By RONALYN V. OLEA
To his colleagues at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Isagani Yambot is “Gani.” To us in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), he is IY. It has been the practice of the CEGP secretariat to provide nicknames for our speakers, usually their initials, for easy recall and thus, faster meetings.
I first met IY during the Estrada presidency. We invited him to several of our gatherings and forums as part of our campaign in defense of press freedom. He gladly came, always willing to speak.
During the 2004 National Congress of the CEGP in Cebu, we invited him as one of our speakers to give a lecture and workshop on editorial writing. We were so thrilled he agreed to come.
And so he came. At around midnight, while we, at the secretariat, were having a meeting, the door gently opened and IY greeted us. He looked around with curiosity and amusement on his face and said smiling, “You are still having a meeting?” We replied, “Yes, sir.” He quietly walked away.
As expected, everyone wanted to attend his lecture. We had to limit the number of representatives from each student publication so that the other discussions, which were happening simultaneously, would have a decent number of participants.
Throughout the activity, he never demanded any special treatment. He shared a room with the rest of the speakers. He ate what we ate.
After that, I learned that he attended all the succeeding congresses and activities he was invited to, never rejecting any invitation.
In 2008, I met him again at the airport for an early morning flight to Davao. When we reached the venue of the CEGP Congress, we were assigned to the only room designated for speakers. He did not mind it. He silently worked late at night. He read the editorials written by student journalists as he agreed to be one of the judges in the Guild’s Gawad Ernesto Rodriguez Jr.
When I went back to our room the next day after I gave a discussion on the national situation, IY told me, “Oh! I was not able to listen to you.” Of course, he did not have to. His humility amazed me.
He was a staunch defender of press freedom. We would see him attend rallies and other activities condemning the killings of journalists. Despite his busy schedule, he would always be there.
I last saw him during a policy forum organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) on the freedom of information bill. If my memory serves me right, it was IY who said — when there was a growing consensus that the Palace’s version of the bill is restrictive – that journalists need to be vigilant.
IY, the CEGP will always be grateful for everything you shared. Thank you for being a good model to young journalists. Thank you, too, for standing up for press freedom. You will be missed.