‘It was an honor to have learned  from an icon’ — MB reporters 

Published April 14, 2021, 12:29 AM

by Dhel Nazario

Dr. Crispulo ‘Jun’ J. Icban, Jr.

A few words are not enough to describe the impact made by Manila Bulletin editor-in-chief Crispulo ‘Cris’ Icban Jr., on budding journalists, especially on the group of reporters that came in from 2013 to 2018.

“When we stepped into the Manila Bulletin as trainees, we were each awed by the presence of Mr. Icban.  We each treasure an experience on how he had influenced each of us,” many of them said.

Betheena Unite, who was one of the first trainees in 2014, remembers how a brief moment with him showed her that Mr. Icban was not to be feared, as she had once thought when she first stepped into the newsroom.

“A few weeks after I started my training, I watched Mr. Icban walk to his old office while he was reading a message on his phone.  He walked past his office but I was too shy to call is attention to that.  He soon realized that and he laughed at himself, shook his head, and walked back to enter his office.  I knew then that someone who could laugh at himself was not to be feared,” she said.

One of the usual assignments to a new reporter was to interview Mr. Icban, either for the anniversary supplement, or for an award that he was given (which were many).

Argyll Geducos, MB’s Malacañang reporter, had that assignment.

“I interviewed him once for MB’s anniversary supplement in 2017. Mr. Icban was nice to talk to and was very accommodating,” Geducos said.  But more important than the story for the supplement, Geducos went home with many lessons on journalism and sidelights of the newspaper industry as told by a well-respected name in the local journalism scene.

Alexandra San Juan, who interviewed Mr. Icban for an award said she was pleased to find him as a “very jolly and humble person.” Mr. Icban was named one of the most outstanding QC citizens during the Manuel L. Quezon Gawad Parangal in 2018.

I had a brief conversation with him last year, for the Kabalikat Media Award he received from Department of Science and Technology.  Mr. Icban surprised me with his calm demeanor that I did not expect from someone in the newsroom where there was always a deadline to meet.  He asked for some information about the award for his acceptance speech. He made me feel so important by just asking me for some information.

Icban’s presence was like a sacred thing to us trainees.  Even after we were sent to the cover the beat, we would feel awed when he would talk to us in the newsroom. And we would feel privileged to interact with him while checking on the pages for tomorrow.

“I enjoyed every bit of my experience inside the newsroom before. Every time I had to bring the pages to Mr. Icban, I would read his corrections before I brought the pages to the next desk. It was a learning experience for me,”said Martin Sadongdong, Defense reporter of Manila Bulletin.

Hearing his voice every afternoon to start the story conference was our signal that there would be a few more things to learn.  He came to the central news desk with a copy of the list of the stories full of energy.  Most times he said a joke to get everyone’s attention before he started the conference.  We listened intently to the senior editors’ discussion that followed, Vanne Terrazola, who covers the senate for MB, said.

After that, we would see Mr. Icban walk around the newsroom holding pages with his corrections. He would go to each editor who closed the page, or to the proofreader or the artist to point out a correction.  Not only that, he would also explain why the correction was made.  Those were valuable lessons that we learned while on our desk duty training.

“Mr. Icban was a walking dictionary. When he had a word changed in the headline or caption, he would always explain to the proofreader why that correction was being made.  He was like a professor in class,” Jel Santos, who covers the eastern metro beat, recalled.

“Sir Icban had eyes sharper than editors younger than him. It did not take long for his eyes to spot an error. His attention to detail was amazing!  I would always leave his office wondering why I failed to see a simple error,” said Joseph Pedrajas, who covers CAMANAVA.

We only realized the purpose of those simple tasks during our training program much later when we were writing under pressure after a coverage.  Then, the corrections Mr. Icban had made — and explained to us — would come back to remind us of how to choose our words well— and submit a clean copy.

“Mr. Icban planted in my heart a sense of duty and commitment to my career as a journalist.  And for that I would always be grateful,” Analou De Vera, health reporter said.

It is an honor that we had crossed paths with such a person, now an icon in local journalism. Thank you for the lessons, Mr. Icban!