I lost a dear old friend last week.
Guillermo “Gil” Santos, veteran journalist and educator, passed away on July 17, three weeks after his family rushed him to hospital with pneumonia. He was 90. It turns out he had also been battling cancer for the past three years.
As a journalist, Gil moved around quite a bit.
Starting out as night desk editor at the Manila bureau of The Associated Press (AP) in 1950, he subsequently worked for the International News Service, which later merged with United Press to form United Press International (UPI). For a time, he was also Philippine stringer for the Time-Life Group of news and special magazines.
He returned to the AP in 1963, covering the whole of Southeast Asia out of Jakarta and Bangkok until 1971, when he returned to Manila and became chief correspondent and Southeast Asia representative of AP-Dow Jones News Services until 1979.
Gil left AP for the last time in 1979 when he, along with the late Tony Escoda (an old AP veteran) and Joe Pavia, ran the Bangkok Times until 1981.
Gil handled many other jobs and consultancies since then, including becoming editor and publisher of Philippine Journalists, Inc. and hosting or providing commentary on a number of radio and television programs. He also wrote a column for the Manila Times.
He was a founding member of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines, a lifetime member of the Manila Overseas Press Club, and president and trustee of the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management, Inc.
Gil joined the faculty of Lyceum of the Philippines University in 1999, where he taught at the College of Arts and Sciences and at the College of International Relations.
Gil and I had known each other since the early 1970s when I started my own career in journalism as night editor at Agence France-Presse. But it was not until 2013 that we became close friends.
As a matter of fact, it was Gil who recruited me into the AP in December 1977. I was then doing public relations work for San Miguel Corp, one of the tournament’s sponsors. I was putting out a daily newsletter and helping run the tournament’s press center.
Gil, who was covering the event for the AP then, approached me and told me to see Bill Mann, the chief of bureau, if I wanted to return to wire service journalism. I went to the AP bureau as soon as the tournament ended and became an AP newsman the following month.
But Gil and I seldom got together then. His job as AP-DJ representative for Southeast Asia meant he was away much of the time.
What I appreciated most about Gil was that he always treated me as an equal, both as a journalist – he was already a 20-year veteran when I entered journalism – and as a college instructor – he had been teaching for 14 years already when he recruited me to teach journalism at Lyceum in 2013. I was then an editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and headed the Inquirer News Service. Not once did he make me feel he was a better, more experienced journalist or teacher.
On days we were both on campus, Gil and I would have coffee and lunch together, often with other instructors. It was during one of those coffee sessions I learned it was Salvador “Doy” Laurel, the former senator and vice president, who had asked Gil to teach journalism at Lyceum, owned and run by the Laurel family. As Doy put it to Gil, Teroy Laurel, his brother, needed help in the journalism department.
There were quite a number of us senior citizens at Lyceum and I thought Gil was the oldest. But he was sharp and sprightly, even after his 2019 surgery.
By then Gil had invited me to join him in putting up a business and financial information service. We had meetings with a prospective financier. Unfortunately, this project was overtaken by the COVID pandemic.
It was about the time of his 2019 surgery that Gil was diagnosed with cancer, according to his son Alfie. But up to the time of his last hospitalization toward the end of June, Gil was his strong and bubbly self, never complaining about pain or some issues he had with the kidneys, said Alfie.
Gil was married to Gloria Evangelista Gonzales. Widowed in 2001, Gil is survived by his son Alfie Santos and daughter Alice Santos Yambao and several grandchildren.