When we write, we are called to something higher than making opinions or insights; we are asked to be chroniclers of history. Whether we’re journalists, bloggers, PR practicioners, advertisers, or just people with a pen in hand, we add to the tome of history whenever we write. We are outlived by the text; in a way, words possess a certain power far stronger than the body that commits them into relative permanence.
A few days ago, the Filipino blogging community lost a blogger. The media lost a journalist, the industry lost a PR practicioner. The Gagelonia family lost a father, a brother, a husband. A few days ago, I lost a friend in Fernando “Ding” Gagelonia.
I first met Ka Ding some four years ago, when he called for an “eyeball” of sorts with the writers of Filipino Voices. We were few back then; the blog was strong back then. The meeting place was at Starbucks Tomas Morato – quite far from where I live – but I wouldn’t pass off the opportunity to meet bloggers and exchange notes with them, especially since political blogging was a rarity then.
I was sipping my vanilla frappe when Ding beckoned to me. I was – and still am – rather obvious with my long hair and polarized eyeglasses. It was then that I realized why the man specifically chose that place. The big old man was almost in edema, bound to his wheelchair, the survivor of what looked to be a serious, life-threatening stroke.
I don’t know much of Ding to know the when’s and why’s of the illness, but thirty minutes into talking with the man, I recognized and respected the sharpness of his wit, the conviction of his words, and the desire to make something out of the medium he chose to spread his message. The old man in the wheelchair was out to challenge the dominance of mainstream media, ready to fund a bloggers’ news agency with a few backers and friends to help him do it. The man knew his technology, too: tinkering with his cellphones and laptops, even trying to capture every word I mumbled out during that first meeting.
And so it became meeting after meeting, Ding insisting on an agenda. Ding wanted to form his movement. There were meetings in Starbucks, in Gateway, plotting everything from blogger agencies to online rebellion to all sorts of plans and such that never really materialized. There were many occasions with Ding and his friends that somehow soured our friendship over the years, but it never really boiled over. We remained friends, but at an arms-length away. That was after the 2008 “Bloggers Impeachment,” when some unsavory moments with Ding took a somehow long and lasting toll on a friendship born out of mutual respect.
Yet those are the moments I don’t want to remember Ding for. In many respects, the unions that bloggers want to form, and the mainstream recognition bloggers want to have for themselves, were things that I think properly belong to Ding more than any other blogger today. That search for recognition began with a man who spent much of his life in the newsroom, and whose passion for his vocation – informing the public – was rekindled by blogging. Blogging lit the fire inside this old, wizened newsman struck ill by a stroke.
Anyone who would give an ear to Ding to listen to him talk about blogging would admire his knowledge and passion for the medium. People half his age get bored of it, or get disillusioned: Ding Gagelonia sought, in the later years of his life, to bring the mainstream acceptance of blogging to the level we enjoy today. He blogged so often that one wonders where he gets that energy from. Indeed, it came from the passion he has from what some of us consider to be something so fleeting and transient.
Yet more than that, I’d like to remember Ding for things more important than his rightful place in the blogosphere. On our first meeting, the first thing Ding did was to reach for his wallet and show me pictures of his family. His children, his grandchildren. They were the greater good in the world of Ding Gagelonia: that he writes on politics and shares his knowledge about political affairs not for recognition, or fame, or glory, or 15 minutes in a TV studio.
Ding wrote about politics to ensure the future generation of a better future than the past that he has experienced, and by extension, chronicled. That was, at least in my view, Ding’s view of what fatherhood is, contrasted to what he chooses to do in life. That is what I respected him the most for, and that is what I want to remember him by.
There are those who can probably write or speak a better eulogy for Ding Gagelonia: the people who remember him, the people who worked with him, those who were closer to him than I was. Yet somewhere out there, in the echo chambers of the blogosphere, the words and thoughts of Ding Gagelonia remain. What remains is a chronicle, a reference, a testament to a blogger and a journalist.
Rest in peace, Ding. #