By Alex P. Vidal
“Don’t be dismayed by goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.” —Richard Bach
MY friendship with the late Iloilo broadcaster, Vicente “Danny Baby” Foz, began in summer 1988 and nearly ended one tragic evening sometime in November 1991 in Manila.
Foz, then 26, left our hotel room past 11 o’clock in the evening sobbing.
On his way downstairs and outside the hotel, located near Manila’s Luneta Park, he angrily vowed to “avenge” the “cruelty” he got from our colleague, Arsenio “Kamlon” Ang.
“Sa bilog ko nga kabuhi wala pa ako nakatilaw sumbag bisan sa mga utod ko kag ginikanan (Throughout my entire life, no one has laid a hand on me, not even from my brothers and parents),” Foz bewailed. “Naglayas lang ako sa amon sa Romblon pero subong tunlon ko ang pride ko makadto ako sa utod ko nga Navy officer; balikan ko na sia (I was only a stowaway from Romblon but now I will swallow my pride and seek my brother’s help, who is a Navy officer; and I will return).”
I chased Foz and tried to dissuade him from leaving but to no avail. I pleaded not to bring the matter to his brother, or to anyone, and volunteered to help convince Ang to apologize and to keep the incident only for ourselves. He pushed me away and hailed a cab.
I returned upstairs and told our three colleagues—Mario Jara, Louie Vivar, and Ang—that I failed to stop Foz.
Before he left, a brawl had ensued between Foz and Ang. Vivar and Jara, both broadcasters for the now-defunct DYRP Radyo Agong, did not interfere and allowed Ang to connect at least three punches on Foz’s face.
I was in front of the two but was a lousy referee; I failed to protect Foz from Ang’s rampage.
Before Ang vandalized Foz’s face, a misunderstanding ensued between Foz and the three, who wanted to drink the Chivas Regal given earlier by the wife of Police General Pedro Sistoza, a former Western Visayas regional police director, at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Foz insisted the whiskey was a “birthday gift” for him. After a heated argument, Ang violently grabbed the bottle from Foz, opened it, and drank a little.
Vivar and Hara, stunned by the turn of events, did nothing and said nothing as Foz fumed and protested.
As the spirit of Chivas Regal began to raid Ang’s system, he launched a bare-knuckle attack and swarmed over the unprepared Foz.
Meanwhile, while Foz was away, everyone (except me; I don’t drink alcoholic beverages) took turns in molesting that pernicious source of the night’s Armageddon.
After over an hour, what we had feared the most in that tumultuous moment came: Foz, his older “brother” (the Navy officer), and two other men in civilian clothes, arrived.
The three of us—myself, Vivar, and Hara—were speechless and looked at each other like we were involved in a silent film and trapped inside a helicopter that was about to crash.
The first thing I did, as the entourage was entering the room, was to literally sit on Ang’s body (he was drunk and lying face down on the floor). I wouldn’t surrender a fallen prey to any wild animal with intention to swallow him whole.
As Foz, now composed and not anymore in chagrin, introduced his brother, the Navy officer, to everyone, he noticed a man on the floor, his tormentor, slightly snoring.
At this juncture, I gave Foz a silent but serious look in both his eyes like a hopeless and condemned person who is about to die by musketry. It read like this: “Please, Dan, I beg you. Don’t point Kamlon Ang to your brother, for the sake of our friendship.”
For the life of me, Foz read the handwriting on my mind. He skipped Ang. That eye-to-eye contact “saved” Ang; it “saved” the group from what could have been a nightmarish night. More than anything else, Foz’s decision to cancel his rage, saved our friendship.
When Foz, 55, died at past 8 o’clock evening on November 1, 2019 at the Don Benito (West Visayas State University) Hospital after several days inside the ICU, the first thing I remembered was that crucial eye-to-eye contact.
For 10 minutes I cried for the loss of a dear friend, who had peace and pureness in his heart. Goodbye, Dan.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo—Ed)