Behind the lenses

By: Delta Dyrecka Letigio December 20,2018 - 11:01 PM

Cebu Daily News photographers, Tonee “Tatay” Despojo, chief photo editor. Lito Tecson and Wenceslao “Junjie” Mendoza, Jr.

Part 6 of a 13-part series

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But more than that, it is the photographer, and not the camera, that is instrumental in telling the story.

At Cebu Daily News (CDN), a trusted news source not only in Cebu but also in the Visayas, there are four photographers who capture the news behind the meticulously-held lenses of their cameras.

The photographs of Antonio “Tonee” Despojo, Amelito Tecson, Wenceslao “Junjie” Mendoza, Jr., and correspondent, Christian Maningo bring the reporters’ words to life for the newspaper’s over 1,000 subscribers and 600,000 Facebook followers.

Everyday, the stories and photographs of CDN reach millions of people.

FISH KILL: This July 2004 photo taken by Tonee Despojo in Labogon,
Mandaue City ranked 23rd place in the United Nations Environmental Programme’s “Focus on Your World” photo


Tonee Despojo, or “Tatay” to the CDN staff, has been the chief photographer of Cebu Daily News since its birth on February 8, 1998.

Tatay is among the pioneers of CDN together with newspaper editors Eileen Mangubat, Thea Riñen, and the late Ivan Suansing .

According to Despojo, he joined CDN because of his thirst for new technology.

Then 35 years old, Despojo worked for another local paper, but felt confined to film photography.

At the time, he very much wanted to try the more modern digital format which was one of the promising changes offered by CDN.

And so CDN was born with Tatay at the helm of photography for the paper.

In his long successful career as a photojournalist which spans more than three decades,

Despojo counts the 1991 Ormoc City flash flood as his most challenging coverage.

The multi-awarded Despojo said that the flash flood was his first time to witness a disaster of such gravity as a young photographer.

It was also one of the stories that captured his heart and made him fall deeply in love with photojournalism.

“Photojournalism is a craft that you have to keep studying and a craft where you will always keep learning,” said Tatay.

Today, Despojo has several local, national and international awards under his belt including: Cebu Archdiocesan Mass Media Award (CAMMA) Hall of Fame for Photojournalism; Honorable mention in the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) photo contest given in 2004; grand prize Milo National Photo Contest; grand prize in Camel Motocross National Photo Contest in 1999, and various Sinulog Photo awards from 2004-2015.

Junjie Mendoza’s exclusive photo of a two-hour hostage case handled by a SWAT team appeared in CDN’s Jan. 2002 issue.


Junjie Mendoza, 55, has been part of the newspaper industry ever since his teens as he rose from newspaper boy to newspaper filer, to his current position as CDN staff photographer.

When a friend offered to teach Mendoza how to take pictures, he took the chance to see the world from a different view — from behind the lenses.

Before being assigned as photographer for CDN reporters, he took photos of interesting newsbits that he chanced upon on the streets.

Eventually, Mendoza joined Despojo’s team and began to take on bigger coverages as he started to experiment with his art.

Mendoza learned to navigate the media world especially in dangerous assignments such as the Bohol clash between the Armed Forces of the

Philippines and members of the Abu Sayyaf in 2017 and the Naga City landslide in September 2018.

Mendoza described himself as “fierce” on the field as he has gotten used to the challenges that come with the job.

His most challenging coverage, to date, was a hostage-taking incident during his early years with CDN when the hostage taker, himself, threatened Mendoza.

Not one to be intimidated, Mendoza tightly held the camera by his arm and secretly took photos of the hostage drama which unfolded.

“Kun magkugi ka, naa man gyod kay maabtan. (If you work hard, you will really reach your goals),” said Mendoza.

Lito Tecson took this Nov. 2013 photo of a C-130 transport plane loaded with relief goods passing over the ruins of Tacloban City after Typhoon Yolanda’s devastation.


Amelito Tecson or Lito, for short, did not begin his journey with CDN as a photographer.

He sat behind the wheels as one of the company drivers making sure that the staff reached their coverages safe and on time.

According to CDN newsroom assistant Raffy Escoton, Tecson was among the most trusted and well-loved drivers of the staff.

In 2003, when the management decided to hire drivers from an outsourcing agency, Despojo found a way for Tecson to stay with the company.

“I told Lito, ‘do you really want to be a driver for the rest of your life? Or do you want to do something else?’ He said yes and so I taught him photography,” said Despojo.

For Tecson, the process of finally becoming a photographer involved constant practice on the field.

He said that he used to finish an entire roll of film without getting the desired results.

Eventually, he began to understand the mechanisms of a camera and with confidence, joined other news photographers in their coverages.

Tecson likes to share stories of how he began his career in photo journalism to new reporters to make the neophytes at ease while on the field.

It wasn’t long before people at work realized that Tecson did not only have the passion to capture stories with his lenses, but he too had the undeniable gift of telling stories that capture people’s interests.

Lito is a natural-born storyteller who has journeyed far from behind the wheel to behind the lens.

First BBRC/CPCDRC operation greyhound and confiscated worth P7Million.
CDN photo by Christian Maningo


CDN’s lone photo correspondent, Christian Maningo, was a treasured to Despojo’s team known for his highly-skilled overhead drone shots.

Interestingly, it was Tecson who invited Maningo to join the CDN team so that he could help handle the growing number of news coverages.

Maningo said that he never hesitated to join the paper because he was eager to work under the helm of award-winning CDN.

One of his most challenging coverages was the Naga City landslide last September when his skills in drone photography were tested.

“It was the first time that I maneuvered my drone without seeing it. The place was very dangerous to enter after the landslide,” said Maningo adding that his work with CDN was an honor and an expression of his passion for photography.

Despojo, Mendoza, Tecson, and Maningo — four talented photographers whose hard work, no doubt, changed people’s lives with the stories they told through striking photos of how real things happened exactly as they did.

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