The Butcher | How Ricky Lo brought me back from the dead

When the digital age dawned upon us, everyone became a journalist. So many tried to be a Ricky Lo online. But until he breathed his last at Manila’s Metropolitan Hospital in the dying days of May 4, 2021 – at 11 p.m. - nobody was able to replicate Ricky Lo’s achievements.

Photos: @therealrickylo | @akosilolitsolis

When the digital age dawned upon us, everyone became a journalist. So many tried to be a Ricky Lo online. But until he breathed his last at Manila’s Metropolitan Hospital in the dying days of May 4, 2021 – at 11 p.m. - nobody was able to replicate Ricky Lo’s achievements.

Ricky Lo resurrected me from the dead.

I have said this so many times that it became a mantra now carved in the deepest recesses of my heart.

It was actually Ricky who rescued me from the fires of career doldrums and brought me back to writing heaven. Our very solid professional relationship started at a time when everyone still relied on newspapers and magazines for information and even entertainment. 

But though the pen was very influential and powerful, I still decided to leave journalism after editing various publications. It was a bad case of career burnout. At age 25, I had nowhere to go. 

Around that time, I seriously considered a career as a flight attendant after a chat with Boy Abunda’s partner, Bong Quintana, who by then was still a cabin crew for Philippine Airlines.

By a twist of fate, Ricky suddenly decided to renew ties one day. He was among the first people I met early in my career. In fact, he contributed articles to some of the magazines I was editing. But those instances weren’t really often. He was regularly employed by another publication, which was why he wrote for me under a pseudonym: Lou Samareno. 

I wouldn’t say that Ricky and I were already close friends that time. We were in constant touch, however, since he was my major supplier of Pringles and Chips Ahoy. Of Chinese descent, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that he was an entrepreneur. He sold PX items when American goods didn’t yet flood the market.

No, we didn’t feast on junk food when we decided to meet up again. He treated me instead to a hearty Japanese dinner in Kamameshi along West Ave.

In the middle of catching up on each other, he offered me to write a column for the Philippine Star. We worked well together. I took care of film and TV reviews, while he wrote about the juicier stuff: showbiz romances, breakups, pregnancies and, oh, those blind items that readers always tried guessing.

Perhaps it’s safe to say that no one was as successful as Ricky when it came to entertainment reporting. Anyone who had a big story to tell broke it to Ricky. Since he could be trusted even with the most delicate of showbiz issues, movie stars gave their confessions to him – exclusively. He always got the big scoops. 

The Philippine Star always had some of the greatest political writers – Max Soliven, Art Borjal, and Louie Beltran – but Ricky played a huge part in selling that paper.  The Philippine Star would not have been that successful as a daily publication without his Funfare column. Reading Ricky Lo had become a habit.

Ricky’s success story becomes even more admirable when we consider the fact that he comes from one of the farthest ends of the country. He was born in Las Navas in Samar on April 21, 1946. 

But following the tradition of most Chinese families in Eastern Visayas, Ricky – still Cardo back then - was sent to the Pei Ching School in the Tabaco town of Albay. That was why he was also fluent in the Bicol dialect.

Ricky’s success in the entertainment writing profession surely was propped up by the fact that he was a movie fan. While still in high school, he wrote Susan Roces a letter stating his intention to become her gardener. 

Susan never wrote back. Apparently, she had no need for a gardener since she was then living in an apartment that only had room for potted plants.

For his college studies, Ricky majored in English at the University of the East. One of his classmates there became a bet to Miss Universe – Clarinda Soriano, who ended up a semi-finalist in the Miami Beach pageant.

After collecting his degree, he worked for the Variety, a supplement of the pre-martial law Manila Times.

Ricky entered the field of journalism at a time when editors with egos as big as the Rizal stadium still had the license to yell expletives at the staff. He had his one-time share of verbal abuse from one of the bosses and that was one of the most humiliating moments of his life. What worsened the situation was the fact that – of all days – that was when he decided to bring his young nephew with him to work. But that experience surely toughened him.

Oh, but he also had a cornucopia of happy and very pleasant experiences early in his career.  For one, he found new friends: young showbiz writers like him – all eager to find their place in the entertainment profession. 

There were seven of them – young men of diminutive size, yes, like him. Another member of the group was Mar D’Guzman, who also became an important figure in entertainment journalism. Collectively, they were known as The Seven Dwarfs. They had a Snow White – the only girl in the group: Marilou Tronqued who later became the sister-in-law of journalist Jose Burgos. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs became regular fixtures at the Sampaguita Pictures’ Vera-Perez compound. Now, I don’t know if this story is true or was simply a joke among showbiz friends in the early 1970s. But, supposedly, the producer Dr. Jose Perez had planned on building up Ricky as a matinee idol – as the love interest of Gina Alajar who wasn’t even quite 14 that time.

Ricky, of course, was already 27 then, but could still pass for a teenager. He always had this boyish appeal even in his forties. 

The martial law years saw him working for the Daily Express group of publications. Although he held various positions in this Roberto Benedicto-owned company, it was his articles in the magazine Expressweek that made him famous. He was more popularly known then as Ricardo F. Lo.

After EDSA I, he found himself at a crossroad in his career. Since Benedicto was a Marcos crony, Daily Express closed down. He briefly became entertainment editor at the post-EDSA I Manila Times and Manila Chronicle. For a while there, he made another attempt at selling PX products and even seriously considered living in the United States for good. 

And then came the offer to join the then newly-established Philippine Star in 1986. To this day, I am still amazed at how he was able to survive the work requirements there. Aside from putting his pages to bed seven times a week, he also wrote a daily column.

He also went to television starting in 1999 – first as a satellite host for The Buzz. Later, he did Showbiz Stripped, The Ricky Lo Exclusives, Startalk, and very briefly, CelebTV. His heart, however, always belonged to print.

When the digital age dawned upon us, everyone became a journalist. So many tried to be a Ricky Lo online. But until he breathed his last at Manila’s Metropolitan Hospital in the dying hours of May 4, 2021 – at 11 p.m. - nobody was able to replicate Ricky Lo’s achievements.

In his new home, he may be unable to practice what he did best in this world: report on the underbelly of show business. Heaven is said to be a happy place where there are no tiffs, rifts and bad marriages. For sure, there are only glorious events there – hmm, humdrum for us bad mortals on earth.

Ricky will finally be able to take things easy and not think of deadlines for a change. In a career that spanned more than half a century, he wrote every day without fail. 

We are all sad to see you go and will miss you. But sleep well, dear Ricky. After all that chaos in show business, now comes the time to rest in heaven’s sweet embrace. 



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