Truth be told, throughout the nearly 30 years of working with Booma or Mike Enriquez in the public eye, I wasn't accustomed to him being nice to me.
Even in the early days when I volunteered to do his makeup when he didn't have a makeup artist.
Or even when I made him not-so-sweet macaroni salads for Christmas.
In fact, he never smiled at me or greeted me, even though our paths crossed often in our small newsroom during the ten years when I was running it and he was our primetime news anchor.
It was mostly business as usual between us. Work always got in the way.
That’s why it felt strange when he suddenly became cheerful and bright, teasing me about wearing sneakers with my Filipiniana dress during commercial breaks for our Eleksyon 2022 hosting duties.
He said I reminded him of the working women who wore sneakers on their way to work in New York.
That was my last face-to-face encounter with him.
Maybe that was his way of leaving a sweet memory. Back then, I was simply a colleague, not a newsroom boss. And he was simply Booma.
Booma was always an interesting study, especially if you happened to work closely with him as I did from the mid-1990s.
I had a radio show after him on DZBB, and I thought his energy level might just work for TV. So, I pitched him as one of our anchors for our election coverage in 1995.
I witnessed his grumpy side at work as he focused on preparing the news. But all that could easily change in the company of our camera and remote crew, where he was just one of the boys.
With them, he was often lively and playful.
It drove me and our producers crazy that he was stubborn about revising his lead-ins for the newscast. He insisted on “Estados Unidos” instead of the more conversational “America,” and the years had to be spelled out as “taong mil nuwebe syentos nubenta’y otso” instead of just 1998.
He liked the studio at a chilly 20 degrees Celsius, perfect for his suits but not for Mel Tiangco in her dresses. She preferred the thermostat set at 24. I arbitrated and set a compromise at 22.
But when the newscast was done and we did well, I'd signal the staff to cheer, "Pizza, pizza!" He'd quickly pull out his wallet!
Madali siyang lapitan.
How he loved peanuts.
He'd sneak them into the studio, even though I had disallowed them because they made him cough while reading the news.
One time, when he coughed badly on-air, one of our former production assistants remembered, "Pinasabihan ko raw siya na uminom ng tubig.” To which he retorted, "Sabihin mo kay Jessica, ayoko dahil ayokong mag-CR.”
It got to a point where I had to investigate who supplied him with the peanuts.
The culprits: Manang Zeny, his makeup artist; Pia Guanio, our showbiz news reader at that time; and even one of our reporters, the late Cesar Apolinario.
Perhaps the best way to describe what we had was tough love, but there's one memory of him that I will always cherish and hold dear in my heart.
It was his first day back at work after his bypass surgery before the pandemic hit. I dropped by his office in the old GMA building with its dark woody interiors.
For a change, we didn't talk about work, but about life in general and his health.
He said he felt terrible in the mornings, and every time he coughed, it felt like he was dying.
I told him he would live and showed him a smiling photo of my dad as proof of life after bypass surgery.
That brought him immediate relief and hope, he said, and he thanked me for it.
It's difficult to write about Booma in the past tense.
I will always miss him—the grumpy, peanut-chewing, coughing Booma; our hard-headed, set-in-his-ways news anchor; the Booma of that little newsroom that was so much a part of our lives.
The newsroom will never be the same again.