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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, January 6, 2018
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Twinkling
with Ninfa Leonardia
OPINIONS

No sad songs for Rollie

Ninfa Leonardia It was what he wanted, his daughter, Maté, told me last night, the last in the vigil for my friend and colleague, Rolando L. Espina, whom everybody called Rollie E. We were talking about the “concert” offered by his talented children who have made names for themselves in the music world, and even the La Salle Chorale Group who rendered several pieces, the last of which one may even call rowdy, and had the supposed mourners singing along.

***

But it was typical of Rollie, whom I was imagining to be grinning as he watched the people he was close to and even those who only knew him through his writings, react to the “program” that preceded his interment today. No sad songs, indeed for him, because a video carefully prepared by his children even showed him singing along with them. That, I am sure, was the memory of him he wanted us all to remember. And he must be very happy that his children did what he ordered.

***

My sister, cousins and most of my classmates at La Consolacion College came to know Rollie when he was studying at the Sacred Heart Seminary, that was then housed at what is now the LCC College Department Building. Because the nuns at LCC would not open the gate near the San Sebastian Cathedral where we waited before afternoon classes, we usually made a lot of noise, which angered the priests, as well as the seminarians, who would throw out sticks or balled waste paper to quiet us. But that didn't stop us, especially when we noted that some of them were peeking through the slats of the blinds!

***

One of our classmates had a brother in the seminary, which was how we got to know the names of the “peepers”. Even then, the girls were betting that not even 30 percent of the seminarians would persist to the priesthood. Then we graduated and lost touch, and the next time I met Rollie was when he was (as predicted) out of the seminary, and was working at the Manila Chronicle, where I was also a correspondent, and he had already married Nene (Dr. Lourdes Laavore), who was a valedictorian of the Negros Occidental High School, and they already had half a dozen kids!

***

We also got together at the National Press Club affairs where we always supported the same candidates and, being “provincianas”, we – the late Nena Villanueva and Ed Gasataya – were happy to had a kababayan to take care of us in the Big City. We often went to their house at the street called Lakas ng Bayan, where I saw at least three more new kids, and we teased him not to stop until he got a dozen. He did stop at 11, but later I saw him tugging around a little boy and learned he had added him to make the dozen!

***

Rollie also took care of my aunt, the late Milagros Ramos, who was then working in Manila and she got to the habit of calling him for errands or even to take her to the airport! He became like a relative to us, and we also became Nene's confidantes. But don't worry, Rollie, she always protected you even if she used to complain that when she is assigned in Manila, you got assigned in Bacolod, and vice versa. This was the time when Rollie was working with the Montelibanos and was a top official when Alfredo “Bongkoy” Jr. was governor of the province.

***

But the media calling him back and when the late Primo Esleyer, Modi Sa-onoy and I put up the DAILY STAR, we invited him in to write for it and do a column as well. Until his health started to fail, Rollie kept writing, it was in his blood, but he continued to be a very devout person, involved in several church-related groups. I am sorry that we didn't get to see more of each other during his ailing days, but I am sure he has kept in touch with all the news happening not only in the city and province, but nationally and internationally as well. Journalism was in his blood, and he even passed it on to his children.

***

Well, as the journalist lingo would put it, Rollie has finally written 30. But he left happy, I am sure, because he had made the most of his gifts and has left a great group of children to whom he has surely distributed his many talents. Rest in peace, Rollie, your life's paper has gone to bed.*

 

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