APRIL 7, 2019 marks the 38th anniversary of Panay News, indeed a milestone worth celebrating. But it is tinged with sadness in the absence of our founder, Daniel “Danny” Fajardo, who passed away barely seven months ago on Sept. 9, 2018.
His loss is a big blow to this writer who has worked with him through thick and thin since the infancy of this paper in 1981. His life story is also the life story of this paper.
Danny and I met for the first time in a bus on a forgotten day in 1973. I was with my wife and our first-born infant boy while he was with his wife Maria and their first-born son, Abdiel Dan.
Mary, who had been my classmate from grade five to first year college, introduced me to him while we were enduring the four-hour, rough-road ride from San Jose, Antique to Iloilo City.
It took seven long years later in 1980 when the opportunity to see Danny for the second time presented itself at the Aloha Hotel in Manila. I reminded him about that chance encounter in a bus.
“I am here to buy spare parts for my buses,” he segued, adding that he had gone into the transportation business under the trade name “D. G. Fajardo Lines” – a speculative venture that opened the then six-hour San Jose-Kalibo rough route.
In April 1981, I received an unexpected telegram from Mary asking me to help her and her husband edit a new tabloid they were putting up. I thought, why not? I knew though that I would be gambling my future at that time when I had already stabilized my position as newspaperman and press relation officer of music and movie companies in Manila for 11 years.
The first issue of Panay News, edited by Jerry Taclino, had come off the press when I reported for work. But he had resigned and was temporarily being substituted by the late Vicky S, Primero, Mary’s elder sister who was an English professor.
The paper was a “squatter” in Danny’s insurance agency at Ong Bun Building on Ledesma Street, Iloilo City. We also made use of its branch offices in San Jose, Kalibo and Roxas City.
At that time, there were already three English weeklies in Iloilo which were surviving on paid legal notices from the local courts of law. Would one additional paper be viable?
Undaunted, Danny took it upon himself to break the resistance of advertisers and readers to local periodicals. Getting paid ads from business establishments was like finding a needle in a haystack.
The “birth pain” was almost unbearable. To pay the printing press, Danny had to withdraw money from the income of his buses.
A year later, his bus and insurance ventures were gasping for last breath.
Since he could not afford to hire reporters, we wrote the news stories ourselves and also relied on press releases from government agencies to fill up eight pages.
There were weeks when we could not submit our materials to the press due to lack of funds. I shared the “sacrifice” by giving up the motorcycle I had acquired on installment plan.
Danny and Mary were facing the burden of having to feed and educate their four children, namely Abdiel, John Dan, Mae and Strawberry. The first three were still in elementary school in San Jose while Strawberry was a toddler.
The Fajardo couple was in such difficulty when Mary gave birth to their fifth child, Daniel II. David, the 6th, would be born in better circumstances years later.
One day, Danny shared to us the good news that a Manila-based advertising executive, Allan Tumlos, had agreed to provide us commercial ads. It was to be the beginning of the paper’s exposure to advertising agencies.
Danny was a natural salesman. He succeeded in recruiting and motivating young people to solicit ads from local businessmen.
“A good salesman,” he would always tell our new recruits, “is one who could sell ice to the Eskimos.”
He had also a nose for saleable news. That I found out when we motored to Kalibo for a meeting with the branch manager of his Paramount Insurance agency. On learning that a rich widow nearby had been stabbed dead by a poor relative, he adjourned the meeting so we could interview the widow’s relatives a front-page story.
While competitors were contented with “praising” the government, Danny encouraged us to be the only “alternative press” in Iloilo. Although President Ferdinand Marcos had already lifted martial law, our nervous friends tried to restrain us from criticizing him.
By the time Marcos flew out of the country during the “People Power” revolution in 1986, Panay News had hired regular employees, reporters and editors.
I had quit as editor-in-chief by the time Panay News acquired its own printing press and gradually moved from weekly frequency to semi-weekly and eventually daily frequency. Thereafter he always succeeded in attracting the right writers and editors. One of them was Rex Maestrecampo, who is now editor-in-chief.
By then, he had surmounted financial difficulties and had bought a home in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Danny also thought of acquiring a radio station in San Jose, knowing it would please Mary, who had been broadcaster before their marriage.
He hired a long-lost college classmate, veteran broadcaster Sammy Julian, as station manager and chief broadcaster.
Unfortunately, the radio station could not sustain its viability.
Danny could not afford to lose a talent. And so he sent Julian to Manila as our beat reporter there. I could imagine the excitement Danny showed when the man from Panay News was elected president of the Malacañang Press Corp.
Many other journalists working for other local papers today owe their humble beginning to Danny for giving them a break at Panay News.
Several of our past editors and reporters now work abroad, including Eden Jacosalem Stewart in the United States, Daniel Cajurao in Canada and Raj Padilla in the United Kingdom.
John Paul Tia, general manager of Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo, used to be staff writer of this paper.
Lemuel Fernandez, now publisher of the Daily Guardian, also owes Danny his beginning as editor-in-chief for Panay News.
Danny Fajardo’s departure to the Great Divide is a big loss to the Western Visayas media. He could have done much more in his self-imposed mission “to expand the frontiers of press freedom in this part of the country.” In a sense, he died in action, armed by the proverbial pen mightier than the sword; and that had subdued more than a hundred libel cases.
Danny Fajardo had been gone for seven months, but his memory will live on because of his unprecedented accomplishments. As publisher of what used to be a weak weekly that has turned into a strong daily, he had charted a never-done-before journey. He died confident that this newspaper would not die with him.
He was and is correct for leaving behind Panay News under the stewardship of his “junior” – Daniel “Idol” Fajardo II – as chief executive officer and with the other Fajardo children comprising the Board of Directors.
As we celebrate the 38th anniversary of Panay News, we realize that this paper would never have sprouted without the initiative, patience and perseverance of its founder, Daniel Gumban Fajardo./PN