Wenceslao: ‘Empty Chairs’

IN October last year, I posted on my wall on Facebook these lines from Don Mclean’s haunting song, “Empty Chairs”:

“I feel the trembling tingle of a sleepless night creep through my fingers, and the moon is bright. Beams of blue come flickering through my windowpane, like Gypsy moths that dance around a candle flame...”

One of those who commented on the post was SunStar Cebu news editor Gingging Aledo-Campaña, who wrote, “One of my Don McLean songs’ favorites.” She added: “Kanang “Empty Chairs” makahilak gyud ko ana.”

I wasn’t surprised by Gingging’s comment. I knew we partly shared the same music preference, the songs of the ‘70s, even though she was years younger than me.

The temporary office of SunStar Cebu’s section editors is separate from the temporary newsroom, but it housed what has become our lone printer. When we went paperless in our operation, Gingging was the few remaining users of the equipment, printing out news story schedules and assignments.

Often, I would be the only one left in the room in the evening and, to compensate for the eerie silence, I would play loud music from the portable radio cassette recorder on my table, switched to the local FM station that often played ‘70s music. Then Gingging would come in.

Her entry would be signaled by the creaking noise of the door and the whirr and clicking of the printer. I usually wouldn’t mind her, engrossed as I am in the layouting of the page. And I would hear her humming to the songs played on the radio.

On January 7, Gingging posted on Facebook the YouTube video of “Empty Chairs” and tagged me. “Found it! Sir Bong Wenceslao,” she wrote, putting in the hash tags #Don McLean and #McLeanite. The latter hashtag referred to my joke about us being “Don McLeanatics.”

She suffered aneurysm four days later, on January 11, lapsed into a coma and never recovered. She died yesterday.

I first met Gingging in my first year in the Cebu media when I was with radio dyLA and assigned to the City Hall beat in the early ‘90s. She was an intern tagging along with then dyRC reporter Cris, who later became my buddy in the coverage. The two ended up having a relationship and a child. Then got estranged.

I transferred from dyLA to The Freeman, then finally to SunStar in 1997. Gingging joined Bantay Radyo then was recruited by SunStar on the same year. I attempted to talk to her about Cris, but I felt she didn’t want to do that. She would later move on and forge another relationship.

Looking back, I realized how the paths that we followed in media started at the same time and converged in the latter years. In December, during SunStar’s anniversary and Christmas party, we both were awarded cash and a ring for 20 years of service. Twenty years.

News gathering is about diligence and luck. And often, the reporter who gets lucky and gets scoops are the diligent ones. Gingging was diligent and therefore often got scoops as a reporter. That diligence she brought with her when she became news editor. RIP, Ging.
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