HIS first love was radio, Antonette said of her father Antonio “Tony” Avila Jr., the veteran broadcaster who was still looking for his mobile phone until his last days in the hospital.
Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale remembered the radioman, too. “Tony is a friend, a sad way to start a year,” she said.
PB Member Grecilda Sanchez was all praises for the broadcaster, who was once a broadcaster in her station.
Tony, 65, was a voice on radio for 49 years. He started as a disc jockey at 16, until he joined the news, public affairs and commentary programs.
His mother was Purificacion Abellanosa Avila, who was from Pardo, and his father Antonio Balbuena Avila Sr. was from Sibonga.
He was married to Dolores Libre Avila, with whom he had a daughter Marie Antoniette, 42, an architect; and son Mark Gabriel, 29, an engineer.
“The only treasures I have are my children, my grandchildren and my family,” Avila once said during an interview.
He has three grandchildren from Antoniette and four from Mark.
Tony’s favorite pasttime was listening to the radio while drinking coffee and smoking, said Antoniette.
“Groovy siya nga papa, kusog mosayaw (He was groovy. He danced a lot),” she said. He loved company.
“Very much alive si Papa kung daghang tawo, ug makigsawo sa pagkaon (He was most alive when there were many people and he ate with them),” her daughter said. Her father was funny and liked to tease his family and relatives, she said.
Newspaper columnist and radio commentator Malou Guanzon-Apalisok says, “Avila was a popular hard-hitting radio commentator during the Martial Law years. He anchored programs with the late Inday Nita Cortes Daluz.”
“Although Erap Tony was known for his incisive commentaries, he was also a product of the old school radio broadcasting,” said Apalisok.
“He was proficient in English and had a good diction, which helped him in good stead as a producer of broadcast commercials,” said Apalisok.
Avila conceived of Rosita’s Department Store’s radio commercials, which went “Asa mo? But, of course, sa Rositas.”
Avila was also the writer behind the famous tag-line “Kay nakalugsong man!” of a canned sardines brand.
“He practically authored the idea of a radio station as a watchdog through ‘Bantay Balita’ (Newswatch) and many other ‘Bantay’ variants, such as ‘Bantay Lungsod,’ and ‘Bantay Taxi,’” said Apalisok.
Avila helped build the radio network of the Promdi political party chairman Lito Osmeña’s Bantay Radio or dyDD in 1994. Then he conceived dyDD’s Bantay Taxi where taxi drivers were trained to become volunteer reporters.
Avila resigned in 1997 and was hired as network operations manager of National Broadcasting Corp.’s 36 radio stations.
At the time of his death, he was the station manager of DYCM based in Bogo City, said Apalisok.
Taxi driver Benedicto Georsua, 37, regularly listened to Avila’s “Banat Sugbo” aired in dyRF from 1 to 2 p.m.
“Ganahan ko maminaw niya kay karaan na nga komentarista, hinog sa panahon (I liked listening to him because he was a veteran commentator, ripe with age),” said Georsua.
After he was hospitalized for high blood pressure, Avila’s health slowly deteriorated due to internal bleeding. His family later learned that he contracted “stress ulcer,” said daughter Antoniette. He died last Jan. 5, and will be buried at the Pardo cemetery on Jan 11.