The coolest ‘lolo’ | Lifestyle.INQ
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The coolest ‘lolo’

GAMELY lipsynching for the Editorial Department’s holiday video presentation. PENELOPE ENDOZO

Whenver I’d run into Sir Gani at the office, he would always greet me with a supportive: “Uy, tumaba ka! By one millimeter.”

I like to think he greeted Death in that usual playful manner. Maybe made some pun about meeting the deadline.

Rest in peace, Sir Gani. Thanks for the “rakenrol” times. You will be remembered so very fondly. —Jaymee Gamil, reporter

May atraso pa ako kay Sir Gani, eh.

He knew an uncle of mine, Papa Joy, and from time to time Sir Gani would ask me, “O kumusta na si Joey?” (Joey is my uncle’s other nickname.)

ARTWORK BY DENISON DALUPANG

Papa Joy passed away in April last year due to cardiac arrest. Around the same time, Sir Gani also had a heart attack and underwent angioplasty. When Sir Gani went back to work, I found myself dodging him because I was afraid he’d ask me how my uncle is and I didn’t want to be his bearer of sad news. I didn’t want to make him upset and make him worry more about his own health.

I can unabashedly say that Sir Gani is one of my most favorite bosses. He was always gracious and pleasant. He was never arrogant and condescending. Neither did he pass judgment quickly. He was the publisher, yes, but he’d be the one to come over and say hi and make small talk. He was always game to joke around, was not afraid to look silly and was always ready with a pun. He always had something nice to say to everyone. And if it wasn’t something nice (like when he’d tell me I put on weight), he’d still say it in an inoffensive way (“You look like you’re putting on weight [sees the look on my face]—maybe a pound.” Even though we both could see it wasn’t just “a pound.”)

For a lot of us, the Inquirer has become our home away from home. And Sir Gani was our lolo away from home.

He was the one who said that the editorial production assistants are the newspaper’s last line of defense. He made us take pride in our position in the paper. In his eyes, we’re not simply rank-and-file employees. In his eyes, we were soldiers whose work is important and crucial to the paper.

I can’t imagine the office without you,

COURTESY OF LOUIE BACANI

Sir Gani. You will be truly, greatly, awfully missed.  And I say that with all sincerity, sir. Wala pong halong bola.  Maraming-marami pong salamat sa kabaitan. Hanggang sa muli. —Din Villafuerte, editorial assistant

On my first day at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a man in coat and tie approached me. He asked, “What is your name and what is it you do here?”

“I am Ruth and I am Lifestyle’s newest Editorial Production Assistant.”

“Do you know who I am? I am Gani. I am the janitor here. I mop the floors. You call me when you need something cleaned.”

And then he walked away.

COURTESY OF MARICRIS TAMOLANG

“Gani” turned out to be Isagani Yambot. Our publisher. I was welcomed by a man whose name appears on the big editorial staff box. For years, whenever I would meet him on the stairs or pass him by the corridors, I would think, “My golly, I am working with a rock star.”

Sir Gani, you will be remembered, you will be missed. Seeing you come to work after your angioplasty last year only emphasized how much you loved the industry. You walked slower, yes, but you still smiled a lot. It is because of bosses like you that PDI is a happy place to work for. It is because of colleagues like you that I have so much loyalty, love and pride in this newspaper.

Thank you for being one of the first people to recognize me as an editor of our section (even if only in an “acting” capacity). You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I have so many other things to thank you for, but I want to reiterate what my officemates have already said: It was an honor to meet and work with you. —Ruth Navarra, acting editor, Junior Inquirer

MARICRIS TAMOLANG

Sir Gani was generous with his compliments. So much so that I often found myself shying away from them because, even though I knew he only told them with utmost sincerity, I wasn’t always sure I deserved every praise. He usually noticed my style of clothing, calling me a fashionista every time I was wearing something he deemed particularly daring or delightful. I even have a skirt—a floor-length, flowy and floral one—which always got a compliment out of him whenever I swished seemingly footless around the office in it. Later, I’ve learned to kid with him and asked him if he wanted to wear it. He chuckled, and I regretfully had the unwelcome image of him wearing a gypsy skirt. More than his fashion raves, I cherish his compliments on doing a good job. At times when I felt unsure of myself, his words made me feel as though I was doing something right and got me right back on track.

It’s difficult to imagine the office without Sir Gani. I thought he was going to be here until everyone has retired and there was no longer a Philippine Daily Inquirer to speak of. He was one of the few genuinely good-natured people I’ve ever known. The newspaper—our world, for that matter—will not be the same without him. —Nastasha Verayo, editorial production assistant

In a newsroom where many are generous with criticism, he stood out not because he was the boss but because he was never stingy with compliments. He always had something nice to say to you and didn’t make you feel invisible (even if you really wanted to drop by the office undetected). Sir Gani Yambot, you will be missed. Rest in peace and may you receive the greatest compliment in heaven. —MJ Uy, reporter

WITH RUTH Navarra and Din Villafuerte. COURTESY OF RUTH NAVARRA

Every midnight, while everyone else was preparing to leave the newsroom, Sir Gani could usually be found in his office still working—busy writing and reading tons of papers on his desk. At his age, we often wondered: How does he stay up really late? Where does he get the energy to work during those wee hours when everybody else wants nothing but to go home and hit the sack? It only showed how dedicated he really was. His commitment to the profession and to the Inquirer inspires us most.

This office will never be the same without you, Sir Gani, but your legacy will live on forever.  We will miss you, sir, always.  Big thanks for everything. You were one of the nicest bosses here in the office. Honestly, you felt more like our lolo, the coolest lolo in town. You will rarely find a big boss who’d mingle with rank-and-file employees. During parties, you’d even be the one to go around and greet everyone and join in the fun. You treated all of us like family. We love you, sir. Rest in peace. —Jun Veloira, editorial production assistant

Because he loved food, Sir Gani frequently passed by the Lifestyle section, where we usually had a spread of goodies. But before he dug in, he’d make some kind of small talk, even asking permission to get food (as if we could refuse him). That’s what I liked about him—he was approachable, and always had a ready smile for anyone he bumped into around the office. He was never intimidating, and always appreciative of a job well done. Rest in peace, Sir Gani. The newsroom will never be the same without you. —Annelle S. Tayao, editorial production assistant

Sir Gani must’ve had a very good relationship with his colored markers.

SIR GANI’S desk. JUN VELOIRA

His editorial marks, notes and comments were all over the pages posted in the boardroom during weekly editorial assessment meetings. The markings stood out not only because of the thick red or blue ink but also because these showed the good and the bad in equal measure.

When it was my turn to jot down assessment notes, I listened to editors critique what had been published the previous week—and they usually didn’t hold back. Those meetings were good for the paper, but for younger (budding) writers like myself, I liked seeing the critique on print.

Sir Gani and his markers were a blessing to section editors, writers, layout artists, editorial production assistants—in short, everybody in the editorial department. We saw the material he liked, sorta liked, those he thought needed improvement, and we could actually keep the pages on which he had written the comments.

For those whose work Sir Gani had noticed, who wouldn’t want to keep the page on which he had scrawled “good layout” or “interesting feature?”

I had hoped to one day write a piece good enough to merit his attention, but never got the chance. And with his passing, I wonder who else would have just as much patience to tell younger (budding) writers the good and the bad in equal measure. —Fran Katigbak, editorial production assistant

It was 2005 and my friends and I were at Fete De La Musique in El Pueblo. As usual, the atmosphere at the music festival was wildly chaotic. We were pushing our way through the crazy crowd when I noticed something strange. There, in the middle of the sea of tattoos, body piercings, sweaty black shirts and greasy spiky hair, stood Inquirer’s publisher, wearing his linen barong.

“Si Sir Gani ba yun?”

Refusing to believe our eyes, we made our way towards him. It was him.

“Sir! What are you doing here?”

He was looking for the jazz stage, he said. We were headed towards the alternative stage so we said our good-byes as the crowd pushed us apart.

It turned out he never got to watch the jazz bands playing that night. He never found the jazz stage, there were just too many people.

But that was Sir Gani for you—his love for the arts brought him to places you wouldn’t expect to see him. He willingly (and happily) stepped out of his comfort zone for a good show.

During the 13 years I had the honor of working with him, I learned a lot of things from Sir Gani, lessons that are important whether you are a journalist or not.

You are not too powerful or too important to be nice. Your sense of humor might be your biggest treasure. Love your job. Fight for what you believe in. Keep a cool head. Be generous with praise. Say thank you. Do not be afraid to show your emotions. Reach out to people. Feed your soul. And there’s always time for a movie. Or a concert. Or a good book.

These are lessons I intend to hold on to long after he is gone, to honor his memory and in hopes that I could become even a fraction of the person that he was. —Pam Pastor, subsection editor, Super

2bU editor Stef Cabal and I were on our way back up to our desks after picking up our food delivery from the lobby.  On the way up, we encountered Sir Gani on his way down.  We smiled at each other, and then he paused, took a huge sniff and said, “Wow!

Ang bango ah, sino ’yun mabango?” We couldn’t help but laugh because we weren’t wearing perfume.  “Sir Gani, that’s our dinner.” —Tatin Yang, contributor

Sir Gani and I may have not shared a lot of memories mainly because I’m new. But I did have one noteworthy moment with him.

I was in his office, confirming a word’s Inquirer style the pool wasn’t sure of. He then wrote on a piece of paper the various possible styles for the word and then asked me “What do you think? Ano ba mas maganda?” Then I politely replied “Your call, Sir,” then smiled a bit, realizing he’s not some boss you usually see on TV shows or movies—horned, with eyes blazing red with fangs out, ready to unleash hell upon you—he was not even a speck that. He told me “Why don’t you do the choosing? Lahat naman ’yan tama,” he quipped. Then, after repeatedly tapping his pen on the paper, he made a call.

That very memory made me feel so much at ease with him. Considering all his credentials that come with his name—he wasn’t intimidating, not commanding nor scary. He was warm to virtually everybody in the office. The man’s draped with happiness. Jolliness exuded from him and you could just notice how it permeated through the whole editorial office. I’ll definitely miss that old man and how he made each one of us smile. —Denison Dalupang, editorial production assistant