Street Talk – Amamoriam

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No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes or with my spelling.  AMAmoriam is a term I coined to mean honoring a unique group of people. People for whom I have the deepest fondness. Some of them, having been part of my life and close to my heart for over 60 years.

These are ad industry co-workers and professionals for whom a bond, forged by shared hardships and triumphs and   re-strengthened  by Facebook, should last beyond life itself.

I’m talking about my co-workers at AMA – Advertising & Marketing Associates – who may be among the best reasons for thanking Mark Zuckerberg for his brainchild.

If, as hustlers would have us believe, a sucker is born every minute, then the example of AMA should make us wish that a Zuckerberg is born as frequently.  

Facebook, the Big Daddy of social media, has been blamed for the tsunami of fake news and disinformation that has inundated the world. This highly personal yet very public phenomenon has made everyone with half a brain a rich source of intrigue and disinformation. You can imagine what a felon with a full brain can do with it.

But, like a double-edged knife, this digital phenomenon has also sliced the world into smaller parts, allowing distances to be instantly spanned and helping revive relationships and memories that would otherwise be forever estranged and forgotten.

A more recent high tech development, ZOOM, has made it possible for people in different parts  of the world to join relatives and friends in witnessing and actually participating in major events, like the wedding of loved ones or their burial, without the  risk of COVID-19 infection.

I guess, the older you get, the more sentimental you become. Last weekend, our two youngest boys, Paolo and Jinx, had a reunion with a childhood playmate, Biboy Saldonedo. While they relished reliving the days when they had no worries about scrambling about in the mud and the dust back in Paranaque, their little children listened with awe, probably wondering what it was like not to worry about germs and  viruses.

My kids and their childhood friend are all nearly 50. You can imagine what memories an 82-year old has.This morning I woke up humming an old Southern spiritual: 

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay;

Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away;

Gone from the earth to a better land I know;

I hear their gentle voices calling, ‘Ol’ black Joe. ’“                     \

The lyrics brought tears to my eyes. It is for this reason that I am so grateful for the initiative taken by my co-workers in our old agency, Advertising & Marketing Associates. AMA is gone now but the old AMA spirit remains strong as ever, thanks to a group that our coworkers have maintained called Mga Anak Ng AMA – and thanks, too, to Mark Zuckerberg (may a Zuckerberg be born every minute). 

The initiators of the tribute to AMAns who have passed away are two of the finest products of AMA, Aris Africa, former Vice-President and Account Group Manager and Thelma “Teejay” Jonson, former Admin and General Services Manager and Executive Secretary to the President.

I refer to Aris and Teejay as “products,” at the risk of making them seem like commodities,  but I did first come upon them as young, raw and inexperienced, but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – the perfect “raw materials” for corporate managers. I had a hand in molding them. Aris retired as Regional Marketing Head at Reynolds Tobacco. Teejay, also retired, now resides in Ontario, Canada,

Of course their initiative has been made so much easier with the support of Gil Chua, Group Chairman and CEO of DDB Group Philippines, one of the largest agency conglomerates in the Philippines. DDB (which stands for Madison Avenue legends Doyle, Dane and Bernbach) is what’s left of a merger of AMA and DDB.

Gil was part of the negotiations representing AMA. He is, in fact, among the raw, inexperienced but bright-eyed and bushy-tailed raw materials who became pillars of the advertising  industry.  

At any rate, the initiative of Aris and Teejay was originally intended to remember (In Memoriam) those company colleagues who have passed on to the Great Ad Agency in the Sky – among them, Chairman Antonio R. de Joya, one of the great visionaries of Asian advertising, and Founding Chairman of the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations  (AFAA); Joe Bravo, janitor and messenger, who could be trusted to deposit thousands in company cash and checks with not a cent sticking to his fingers; Dennis Garcia, Creative Director and singer-composer of classic Original Pilipino Music (OPM) like, Manila and Annie Batongbakal; and Alex Nera, print production man who continued to perform his duties in spite of an earlier heart attack and despite word that his house was on fire. 

When I was asked to co-chair the committee, I suggested honoring not just the dead but also the company heroes who still live and are keeping the AMA  torch burning (a battlecry of Tony de Joya) – aside from Gil Chua, folks like Vene Artienda, former Accounting Department Supervisor and volunteer archivist of Mga Anak ng AMA;  Carlos and Chiro Go (Carlos is CEO-Owner of Seafood City, one of the largest Asian supermarket chains in the US and Canada); Greg Atienza, former AMA VP-Account Group Manager and retired President of the marketing arm of SMART Telecomunications and Pilipino Telephone Company; Commodore Lino Marable, former AMA Chief Financial Officer; and, of course, Aris and Teejay.

I think the committee has agreed to my suggestion: to honor both the living and the dead. In the meantime, however, the initial activity will be a tribute to our departed AMA comrades with a Holy Mass and program on October 2.

ALL former AMAns are welcome ( there’s a saying “Once an AMAn, always an AMAn!”-  the company spirit gets into your blood). Thus, if you had a whiff of AMA or an earful from Chairman Tony de Joya, who referred to his office as OUCH (Office of the Unretired Chairman) we would love to  hear from you.

I’m personally asking for the participation of former AMA comrades Sluggo Rigor in Seattle; and in Los Angeles, Wally Reyes, Pastor Chito Cordero.  Cynthia de Castro, and Bernadette Enriquez-Sales; former singer-emce-standup comic Phil Ruiz (last we heard Phil was in Texas);  Len Manansala in Pennsylvania; and Peps Villanueva and AE Jamie Tapales in the United Kingdom.. 

And, in Manila, Sunday Punch Editor-Publisher Ermin Garcia. Jr., multi-awarded film commercial director Jun Urbano, Creative Group Head Romy Bohol. prominent columnists Tess Abesamis and Boo Chanco and his wife Charise and former PR VP and marketing educator Nanette Diyco.

Among them, those who regularly post their opinions, grandkids and favorite food on social media will more likely communicate with the committee from their earthly homes and offices. However, as one AMA jokester puts, we should not be surprised if we receive a call by celestial (or cel) phone from above or hot news (nagbabagang balita) from The Other Place.

One may ask: Why should a reunion of advertising denizens be of interest to anyone else?

Simple: because anyone else – in fact, EVERYONE ELSE  – has a long lost friend or loved one, a childhood chum or a dear departed darling that we need to remember and reach out to. And while the technology is available, why not initiate your own reunions online (no expensive air fare, no risk of COVID-19) –

“To recall those days when your hearts were young and gay;

To reach out to friends, who are a  million miles away;

To honor those gone to a better land we know;

To hear their gentle voices saying, ‘We miss you!’”

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