The Passing of a Pillar

In the heat of deadline when fingers pounce on keyboards to a harmonic beat, it is not surprising to be interrupted with a question that makes you come to a screeching halt.

“How would you like to be remembered, Neil?”

This was always Sir Tony’s question to me and everyone else in the newsroom during those busy afternoons.
When you are facing a deadline, you wouldn’t want to start a conversation with Sir Tony. He never stops.
This question he fires at you actually means what your stories are for the day.

For Sir Tony, every story meant making a difference in people’s lives. Every story is worth reading back for the generations to come sometime in the future. In short, each story you write will eventually be history.

Thus the question, “how would you like to be remembered?” is actually his way of coaxing you to always dish out your best. Whether the story lands on the front page or inside.

Perhaps too, this was his way of being remembered.

Antonio Movera Ajero, who goes by the monikers Daddy Cool, Tatay Tony, Nong Tony, Don Antonio or simply by his initials AMA, will be remembered by every member of the Davao media community as the eminent Dean of Davao Journalism.

Sir Tony gets along with everyone. From the veterans to the newbies. He doesn’t discriminate. He doesn’t let the fences of competition be a barrier to the Davao media community. He loves the word “seamless” hence the slogan of Edge Davao “Serving a Seamless Society.”

While he is the master of the jargons from journalism’s old schools, he updates himself with the latest lexicons of millennials and even the informal streets-tuguese.

In the newsroom, AMA is an exacting perfectionist. He wants to have the last look. Even when illness slowed him down, he would still be making his ‘presence’ in the newsroom chatter. He still demands he will have the last look.

As an editor, AMA is one who would stand up for his reporters. With all the risks and the dilemmas that come with the territory, AMA would make sure everyone is covered.

“Libel is costly–time-wise and finance-wise,” he will remind us to try to avoid it and make sure the facts are correct and verified.

Part of being remembered, he tells us, is ensuring you will be remembered in a good way.

AMA thrived with an organization that was introduced to the concept of multi-tasking. The team he built at Edge Davao is a lean but mean organization that has produced the recognition and top awards, twice as best edited community newspaper in the entire country by the Philippine Press Institute.

Everyone that comes to the Edge Davao team will have to be indoctrinated to the AMA principle of being able to write any story thrown your way. AMA’s mark will always be creating a newsroom he will call his home. You will see his pants, shirts and coats hanging on an open closet near his desk. Everyone knows he also ‘lives’ inside the newsroom of the paper he used to lead.

That’s how he creates that atmosphere.

He loves working on the couch, his laptop sitting on a small table instead of the usual editor’s desk and a swivel chair. I remember he had that small table made for me too so we would work across each other on the L-shaped sofa.
When I was a campus journalist at Ateneo de Davao, I would be star-struck to be on a press conference with him in the room. As fate would have it, we would be sitting on a small room together on a mission “to be remembered.” I marveled at his dedication, leadership and commitment.

Sunday morning, we were shocked to wake up to the sad news that AMA is gone. He went peacefully in his sleep the way he leaves the office for some afternoon runs going on interviews and meetings.

AMA succumbed to his battle with the Big C but he will go down not as a figure added to the statistics. I would say he didn’t lose his fight. He went down heads up high. Smiling. Walking away peacefully. Typically, the man we will always remember. The man he wants to be remembered.

AMA left with a legacy of having written a huge chunk of historic references enough to fill a library. The future generations will meet him one day in the digital workspace.

It is now very clear to us what he meant by always asking the question.

So how would you like to be remembered, Sir Tony?

That’s a question that needn’t be asked.

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