We are not twin brothers but many times many mistook me as Fred Lobo and many mistook him as Fred Gabot.
Maybe because we sported the same moustache and spectacles.
We also both worked at the Manila Bulletin (he as Malacanang reporter turned columnist, me as a section editor eventually closing page one).
We both served as director and later president of the National Press Club (NPC) and as officer of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists. Despite the mountains of challenges at the NPC during his term which he inherited and which I also inherited, he was always at peace and the jolly good fellow.
We both climbed the Great Wall of China at the Badaling together with former NPC President and Press Undersecretary Marcelo Lagmay and other CAJ and NPC leaders, conquerred the high altitude of Mexico City and its National Palace at the Plaza dela Constitucion where PFVR (President Fidel V. Ramos) met with the Mexican President while we hobnobbed with the comely Mexican actress and singer Thalia.
We both admired PFVR as he lauded the Filipinos in America and paid tribute to the great Filipino writer and workers’ rights fighter in America and his “neighbor” in Pangasinan, Carlos S. Bulosan (America is in the Heart) in speeches in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, among others.
We both interacted with world leaders in gatherings such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Asia Society and World Economic Forum, among others.
We both were ardent followers of our favorite President Fidel V. Ramos, joining him in many travels as he criss-crossed the United States, Canada, South America, Asia and Europe.
When, as NPC president, I spearheaded our first big and unprecedented project, the testimonial “Fidel V. Ramos: Summa Cum Laude” in the Manila Hotel Grand Ballroom which was filled to the brim, he was there to lend support as ex-officio member of my Board of Directors and award the Plaque of Recognition to PFVR with other NPC officers while I introduced them at the podium.
He was there, too, to support me in the second highly successful big NPC event which I spearheaded, “An Evening with President Joseph Estrada,” also at the jampacked Manila Hotel Grand Ballroom. Here, we also honored former National Press Club presidents – many joined us: Nereo Andolong, Marcelo Lagmay, Romeo Butch del Castillo, Reynaldo Jaleco and Fred Lobo, of course.
Fred Lobo was there also to lend hand in our third big NPC project, “Erap: Huwag Mo Akong Subukan!” Gridiron Night also at the Manila Hotel where our guest, President Joseph Estrada, handed a check to me, Anthony Giron who acted as President Erap in the play and our secretary Lynda Valencia for an initial P5 million for the rehabilitation of the landmark National Press Club building on Magallanes Drive in Intramuros.
We both love to write and we both love poetry – he became a Poet Laureate while I enjoyed his stories, the drinks and the lauriat.
We love to teach during the day and, borrowing his own words, touch in the evening (he at the University of the East and me at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila or PLM where I served also as two-term Regent or member of the Board of Regents.).
Fred and I have more stories and tales together, have many things that we learned from each other and from the community of media that we served and serve and partnership like brothers.
There were many times that I brought him home to Leveriza/Libertad in Pasay while I drove home south to San Pedro, Laguna. Along the way, as he turned poetic after our drinks, he reminded me of our favorite poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe and journalist, short story writer and novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Ernest Hemingway who once made the historic Manila Hotel a watering hole like Fred and I.
Alfredo Fred M. Lobo, journalist, columnist, author, poet, professor, brother, and friend, has left us for the Great Beyond in the bosom of the Lord. Many call him “Mr. Balloon” not because of his surname but, to many friends and colleagues, he is up there filled with wit, smile, laughter and joy, genuine concern and friendship.
One of Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, “A Dream within a Dream,” maybe in order during this flight.
A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me a vow –
You are not wrong, do deem
That my days have been a dream’
Yet if Hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand –
How few! Yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep – while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! Can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream!
(The writer served as president of the National Press Club of the Philippines when he signed a sister-club agreement with the National Press Club of the United States in Washington D.C. Fred Lobo was NPC president before him and he was an ex-officio member of the NPC Board of Directors under President Alfred Gabot.) (alfred.gabot@gmail.com)