I have heard him called one of the last idealists of Philippine journalism. This is the man who was caught weeping while lighting a candle after 57 people were confirmed dead in the slaughter in Maguindanao. Two years after the massacre, there were already journalists beginning to demand a review of the list of the dead. Many were not real journalists, they said. Many were hacks and guns for hire. They do not deserve to be counted in the list of those killed in the line of duty.
I remember how he shook his head. “Every man’s death diminishes all of us,” he said. “Whether he or she is a legitimate journalist or not, we should grieve over the death of even just one person.” -- After Gani, by Patricia Evangelista
I saw that scene myself. It was dusk of Friday, December 4, 2009, when--as I wrote here--the paper held its own indignation rally and moment of remembrance [for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre] on the front steps of the office. How grave the present circumstances are--not only for Filipino journalists but for the general civil order--was underscored by the early sight of our veteran newsman-publisher, Isagani Yambot, breaking into tears in deep anger and sadness during his brief remarks. The gentlemanly Mr. Yambot never once cried during the Marcoses' Martial Law; he did now.
And that's how I'd like to remember Sir Gani--not only passionate, but also compassionate. Principled, but also the soul of forbearance and humor. To the people he had the privilege of mentoring, including me, he was as direct in his criticism as he was generous with praise. The highlight of my first years in the Inquirer was seeing pages of my movie reviews, then my theater pieces, pasted on the bulletin board after the weekly editorial meeting, with notes in Sir Gani's handwriting--“Good read” his usual comment. And I knew he didn't dispense that judgment lightly, because he also saw nearly every play or movie I went to; he could do a better job of writing about it had he wanted to.
Sometimes, of course, the notes went the opposite way--red marks on bad captions and grammar lapses, with gender-benders and convoluted phrasing his most common pet peeves. One emerged from such fine-toothed scrutiny a better, more careful writer. But Sir Gani never made one feel harassed or imposed upon.
He will be much missed. In the meantime, we grieve.