Razon ‘saddened and heartbroken’ about death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain

Published June 9, 2018, 6:36 PM

by Roel Tibay

By Roy Mabasa

Former photojournalist Ben Razon was “saddened and heartbroken” when he learned about the demise of celebrity chef, book author and television host Anthony Bourdain late afternoon Friday.

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2017 file photo, Executive Producer and narrator chef Anthony Bourdain attends the premiere of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York. Bourdain has been found dead in his hotel room in France, Friday, June 8, 2018, while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions around the world. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File/MANILA BULLETIN)
FILE – In this Oct. 5, 2017 file photo, Executive Producer and narrator chef Anthony Bourdain attends the premiere of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in New York. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, File/MANILA BULLETIN)

Razon owns the Oarhouse Pub in Malate where Bourdain filmed a segment of the CNN series “Parts Unknown” on December 17, 2015.

“Needless to say, I am saddened and heartbroken to have heard of his taking his own life. And it is never so readily apparent what people are going through,” Razon told the Manila Bulletin.

Bourdain was found dead inside his hotel room in Paris yesterday Friday due to an apparent suicide.

Scene at the bar

Razon can still vividly recall that rainy evening of Thursday, the moment Bourdain stepped into the Oarhouse. Typhoon Nona was pummeling Metro Manila with heavy rains and gusty winds.

The slim and lanky American sat himself to a corner, consumed a bottle of beer while briefly discussing with his filming crew the storyline as he preps up for the take.

“It’s funny how his own production team describes him as generally a ‘quiet and reserved’ kind of guy unlike how you see him in his on-camera persona,” Razon said. “Which they then say is because he saves his thoughts and questions for the actual on-cam filming of the story they are doing. Makes sense to me!”

Shortly thereafter, the director signaled everyone inside the bar to take their respective positions, with Bourdain and his two guest panelists – Razon and Mindanao-based photojournalist Mark Navales – seated at the rightmost corner of the bar counter near the entrance.

“Laughing and downing shots of our Tanduay rum, popping the native chicharon bulaklak (crispy deep fried pig innards) like candy at the bar, washing them down with bottles of Manila’s great ice cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen beer. I saw in him a kind and common kindred spirit, a human being who was just grateful to be where he was, with whom he wanted to be with, in the always present, endearing tense,” Razon said as he tried to bring back his recollection of the exact scene when the camera started rolling.

Happy people

What struck Razon most during their discussion was Bourdain’s ability to weave through the multipronged subjects and rightfully ask the most sensible question at the most appropriate time.

“We riffed well during our nearly 25-minute talk at the bar, and it really was his nature to pick out details of a subject and just talk about that to see where it would go,” he recalled.

He said Bourdain was amazed how Filipinos, despite the day-to-day realities of struggle, tragedy, politics and corruption, can still manage to be “unrelentingly and bafflingly” happy people.

Tribute to OFWs

The multiawarded American TV personality was deeply touched by the story of a lady overseas Filipino worker who spent almost half of her life abroad, leaving behind her children under the care of their grandmother. It was a heartbreaking story of great sacrifices and resiliency, typical of many OFWs who are willing to face all adversities in life just to be able to support their families back home.

This segment, according to Razon, was inspired by the personal experience of one of Bourdain’s producers whose children in the United States grew up under the personal care of a Filipina nanny.

Filipino musicians

Razon said their conversation also briefly touched on the musicality of Filipinos, many of whom have aspired to work abroad as entertainers in hotels, cruise ships and other public places all over the world.

“He mentioned Ariel Pineda, the lead singer of the rock band Journey, who sounded like a veritable clone of Steve Perry. I cannot forget his quick retort, ‘I love Arnel, I hate Journey,” Razon remembered Bourdain as saying.

Media killings

Who can forget that the Philippines rank as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists? Bourdain brought this issue up in his conversation with Navales, one of the first photojournalists to arrive at the scene of the gruesome Maguindanao massacre in November 2009.

Navales, a freelance photojournalist, told Bourdain about the need for some members of the media to learn how to arm themselves following that horrific massacre that claimed the lives of 58 people, including 32 journalists.

“I told him it is necessary, in my case as a journalist, to arm myself considering what happened in the massacre,” Navales said.

Razon admitted that he felt devastated by the news of Bourdain’s passing. He said the Oarhouse family will always be grateful to the TV host for “making us part of his wonderful journey to exploring the unknown.”

Razon has prominently displayed inside his establishment a copy of the December 2015 issue of the Manila Bulletin that featured Bourdain’s visit to the place. Oarhouse is a known watering-hole for journalists, expats, and medical students from the University of the Philippines.