The President of the Philippines came, but “Dionne Warwick,” “Tina Turner,” “Madonna,” “Axl Rose” and “Kuya Germs” stole the show.
The icons of the ’80s, the theme of the Inquirer’s 30th anniversary party on Wednesday night, turned Marriott Hotel’s grand ballroom into a virtual time capsule.
“I don’t know how it was like in the ’80s. I had to Google this,” Inquirer president and CEO Sandy Prieto Romualdez, deadpanned, as she joined the pumped-up crowd on the dance floor in her colorful ’80s-inspired getup: oversized shades, giant hoop earrings, side ponytail, knee-high pink-and-white socks, a trailing shawl belt and a short skirt paired with oversized shirt.
Inquirer employees and officials similarly approximated the look of the ’80s—otherwise known as the decade that taste forgot.
Out came the wigs, the asymmetrical off-shoulder tops, the ropes of beads, the jingly bangles and earrings, neon socks and leggings, towering shoulder pads, fishnet stockings, glittery blouses and big hair.
Popular movies, personalities and novelty items from the era made an appearance as well, as tables were named after “Back to the Future,” “Oro, Plata, Mata,” “Madonna” and “Rubik’s Cube.” Cue cards for the evening’s host were shaped like giant cassette tapes (remember those?).
The stage was turned into a huge boombox that blasted out familiar sounds and hits from the ’80s, among them A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup,” Jo Boxers’ “Just Got Lucky,” Naked Eyes’ “Always Something There to Remind Me,” The Go-Gos’ “Head Over Heels” and Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.”
Never had Romualdez’s proud declaration of “We are the Philippine Daily Inquirer: First, fair and fearless” sound truer than during the anniversary bash, when the company’s more than 400 employees and officers needed no prodding to be the first to show off their dancing skills, as they fearlessly mugged for the camera, knowing full well how the shots would soon be plastered all over Facebook.
The country’s top bands South Border, Side A and Mel Villena’s AMP Band received rousing response as well, as they rendered both original tunes and covers, a blast from the past that had the crowd in a riotous sing-along.
Unable to resist the invitation, Inquirer chair Marixi Prieto and husband Alex joined the conga line that snaked its way through the ballroom, between the crush of tables and on to the stage, and back again, growing longer as more people joined the line.
Almost everyone had a ball—that is, the Inquirer Highball, the special mix served in the open bar that had cranberry juice taming Johnny Walker and ginger ale providing a refreshing fizz. The buffet had something for everyone, as did the party: balloons, confetti, band music, production numbers and raffle prizes.
Altogether, it was a rare moment when the Inquirer, born in 1985 with a mission to shape history and contribute to nation-building, let its hair down.
The party followed a solemn thanksgiving Mass and the giving of recognition awards to employees who have reached their milestone years of service, starting with the pioneers who have been with the paper for 30 years, to the rest who marked their 25th, 20th, 15th, 10th and 5th year with the Inquirer.
“The party, to my mind, was the best employee party so far,” said Connie Kalagayan, Inquirer’s assistant vice president for corporate affairs. “It was a mix of nostalgia, of tears and laughter, of humility, awe and inspiration, as well as crazy fun and great audio-visual presentations.”
Agreed business features editor Tina Arceo-Dumlao: “This was the best party ever! We in the business section do not normally attend affairs like these, but we did this time. And we stayed on!”
Special features writer Kenneth del Rosario, among the party’s hosts, will never forget the night’s electric crowd.
“The best part of the night was feeling the employees’ energy! Despite delays, people were having fun. It was apparent they were enjoying each other’s company. Such a special thing to see our synergy as a team,” he said.
Editorial production assistant Penelope Endozo loved the snippets of ’80s pop culture showcased during the production numbers by the editorial department, finance, sales and marketing, as well as the support group composed of the executive office, human resources, administration, information technology, prepress and audit.
“I loved the performances by the different departments. They were like extended music videos splashed with ’80s pop-culture references,” Endozo said.
The support group, which featured Inquirer executives in its presentation, won the night’s top prize, closely edging out the editorial group.
“It felt like winning the Miss Universe title,” quipped trade marketing officer Edna Garcia, who was part of the support team. “But the best part was that it did not feel like a company party but a family celebration. I did not come across anyone who was not having a good time,” she added.
But there were serious moments as well, when the Inquirer honored its longtime employees, especially the brave group of people who started the paper against all odds during the martial law years.
Let force in
Service awardee and Inquirer managing editor Joey Nolasco paid tribute to Inquirer founding chair Eugenia Duran Apostol in his remarks on behalf of the pioneer employees.
“There’s no going back to the past, no matter how glorious it was. Let go of your doubts and let the force in,” said Nolasco, explaining that he would always feel a certain force during crucial points in the Inquirer’s history.
For editorial production assistant Nastasha Verayo, it was a moving experience.
“I loved hearing about the history of the Inquirer, its struggles and what it took for (the pioneers) to get the paper to where it is now,” she said.
Research section head Kate Pedroso will never forget Nolasco’s words, as well as Romualdez’s tearful speech that looked back at how the Inquirer had weathered the storms—and thrived—through the years.
“(Sandy) said something about the Inquirer having survived political and financial storms because ‘We are the Philippine Daily Inquirer.’ What a terrific battle cry,” Pedroso said.