Sometime in 1998, two ladies from the media circle, Eileen Mangubat and Thea Riñen, came to see me in my new office.
Before that in 1994, I had already resigned from NEDA Region 7 to avail of optional retirement after serving for twenty years.
I left NEDA because I thought that there was more to life than just serving one organization for all the best years of my life before I grew old. At that time when they came, I was managing the Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project (CVWSP).
I was thinking that Eileen and Thea came to interview me about the progress of the project. The project was put in place by the Central Visayas Regional Council (RDC) with assistance from AusAid, Australia’s coordinating agency in the delivery of it’s aid program to developing nations needing assistance for development.
The CVWSP started in 1991. The project aimed to improve existing or develop new water supply systems in 32 municipalities in Central Visayas that are most in need of potable water.
The completed projects are now run by the beneficiaries themselves that we organized into cooperatives. In Cebu, these are in Sibonga, Argao, and Oslob, to name a few.
I was not surprised when I saw the two ladies because they always talked to me before when I was still with NEDA where I also served as RDC Secretary.
In those two capacities, I came to know of almost everything that happened in the region when it comes to what NEDA and the RDC were cooking for it’s development.
This included the preparation of the Medium Term Central Visayas Regional Development Plan, the evaluation of the proposed budgets of the various regional government offices of the national government in the region to see if the programs and projects to be funded were in line with the regional development objectives before they were endorsed to their respective central offices in Manila, the monitoring of the implementation of the various approved programs and projects of the region, and assessing the progress and state of development of the region.
I was wrong about why Eileen and Thea came to see me. It was not to interview me about the project so that they would have some materials to write for the paper where they were working.
They came to ask me to be part of something that I accepted right away.
That part was to join Cebu Daily News that they were helping to launch in 1998.
They asked me to be one of CDN’s columnists.
No problem, I said to them without thinking much of what it actually entails when the time comes.
With handshakes we sealed the deal. It was that informal.
Nothing was written.
We did not even have coffee to celebrate the deal. Our understanding was that I was to write about the economy and related topics on development, more particularly of the region and Cebu.
No sweat, I told myself, for I thought that with my knowledge in economics and experience in development work in the region, I had so much to write about and share with others.
It turned out that when I started writing my first column, my mind went blank right away. Of the many things that I knew that I thought I could write, what would I write first?
That alone took me sometime to decide. But I still had plenty of time before the first issue of the paper would come out. Don’t worry Perry Fajardo, time is with you, I consoled myself.
Again I was wrong. It took me so long to write my first column. And by the time the first issue of CDN came out, I was still laboring on my first column.
The reason was that instead of writing a column, I was kind of writing a year-end economic report like I used to do with NEDA. In fact, I did not really know at first how long a column should be when drafted on papers.
Perhaps, presuming that I knew, the two ladies did not tell me anything about it also.
That it should be just enough, about 1,000 words, to fit a third of the page of CDN which at that time was longer in length than the present shorter format.
Finally, I submitted what I thought was my first column and waited for when it would come out. It did not come out immediately after or in the week or two that followed.
When it finally came out, it was much shorter.
Thank God, there was still some coherence in what was left of what I wrote after being cut by about half. I supposed the editor was at a loss then on how to shorten my long piece.
That explained the delay. I realized then that I have to do something about my writing. Cut my ideas to the bones of the subject I have to write and do it without losing much of the arguments of the main message that I would like to convey to my readers.
And so since 1998, I was writing my column non-stop twice a week or even thrice a week in some months, the third of which I wrote in Visayan Cebuano.
But this almost came to a halt when my wife, Ale, finally got very sick toward the last year of her seven-year cancer and after her death late in 2014.
Her departure affected me so much. With great effort, I decided to get back to writing regularly last month but only once a week on Fridays.
Now after twenty years with CDN, I say thank you with all my heart Eileen and Thea for their faith in me and CDN for recognizing my service and giving me the award for being one of its pillars for 20 years.
Most of all, I thank you all my readers for following me through all the last twenty years. Without you, for whom would I write?
Long live Cebu Daily News!