‘Mr. Miyagi’ and the 10K challenge

Published April 8, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Isabel de Leon

Back when we were younger — me with my waistline still there and Mr. Icban with a little bit more hair.

My grief over the passing of our Editor-in-Chief (EIC) par excellence Mr. Crispulo “Jun” Icban, Jr., is akin to that of losing your own family member.

While I am nursing a broken heart, I would still like to dwell on the happy times I had with him in the newsroom. You see, I am an orphan. I lost my parents 10 years ago. And as I spend most of my time in the newsroom, my co-workers in the Manila Bulletin (MB) have become my second family. Prior to Mr. Icban becoming the Central News Desk’s “father,” there were two other “fathers” that I looked up to in MB — Mr. Ben Rodriguez (+) or “Mang Ben,” our former EIC, and our late Chairman Don Emilio Yap.

Mang Ben was the one who would crumple in his hand my typewritten article if it didn’t meet his standards and throw it straight into the trash bin. Mr. Icban would meticulously go through my article, and return it to me literally sprinkled with his editing. Namumulaklak (it looked flowery with the red markings). That was how I learned. Up to Mr. Icban’s (or CRIICB as he was known under the old Atex system of going by the first three letters of our first name and surname, mine was ISADEL) last day in the office, I continued to learn editing skills from him.

Our late Chairman, Don Emilio, whose death anniversary we marked yesterday, April 7, was the one who instilled in us the Golden Rule (Do unto others what you want others to do unto you) and the value of helping people no matter their status in life. When someone is getting kicked and pummeled, you don’t give that person your own karate kick. You extend your hand and help that person rise.

MB has been a great source of learning for me.

One day in 1984, I started noticing Mr. Icban’s uncanny resemblance to Pat Morita of the “Karate Kid” fame. I even joked him about it and asked him if he could do some karate poses for me. He didn’t. He did smile though and asked: “Talaga? Kamukha ko?” That was how he earned the moniker Mr. Miyagi.

The 10K challenge

Four years ago, MB editors started a tradition of sponsoring the Christmas party for all our writers, photographers, correspondents, paginators, and practically all those who help us put the newspaper to bed. It meant editors chipping in for the Christmas buffet. There were four key people in the team we would “holdup” every year for the P10,000 donation each. One of them was Mr. Icban. The other three are Business Editor Lorie Cabanes, VP Sonny Coloma, and former EVP now Top Spy Jun Esperon. These three were always least resistant. Mr. Icban would heehaw, hedge, and complain but would always later quietly hand over the 10K with a smile and the words: “Pinayagan ako ni Misis.”

Every day, like clockwork, he would come in at 10 a.m., wave at me and smile, and as soon as he reached his office, “kape…kape…”

He would buckle down to work, write his editorials, edit the Op-Ed page, cross over to the Central News Desk (CND), ask me or whoever is available to act like Google, Siri, or Alexa  and do research for him or he would complain that there was something wrong with his desktop or printer.

By noontime, he would stride over again to the CND, and ask us to help him heat up his two pieces of pandesal which he would extract from the pocket of his jacket.

I once asked Mr. Icban why he puts his food inside his pocket. He told me: “During the war, food was scarce. Whenever there is food, we would save whatever we could and hide it inside our pockets.”

I came from a family that knows how to cook and eat so I would set aside a portion of my “baon” for him especially since we are Cabalens.

Mr. Icban used to work until 10 p.m. but when the pandemic struck, he started going home earlier at 5:30 p.m. Every day, he would walk over to the CND and say “5:30…5:30…”

But my most wonderful recollection of him was his kindness to my grandson Ben whom I used to bring to the office pre-pandemic. Ben, who is legally blind, would, for some reason unknown to me, wander from the nook I assigned to him to the office of Mr. Icban, who would let him sit in front of him. He was very patient with Ben. Ben would always return to me with a packet of goodies from Mr. Icban and also from Tita Pinky (Colmenares). These acts of kindness I will always remember.

I was mentored by great men, for this I will always be grateful. Rest in peace Sir.