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ACJ: A class act all the way

Posted at 04/13/2012 2:25 AM | Updated as of 04/13/2012 3:25 AM

(Remarks of ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs chief and ANC Managing Director Ging Reyes during a necrological service for Angelo Castro, Jr. on April 10, 2012)

When I last spoke with Angelo in his hospital room three weeks ago, he was upbeat, his eyes were bright and smiling. Except for the weight loss and the shortness of breath every now and then, he was every bit the same Angelo that we all knew. I asked him about TV Patrol’s beginnings and he recalled those trailblazing days with fondness, a keen memory and of course, his trademark dry humor.

I remember those days too, and more.  I met Angelo when, as a young mom, out of college and jobless, I chanced upon an opening for a producer in dzRJ, where he was a manager and an announcer. I was at once intimidated and intrigued. He said, “Ano kid, kaya mo ba mag produce ng magazine show para sa radio?  Syempre umoo naman ako, kahit wala akong idea kung ano ang “magazine show on radio.“  It was called Bistro Magazine.  For two hours daily, Angelo played music, interviewed guests and talked about anything under the sun. Unfortunately, we were not paid by the station, but boy, we had fun! It was first playground.

After about a couple of months, Angelo called us, his tiny production staff to a meeting.  He said he was leaving RJ and going to ABS-CBN to work in the News Department. He asked who among us were interested in joining him there. I and a friend, Anna Mari Fuderanan, said yes. So we said goodbye to radio and hello to television. Mind you, we got no special treatment. Like other applicants we lined up outside Benpres to apply for a job as production assistant. We would end up in what was then the newsroom in Tektite road. It would be a few weeks more before we’d move to Bohol Avenue.

Angelo was news manager then; his boss was Larry Ng, who was the News Director. But Larry hardly spoke, so it was Angelo who communicated with us. It was Angelo who ran that newsroom, as far as we were concerned.

In later years, when Angelo and I reminisced about those early days, he told me that he never forgot our first attempt to launch a newscast. It was a monumental failure!  Everything went wrong in that morning show, anchored by Korina Sanchez and David Nye (in fact, it was in this very studio, the old version of this studio) – reports were miscued, the producer was rattled, the director had to freeze-frame a top shot of the studio set for what seemed like an eternity. As a result, we scrapped that show and Atty. Jake Lopez asked us to tape the 6 pm newscast. We did that for about a month until we perfected it. But we knew that was just a preview of things to come.

In 1987, when the idea for TV Patrol came about, Angelo became a man possessed. He formed a team tasked to brainstorm on this new format and change the way the news program was delivered night after night. For months, they would meet and talk about the elements of that show, the anchors, the segments and their titles.

It was in those early, pioneering days when a lot of us became aware that this was more than a job. Working for the news department, being a broadcast journalist was our calling, our life.

Long before the network decided to adopt the values of excellence, honesty and integrity, teamwork, meritocracy, teaching and learning, we were living and breathing them under the leadership of Angelo Castro Jr.  A perfectionist in all aspects of news production, Angelo demanded excellence. In The World Tonight, he would read and edit every script and would hurl his usual expletive over inaccuracy, bad grammar, or wrong syntax. Hindi pa sya nakakaupo sa anchor chair, alam na niya kung masama ang ilaw. Pag may nakita syang masamang video, alam na nya kung sino ang nag shoot! He gave us his critiques, but he never stopped there. He taught and mentored many of us, giving us confidence, boosting our morale but taking care not to give too much praise lest we become swell heads, making sure we were on our toes. I remember how he skewered my first attempt at a news script, challenging me to do better, to read more and develop my own style.

Even when he was no longer the boss, we would still turn to him for advice, to vent our frustrations over late-night dinner and drinks. He was kind and generous; he was also very politically incorrect, always punctuating his statements with his trademark “PI,” which rubbed off on me. He was strict and he had a temper as well. But he was affectionate and sincere. Angelo opened his home and his family to us, making us feel welcome and loved. For several years, we would eat, drink and laugh while watching the Yearend Specials I produced at his home. We would admire his suits, his ties and take note of the weight that he gained because of all the food we ate while on location.

I don’t remember how many shows I did for Angelo. But I will never forget the last telecast of The World Tonight on Channel 2. We were all emotional, angry and rebellious after the network decided to cancel the show on Channel 2’s line-up.  But not Angelo.  He accepted that decision calmly and with grace.  He refused to give way to mushy sentimentality, preferring to end the newscast by saying “we’re history,” signing off with dignity.

Up to the very end, he did things that way - with pride and honor intact.  A class act all the way.  Thank you so much Angelo for all the things you taught me, for all that you’d left us and for all that you stood for.  We will never forget you.