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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Remembering Raf Benaldo: A man of Integrity

IF HE were given one last chance to talk to his father, former House Representative Benjo Benaldo said that he would thank his dad for instilling in him the right values.

“If I had another chance aside from that, I will talk to him about basketball.” Benaldo’s father, Serafin “Raf” Benaldo, passed away last January 3. He was former assistant secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government and was a leading media practitioner in Cagayan de Oro.

He was a very big influence according to Benaldo. “The way I saw who I wanted to be was mainly based from what he taught me as a kid. He wanted me to be a leader, to influence others, to do good.” He furthered that his father was very religious, “In fact he started out in the seminary because he wanted to become a priest. The values he instilled in me were the same values that were instilled in him by the priests while he was growing up in the seminary as a young man.”

Raf, an only child, was born on October 20, 1941, in the town of Gigaquit in Surigao del Norte. He studied college at Xavier University and took his Masters in Public Administration at the University of Santo Tomas. He made his mark in Cagayan de Oro as a media person and educator. He started with DXCC, became the manager of GMA 12, and was the founder and producer of Newscope, the first live English TV program in Cagayan de Oro. He taught in several universities and colleges including Xavier University and Ateneo de Manila, and was a former president of Don Mariano Marcos Memorial Polytechnic State College, now MUST. “Because he was also a professor, ganahan siya mag lecture,” said Benaldo.

Raf was also an active civic leader and was president of the Metro Rotary Club. He joined DILG after the appointment of Senator Nene Pimentel as Secretary of the said department by then President Cory Aquino. He worked his way up and was promoted as Director of National Barangay Operations, became Director of DILG National Capital Region, and finally DILG Assistant Secretary. He is well remembered and loved by his former staff, an excellent testimony of the type of man he was.

Media mentor

Raf was mentor to a lot of the city’s media folks. “As producer of Newscope, he set standards for his staff in our grammar, pronunciation, appearance, and most of all ethics. He said I have to do things right to be respected as a newscaster,” said Dolly Ilogon who first met him in 1980 during her stint as a female disc jockey for 99.9 RK.

She recalled that her first impression of him was that he was a good looking man with a pleasantly modulated voice, “Tsada iyang voice, pang-announcer gyud. I noticed that he spoke very good English and talks well. Pahiluna mo istorya, has class. I then felt that he was one decent kind of man, a respectable man. His personality can demand respect.”

“I had the opportunity of working with him as his co-anchor on Newscope. I felt honored to be sitting beside him delivering the nightly newscast on television. He wanted excellence in work. He guided me through, he taught me how to conduct interviews, the right questions to ask, how to deal with people, with the politicians,” said Ilogon.

“He showed me the ropes in the broadcast industry. He always reminded me to be a decent media person, to not be corrupt, always be fair, responsible, and credible. He said that if I planned to stay long in the broadcast industry, then I have to take good care of my credibility.”

Ralph saw integrity as very important and demanded this from the people he worked with. He was a key figure in the development and growth of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club. “As President of the club in 1983, he set the standard and helped it grow. He wanted the club to be well respected and gave it a good name in the community,” said Ilogon. She added that he inspired the young, budding radio reporters and encouraged them to hone their skills and reach for their stars. She believes that Newscope, a nightly, Monday to Friday, thirty minute newscast, is his greatest contribution to media in CdeO. “We were the first live TV English news program. Every night, CdeO’s eyes were fixed on Newscope. Ralph Benaldo was an authority in CdeO’s broadcast industry.” Newscope became the precursor to the current live broadcasts we see on television.

Ilogon warmly recalls that aside from being her boss and colleague, Ralph was also a wonderful and loyal friend. When her marriage ended, he was there to give her his support and advice. “He lifts up your spirits too. Once when I was home from NY, he and Benjo treated me to dinner at the Fort. I saw all these pretty young girls walking by and so I exclaimed, ‘Oh look at these girls, they look so pretty.’ He said, ‘Dol, when you were their age, dili man sab ka mabentaha-an. You were also one of the prettiest girls in Cagayan.’ I was surprised and I laughed.”

Anti-Marcos

Jerry Orcullo, COPC president, remembers Ralph as a colleague of Mindanao Alliance Speakers Bureau for northern Mindanao for Cory-Doy. "He was with us, lawyers Gerry Adaza (+), Jun Pepito (+), Nonong Neri, and Frank Rojas. We spoke in rallies," Orcullo shared.

"Raf was soft spoken and cool minded man. Very well-mannered but an outspoken and staunch anti-Marcos critic. We attended secret meetings with the united front of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). During the duration of the campaign for Cory-Doy, we carried with us our bags all the time as we slept in secret places, always transferring from one place to another to secure ourselves from Marcos forces," Orcullo recalled.

Orcullo also shared how brave Raf forcibly entered DMMPSC (MUST) crossing barricades set up by students teachers while stones flew as he marched toward the office of DMMMPSC president Melchizedek Maquiso to takeover his seat. "Several were wounded including our supporters until the PC/INP Capt. Jeff Soriano dispersed the rallyists," Orcullo said.

Married in Oro

It is in Cagayan de Oro that he met and married Almira Abrio. Together, they have three children: the eldest of his brood is Benjo, then daughters Christina, and Ana Maria.

“He was serious in so many ways but as a father, when he was not a professor, when he was not a media man or a government official, he was extremely witty. And I would want, and have been trying, to be like that,” furthered Benaldo.

He fondly remembers how his father would be able to crack jokes and find the ‘funny’ in any situation. “He would always joke around. In fact, during our moments, when we were travelling, when we were alone as a family, kaming duha ang sigi mag-exchange ug mga jokes, kung kinsa ang mas funny. I don’t know if a lot of people know that about my father. He can always find humor in anything.”

Benaldo shared that his father was also very passionate about basketball and recalled that their last conversation was about the sport.

One of his fondest memories of his dad is how they would always tease him about his nose. “We would always tease him na pango iyang ilong kay kami tanan wala niliwat sa iya.” He shared that as a kid, when he was practicing basketball, his father would create a hoop using his hands and arms. “Didto ko niya ipa shoot sa ball. Bahala daw musamot ug ka pango iyang ilong, at least makabalo na ko mu-shoot.”

No rules

He recalled that, growing up, his father didn’t really impose a lot of rules but was very supportive. “Basically, wala kaayo siya’y rules because early on, at an early age, he already set the most important rules. Integrity, hard work, and most importantly, being a man for others. In this world, you are not just doing everything for yourself but that you are doing everything for others.”

The late Serafin “Ralph” Benaldo, husband, father, friend, respected mentor, a public servant, and a media man with integrity, was finally laid to rest at the Green Hills Memorial Park on January 9, 2016. He was 74 years old.


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