow to their every wish and desire. His problem with his bosses was their demand for "dollar results with a peso budget."
That he was having a fine time, and inspired by the trust and confidence of Art Tugade, was reason enough to make the former newsman a happy man in his job.
The CDC president and CEO, it appeared, has tamed the fiercely proud and independent-minded subaltern. Like in breaking a wild bronco, Tugade invested time in winning the mind and heart of a hardboiled ex-newsman who never tasted a drop of wine in his professional life.
"It seems I am getting to be alcoholic," Sonny admitted to me. He confessed that while in the regular evening company with a man who grew up and endured a tough life, he has learned how to drink.
One of Art Tugade's innocent pleasures is imbibing after a hard day's work. No drinker enjoys drinking alone. In his case, he has chief PR man as his partner, a conversationalist and a good listener. At first, the two met and talked the night over at the Cafe Mesa where the long-legged serving girls were taught how to please men, by praxis or by instinct.
When Sonny has learned to how to carry his drink, the duo took their relaxation to the other hotels, restaurants, and decent watering holes at Clark. By this time our teetotaler friend has rid himself of a stubborn allergy to alcohol. Tugade, the tutor, has opened his friend's mind to the wonderland of Bacchus.
In 1982 when Sonny was working at the Angeles city government as economist at its planning and development office, I took the economics graduate (UST) as a columnist in The Pampanga Eagle, weekly tabloid. Like most journalists everywhere, the staff engaged in nightly drinking. Despite our collective taunting and cajoling, Sonny refused even a sip of beer. "It gives me strong headache and allergic reactions," the known ladies' man told Max, the known skirt chaser.
Max and I used to take him along almost nightly at the Camalig where we eyed two promo girls who were pushing the newly minted Asian beer. If we drank a pitcher of Lucio Tan's German beer, Sonny will down two liters of Coke.
Sonny was good company in whatever situation. That made him and Tugade compatible. His colleagues in the media could not entice him to touch a glass of beer after long years of struggling newsmen during the dictatorship.
I was astonished when he told me he spent most nights with Art Tugade whose stomach has undergone surgery for whatever cause. He said he can now take beer, scotch, wine, and brandy without the hangover and allergy. Art has won the heart and mind of a maverick department head. The CDC honcho has succeeded as a persuader where we had failed in four decades.
Atty. Tugade, in having Sonny as protector, had been enjoying media support and cooperation. His PR man and drinking convert had instilled a culture of peace on newsmen and their long honeymoon with Tugade by hook or by crook. He had been taught how to drink like a man and carry it like a gentleman. In exchange, I am sure Sonny boy has rubbed his wizardry as a ladies' man to the CDC president as he had taught me the tricks in return for not taking lessons in libation during our tabloid days.