Feature: The Newsboy Who Became Newspaper Exec (Last of 2 Parts)

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Philippine delegate Pert Toga (R) to the 2-month study grant sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) with nine other grantees from different nations in front of the ASNE headquarters in Virginia, USA in 1988. Fourth from left is project coordinator Diana Reynolds.*

The unheralded story of how Pert Toga contributed immensely to realize the lifetime dream of its founders converting the weekly Negros Bulletin into what is now the Negros Daily Bulletin could never be complete without acknowledging the undivided support and solid-rock commitment to each other among the triumvirate of the late Lino V. Moles and Santi S. Alacapa towards their able assistant, Pert Toga whose rare talent and unquestioned loyalty became the bedrock of their common project-the Negros Bulletin, which, after 34 years become a daily paper.

When the aging stalwarts finally returned to their eternal father and creator, they made sure that everything would be continued and managed exclusively by Pert Toga whom they have trained for years and given full trust without reserve.

True enough, Pert Toga made good his pledge to carry on and in more ways than one, worked hard to carry on the paper’s legacy of public service and commitment to uphold its noble goals of strengthening press freedom, democratic principles, balanced reporting, fairness and devotion to the truth. Public service over financial gain, in short.

Philippine delegate Pert Toga (R) to the 2-month study grant sponsored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) with nine other grantees from different nations in front of the ASNE headquarters in Virginia, USA in 1988. Fourth from left is project coordinator Diana Reynolds.*

Pert’s humble beginnings have become a reflection of how the paper survived the hard times through thick and thin and the many challenges that have emboldened its hard-working staff, to include members of the Toga family to contribute their share even at great sacrifice and often in misery.

Looking back after his crucial secondary education, Pert could have the rare opportunity to study at one of the city’s most prestigious educational institutions, at the time known as La Salle College Bacolod, now the University of St. La Salle (USLS). After graduating from Bacolod City High School (BCHS) as second Honorable Mention, Pert decided to take La Salle’s pre-admission examinations for high school graduates and was among the successful examinees who were offered scholarship as working student.

During a 2-month study grant in the US, Lone Philippine grantee Pert Toga (R) had a courtesy call on the late RP Ambassador to the US, Emmanuel Pelaez in his office at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, way back 1988 during the term of the late Pres. Cory Aquino.*

However, during his interview with Brother Francis, FSC, college president, he was told the scholarship was only for free tuition which was good enough. But Pert appealed that since he is the son of a jobless and sickly father who could not afford to meet the other necessary fees including daily transport and meal provisions, school uniforms, etc., he be entitled to some allowances even if he is assigned additional work assignments in the college.

Brother Francis explained, however, that the college could only grant free tuition and had no extra budget for such contingencies. Since the decision was final, Pert had no other choice but decline the kind offer. He had a poor family to care for and even a well-to-do uncle who had a high-paying son working in Guam at the time also flatly denied to lend him any amount which he pledged to settle after finishing his studies upon graduating from a college course, his only recourse then was to go back to his usual hand-to-mouth existence like to go fishing with crude means using hook, line and sinker, only to earn a few pesos for a day’s catch while immersed on sea water for hours with three of his brothers to be able to sell or exchange for at least a ganta of rice with a few of the smallest fish catch for their own viand.

Pert’s lucky contemporaries whose parents were able to afford their scholarship at La Salle graduated in their chosen courses and were promptly employed by big and prestigious firms like airline companies, commercial banks, bottling-firms, among others with high-paying positions, some of them lucky enough to work abroad.

He stayed home, cared for his own family, especially so because he got married a second time after his first wife died at an early age of 28 years after giving birth to twin babies, one of whom died after one month in the incubator at the provincial hospital, although it was right after she gave birth to their sixth and last baby boy that she developed some complications being asthmatic that she passed away at doctors hospital in 1972.

That prompted Pert to work even harder for the health and welfare of the five remaining children – Armando who is now a journalist; Malou, BHA Regulation Officer III; Pert Jr., ship captain based in Tokyo, Japan; Ana Marie T. Garrucho, NDB Managing editor and Anthony, NDB circulation incharge.

After several years of employment as branch secretary of a prestigious construction company, Pert Toga was offered a ranking position in the office of the newly-elected provincial governor of Negros Occidental, Alfredo Montelibano, Jr., a young and dynamic political leader with whom he worked in the provincial information office with two other close-in aides of Montelibano: Rolly Espina, executive assistant and Monet Padilla, public affairs officer.

Pert Toga who became one of the speech writers and press officer; was later named provincial barangay coordinator and executive officer.

During the Martial Law era, Pert served as liaison officer of the provincial government with the office of Provincial Constabulary Commander, Major Marino Filart whose clearance and signatures were needed in all press materials emanating from the governor’s office as required by law under the military rule of the late Pres. Ferdinand Marcos.

The clearing of information materials was eventually transferred to the newly-created Media Advisory Council then headed by veteran newsman Rolly L. Espina, the governor’s alter ego.

His 5-year hiatus as a widower was among Pert’s most productive and profitable chapter of his career, having several retainers as consultant of some prominent personalities in succession, including five district governors of Lions International District 301-B covering the entire Visayas serving as spokesman, liaison officer and speech writer, among others.

It was then that Pert, at age 31 was struck once again by Cupid’s arrow and got hitched a second time, which as the saying goes, was indeed, sweeter, with his lady love 11 years younger, Cecilia Garaygay of Magballo, Kabankalan City now based in Los Angeles, CA in the US with whom he bore five more children, two girls and three boys now all professionals, the youngest of whom is now a Lady Doctor of Medicine, Dr. Christine G. Toga, M.D. The four others are Ellen Grace T. Jamora, BS in Mass Communication, USLS; Henry James G. Toga, BSC Computer Science, USLS and NDB sports writer; Kristofer G. Toga, Agri Business Graduate now based in Sydney with his younger brother Joey Arnold, a permanent resident of Australia, a computer analyst and top rate internet programmer.

Years later, in 1991 when he reached 50 years of age, Pert Toga finally graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, major in Accounting at Negros Institute of Technology (NIT) thus earning his well-deserved promotion as Bureau Chief of the government-owned Philippines News Agency (PNA) with Panay area as his coverage to include Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Antique and Guimaras.

After the lifting of Martial Law in the country, Pert decided to return to his birth place in Bacolod City, to assume the post of PNA bureau chief covering the entire province of Negros Occidental until 1999 when he retired from government service after almost 30 years in the national government.

Today, after 57 years as president and editor in chief of Negros Daily Bulletin, he is looking forward to retirement with satisfaction and a feeling of fulfillment in the task of service to fellowmen through the journalistic profession.* (PPTJr.)