Unflappable. Nothing could excite him (except perhaps a parade of whole-pig lechons). Nothing surprised him. He had seen it all, been there, done that, commented on every topic on or under the radar.
As a newspaper editor Jun Icban was not the picture of a man in a hurry to meet a deadline or scold his reporters and photographers to kingdom come for their lapses in fact-checking, spelling, syntax, the names of newly elected officials complete with title, address, name of spouse, contact numbers. He was the laid-back version of an avuncular figure.
Shortly after Mr. Crispulo Icban, the late publisher-editor in chief of this paper, was appointed press secretary by then President Gloria M. Arroyo and I had the chance to be in the same room with her, I described her appointee as “unflappable.” To which she responded, “Maybe that’s what we need.”
For all the years we spent in the same profession, I never worked with Mr. Icban. In the pre-Martial Law Manila Times-Daily Mirror, he was news editor of the Times, an a.m. paper, I was a sub-editor at the Mirror, a p.m. paper. When he became chief editor of this paper, I was somewhere else. The newspaper industry being what it is – “incestuous,” according to Ninoy Aquino – our paths eventually crossed.
As a columnist here, my work had to pass his scrutiny. (One of his obsessions, the so-called Oxford comma.) He sat in his cubicle, a few feet away from his secretary, Nida, the two of them calm as clams. The rare times I dropped by to verify a rumor, I heard no rustle of papers, no incessant phone calls coming in, hardly a word of conversation exchanged between them. For 13 years Nida was his only company in that room. His habits were as predictable as the watch on her wrist. He enjoyed going out of the office for a meal, away from “cafeteria food,” just as he delighted in bringing back a doggie bag that he would stick in the mini-ref and forget all about.
Rest in peace, Jun. Let your successors carry on and perpetuate your memory as a tireless commentator, 365 editorials a year, in a chapter to be titled Old School vs New Normal.