Fond remembrances of Dr. Crispulo Icban Jr., editor in chief of the Manila Bulletin
In the 1980s, the Icban family would go to the Ali Mall in Cubao on Sunday afternoons for dinner. On the way there from Project 8, where they lived, Mr. Icban would purchase sampaguita from the street peddlers. He’d bring the strings of sampaguita to the mall and, as the family walked around, he would fall behind and eventually disappear. They would find him later standing by the mall entrance holding the sampaguita like he was selling them. He would pretend to be a poor old, deaf-mute man, so that someone would take pity and buy from him the flower leis he had just bought to help street peddlers.
My smart, funny, generous Daddy Icban
By Mariel Icban Cruz
Dad loved his history.
I’ve always been amazed listening to him during all of our late-night talks. And I just always found myself in awe of his intelligence. The most charming thing was he would very well balance it with his playful personality and his humor.
Dad always had a good joke. And his jokes would come from nowhere. Sometimes, we would be quietly eating at the table and before you knew it the chicken skin you were saving for last would be gone. As you frantically looked around, he would stare at you deadpan. We knew it would be him and, true enough, we’d find the chicken skin hidden under a mound of rice on his plate. Tatawa lang siya. He’d just laugh it off.
Dad taught us a lot. He taught us so much. He taught us the value of hard work, being kind to people, the power of the mind, and the dedication and commitment to our duties.
Helping is second nature to him. I remember him telling me about a boy, whom he sent to school. Magaling daw kasi yung bata, matalino. Because the kid was good, smart. What a waste if no one could support his schooling, so he made him his scholar, clearly showing how much he valued education. I vividly remember this because that day, I told myself, one day, I would be like Dad. I will be like him. Life had been so good to him so he made sure to pay it forward.
Dad was very generous, but most of the time he would have no more than P100 or P50 pesos in his wallet. I used to ride with him going to work and he would always ask me if I had ₱100 or what he called sinsilyo. But it was never for him. He would give it to his driver or maybe someone else who needed it. I was always happy to give him money, a small thing compared to the support he and Mamu gave me and my siblings. We will forever be grateful to them. That’s why in the past years, it has been a habit to exchange ₱1,000 bills to smaller denominations. He was always happy receiving his sinsilyo, so that was what we gave him on his birthday, at Christmas, or in the New Year. That and, of course, his book fund. It was easy to please him.
Dad taught us a lot. He taught us so much. He taught us the value of hard work, being kind to people, the power of the mind, and the dedication and commitment to our duties. He did so by effortlessly leading by example. Dad walked the talk. And he walked big, he walked fast, figuratively and literally. He was brilliant, humble, loving, and kind. He was a great man anyone would look up to and admire. And I will say this, even if he were not my grandfather.
There’s so much to be missed.
“Aalis na ako!” Dad would always shout from the bottom of the stairs before heading out. We would all come out of our rooms and run to him, his cheeks ready for all our kisses.
I will never forget his warm smile. Dad will continue to live in each one of us.
The author is the daughter of one of Mr. Icban’s sons, Crispulo Icban III.
My dad was the influence behind my work ethics. I’m like him who gives much priority and passion to our profession, going to work even when not feeling well, or there’s a storm, and even taking calls and sending emails on vacation. At the height of the pandemic, he went to the office, edited pages, and wrote editorials. We both take pride in and love our jobs, making it difficult to separate work from our personal affairs.
He never articulated how proud he was of me but I’d learn about him talking about me from my friends. Dad would be so excited relating how busy I am, traveling outside the country many times for work, and that he rarely sees me. Hearing those stories somehow gave me the assurance that I did well and had his approval. —Nini Icban
Dad helped me with a paper in college about the Hukbalahap movement. He arranged for a meeting with Luis Taruc so that I could interview him personally. A political figure and rebel during the agrarian unrest of the 1930s, Taruc was the leader of the Hukbalahap movement. —Susan Icban Amores
During the height of pandemic, I asked Mamu why Dad was still going to work. Mom said he loved his job so much he would go to work even if he didn’t get paid for it.
The greatest lesson I learned from Dad is to scrimp on everything else but not on education and food.
At school, I had difficulty in essay writing or formal theme writing or speech writing, and it would take me a lot of courage to ask him for help. But once I asked him to write it for me. He wouldn’t do that. He told me to write anything and he would just edit it. I had no choice but to comply. After he edited it, it was like no original sentence was retained. My work was totally rewritten he might as well have written it. —May Icban Hermogenes
More Memories of Mr. Icban
Sir Cris Icban got to know me when in the early 1990s, top editors were invited to Malacanang, and he got lost at the Kalayaan Hall. I was covering the beat then, and I guided him back to the Palace. Because I readily assisted him, he had thought I was a Bulletin reporter. I told him no, but I knew him, because who in the Philippine press would not know the top honcho of the Bulletin? From then on, whenever we would bump into each other, he would always jokingly identify me as “my Malacanang reporter,” and I would not challenge the claim. I would not because I respected and admired him. He was a Nieman Fellow, an editor of the Old School, and a paternal figure to most of us, struggling journalists, who will now sadly miss him. —Lito Zulueta