Mercado: Mang Rizal

RIZAL Policarpio, my 40-year contemporary in provincial journalism, went back to his Creator last week. Earlier it was Hector P. Soto who passed away followed by Sonny Lopez last year.

Before them it was Jerry Lacuarta who died after a long recuperation from a stroke.

Policarpio was indeed the 'Mang Rizal' in my columns, the name that evoked amusement and curiosity among local readers. We shared the same passion- as tenacious observers in breast feeding sessions.

He decided to stay a bachelor after frustrated attempts to get him a girl. Author Bong Lacson has chronicled Mang Rizal's misadventures and misfortune especially his tumultuous love life. Regional information director Ric Serrano, a mainstay of the New Society brokered, even financed, arranged liaisons for the newsman. He, along the workers in media, discovered there was no stubborn man alive than I mang Rizal.

After Serrano's failed attempt, his media friends have launched a futile campaign to find a lifetime partner for the aging bachelor. He would rather go home and spend the night with the bottle, according to his former pal, Abner San Pedro, publisher of two tabloids. Home to Mang Rizal was a rented squalid tiny room by the Sapang Balen creek in San Nicolas, then to a small cubicle in the house of his friend the late Melchor Duenas.

Rizal and Duenas were the proteges of Don Armando Baluyut of the "Voice". Through the advice of the two "foundlings", he adopted a new motto for his weekly, "Best for Reading, No Kidding."

In the early '60s Don Armando took me as his news writer, columnist and editor. I was compensated a sack of rice a month plus assorted "suman" on holidays.

Among the consistent fixtures in the Baluyut residence, a rented ramshackle of a house, were the late poet Jose Gallardo, the columnist Robin Fernandez and radio announcer Rolly Lingat. The young Rizal and Duenas were the performed factotum roles. The former served as resident tutor to young Lincoln, Don Armando's only son with Imang Simang, his live-in partner. Rizal must have been a brilliant teacher to the ll-year old Lincoln who ultimately took over as editor and ran the affairs of the weekly.

Duenas, he with the funny scheme and business tricks, was assigned as collector of payable accounts to the Voice. He and Lincoln had a working business relationship which had frequently caused an angina pectoris for the old man who had little knowledge of accounting.

How Don Armando and resident-adviser Policarpio discovered each other was something I have not asked Imang Simang. I understand Mang Rizal was a native of Mabalacat who left his home to engage in local journalism, the Voice in particular.

During the martial law, "newsmen" thrived by their wits. Mang Rizal had no family to feed, so he led a carefree devil-may care existence. Ms. Bunny David of the DPI-3, though impressed by the newsman's Pampango oratory, was frightened by his display of improvidence.

Miss David came from a respectable Bacolor family. At first she was receptive to Mang Rizal's overtures, having heard that he belonged to the illustrious and prosperous Policarpios of Mabalact. A background check proved disastrous to our newsman's quest for romance.

In his later years Mang Rizal lived in a one room shack adjacent the San Pedro residence in Bagumbayan. Most times when he was too drunk to cook his meal in a single burner kerosene stove he was given food by his good neighbors. The two were like peas in a pod and were known to drink from the same glass. They had a falling out after Amelia San Pedro started quarreling with her husband over confidential matters, call it philandering which only Rizal knew about. He denied snitching on his best friend.

Mang Rizal was a zealous and active member of three press clubs, the Knights of Columbus and Knights of Rizal. When he received a P20,000 cash gift from Governor Pineda for having served in the media for 30 years, I asked him what he would do with the windfall. He said he will buy Kotesteryl tablets for his kidney trouble, the rest for his subsistence at his abode near the San Pedros. Whenever he had the time he visited the Apu chapel in Lourdes Sur East for his devotions, then if he had extra cash, proceeded to the "Area" to break his vow of celibacy.

Hector Soto, then Mabalacat OIC offered Rizal a slot as town councilor. Instead he ran for city councilor in Angeles. He distributed ersatz two-peso bills where his campaign photo appeared in lieu of Jose Rizal's. His campaign manager was his media twin, the late Lito Pangilinan who took the candidate to San Fernando for a an expensive treat, food, drinks and all. It landed them to jail after intense interrogation.

I will miss the old celibate who would walk a mile, not for a Camel, but to witness lactating women and their lively breastfeeding demonstration at the mall.

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