Just got a call from my good friend Gilbert Felongco, Gulf News' frontman in Manila, and he broke the sad news of the passing of Atty Lamberto Castro, a revered colleague in the journalism fraternity.
When a journalist dies, headline writers would automatically flag so-and-so as having written "30". To non-journalists or even to newbies in the biz, writing "30" doesn't make sense.
Old school news writing requires journos to put the number "30" at the end of his/her copy to indicate that it's the end of his/her story. And by associating the number with something that signals "the end" has become a de rigueur for obit writers. "Writes 30" has become an acceptable phrase used to announce or refer to the passing of a newsman.
Anyway, I'm digressing. This is about Bert Castro or Tata Bert.
Tata Bert was a luminary in Philippine journalism. When I joined the editorial staff of the defunct Manila Chronicle in the early 90s, Tata Bert was on the "all-first team" of the deep Chronicle bench. He covered the justice and foreign affairs beats. Being a lawyer served him well in the justice beat as he knows the quirks and technicalities of digesting an inch-thick Supreme Court decision. He could also face news sources on equal footing as he too is an officer of the law. "Juniors" like us would sometimes get an impromptu lecture on jurisprudence especially when a story is muddled with too much legalese. A Bert Castro in the ranks would have come in handly to those covering the controversial ZTE-NBN controversy or the dawning of the writ of amparo, which was a killer bar question in the mid-90s.
If I'm not mistaken, it was during his watch when JUCRA (Justice and Court Reporters Association) was formed that would until this day, compete with the rival group JUROR.
For many years -- spanning maybe over a decade -- Tata Bert was an unbeatable officer of the National Press Club. He was a fixture at Neal Cruz's Kapihan sa Manila Hotel and several other kapihans that sprouted in Manila and a most sought-after lecturer on libel. He was all around town until a mild stroke slowed him down.
When I was still in Manila, I'd often bump into him either at the Press Club or at Robinson's Place Ermita where he'd stop over after attending the morning kapihans. Every time our paths would cross, Tata Bert would usually give me a warm handshake and a light slap on the shoulder, telling me to carry on.
Don't worry Tata Bert, we're still carrying on as you move on to the Great Newsroom.