Adios, my friend


Tonyo Cruz

I first met Owen Bayog in late 1997 at a public school in New Washington, Aklan. We were there for a National Council meeting of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

The minute I saw Owen, I thought we won’t ever get along. He was huge and had a menacing look. Sure enough, we would catch him smuggling gin, monkeying around with other attendees or jumping the school fence at night.

But of course, things didn’t end there. Owen would be elected to CEGP leadership positions in Bacolod and doing valuable work in the CEGP’s National Executive Committee and National Council. In between, we got to know him, and we heard him speak. Beneath the veneer of toughness that would at first scare most people was really a gentle giant of a young man, a storyteller, a loving son and a loyal friend.

Fast forward to February 2019, we again got back to CEGP, this time as fellow alumni sharing chores as speakers at a National Student Press Congress in Cebu. Owen and partner Liza Yorac went straight from Bacolod, while I flew in from Manila.

Owen was in his element, excited to have this fellowship time with Guilders. So was I. Sure we had a lot to say about the turnout and attendance, but it was still the CEGP. We had to give it our best, and I’m sure he did. He waited for a long time to be invited back. In so many words, he told me he thought the CEGP had forgotten him.

Every time I needed some break from Manila, I would find myself flying to Bacolod. Owen would always be ready to make itineraries: places to visit, restaurants to try out, coffeeshops where to have our favorite potion. Yes, whether I’m flying from Manila to Silay or maybe taking a SuperCat from Iloilo, Owen would be there to pick me up.

It was thus no surprise that the first place I went to after the lockdowns was Bacolod, to Owen’s hometown.

One highlight of Holy Week 2022 trip was when Owen drove us to the beautiful, cool town of Don Salvador Benedicto, the summer capital of Negros. Never imagined there’s such a place in Negros, but there is. I met the good mayor Mac and his brother. Along the way, Owen was kind enough to bring me to the home of my “inaanak sa kasal” whose pandemic-time wedding I missed.

There are a lot of things we both love, but good coffee is up there on our lists. We went to different local coffeeshops in Bacolod, especially those located in public markets. We didn’t bother to go to the multinational ones, or those in malls. The chatter, banter and caffeine aroma in the neighborhood coffeeshops seems to be a lot better. We also saved money for gas and food.

On my last day there, we just stayed in Talisay. We went to church, staked out at Liza’s store just across SaveMore, watched the rain, welcomed patrons, and waited for the Good Friday procession. Another friend, Bacolod fashion guru Dwight Rosslyn Morana, was there too.

I don’t usually take or post a lot of photos during my travels, but that time was different. I took a lot of photos using my old iPhone. Over lunch and over merienda. Outside the store. During the procession,

Owen didn’t have his professional cameras with him, but he wielded his phone like a pro.
By nightfall, I had to be on my way to the airport and Owen made sure I was at the terminal on time. Little did I know that was the last time we were ever to meet.

Owen got hospitalized for weeks in July and onwards. I have lost track of the names of all the illnesses he faced. He lost a lot of weight. He could no longer walk on his own. He could no longer take photos and work as a photojournalist or photographer. He had to stop his nightly commentary and news radio show in Bacolod. We thought at the start of this year that the worst has passed, and that he would recover.
Owen Bayog breathed his last last Jan. 20 while at a hospital in Bacolod. He was 46. His favorite city lost a photojournalist, radio commentator, photographer, photography teacher, and former Negros Press Cub director. Liza lost a partner. I lost a friend.