Hugo L. Orcullo, Jr.: Farewell to a fallen friend and comrade

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Dondon and Daughter Veka Dereka

IT is not an ordinary day when we writers are asked to give a written eulogy or a short story about the death of a certain someone.  In fact, it is the last item in my laundry list of things to do while still awake. My fingers may stumble on the keyboard of my laptop.  I may even cringe to the idea. 

But when that someone happens to be a family member, a close friend, a comrade at that, my take may be different. It is even an opportunity of a lifetime. A psychological jackpot for those in the profession because it is an honor to write something in memory of a dear friend, and fellow media person like me.

Amidst the searing heat in the sleepy afternoon of April 2, I got a post in my Facebook Account about the death of Hugo Lavisores Orcullo, Jr., 66, in Cagayan de Oro City. City Mayor Sara Duterte was about to order an enhanced community quarantine due to the staggering statistics of death and infection so I was hooked up all day on TV and on the web for information. I pondered for a moment about the message and was a little bit confused because I saw their happy family postings clogging in my cyberbox just recently. I know that he was sick but it did not occur to me that he would succumb to the big “C” during this season that a bigger “C” pandemic is horribly ravaging the world. 

Family and friends call him “Dondon”, conceivably a euphemism of a little “Don” in the Don Quixote tradition. He was “Jerry” in Cagayan de Oro, perhaps a non de guerre he used during his activist years.  He was the younger brother of my brother-in-law Alex, a loyal friend, and principled comrade. 

Many years ago I learned that he was diagnosed of a certain throat cancer whose treatment might have caused the loss of his raucous baritone voice and later masticated the other parts of his once robust body. My last recollection on him was when he drove me and a friend, Fred Tingson from Cagayan to Davao City aboard his new Strada pick-up. Although he might appear rough, strict and cunning, he was always jolly, friendly, accommodating, caring and often sincere in his thoughts and feelings.

The Orcullo’s are originally from Argao, Cebu. But like many other settlers from the Visayas and Luzon who were lured by the Land of Promise mantra of President Magsaysay, they finally settled in Padada, Davao del Sur, a fourth-class municipality 75 kilometers south of Davao City. Dondon was the fifth of a brood of six of Restituta Lavizores, a businesswoman-beautician and Hugo Orcullo, Sr., a public market tax collector. He was married to Gertrude “Gegie” Torrefiel who hailed from nearby municipality of Sulop, Davao del Sur and had two lovely daughters, Sora Dereka, who just got appointed as judge by the Supreme Court, and Vera Dereka who works at the Land Transportation Office in Cagayan de Oro City. 

Like him he had equally distinguished siblings. His eldest brother was Wenifredo “Boy” Orcullo who used to be a police officer and became a lawyer serving the Department of Labor and Employment in Cebu City as Labor Arbiter before he died after 18 years in comatose due to cerebral stroke. The next brother was Alexander Orcullo, the prominent journalist and economist who fought and died during the Marcos regime.  He was considered the “Ninoy Aquino of Davao” due to his participation in toppling down the conjugal dictatorship. He was the husband of Nenen Roldan-Orcullo who served as Davao City councilor for four terms with then Mayor Rody R. Duterte. The next was Christopher Orcullo, a certified public account who used to be a major partner of a prestigious accounting firm in the country. The other brother was Bethoveen Orcullo who was a prosecutor and served as city councilor of Davao City for one term. His only sister was Aida Orcullo-Roldan who died at an early age of 26. She was the wife of my elder brother Manuel.

Like his brother Alex, he was active in the militant movement against the dictatorship and served some time in jail and experienced extreme torture by the hands of his captors.  After the “Alsa Masa” phenomenon in Davao City in the ‘80s, Dondon and Gegie fled to Butuan City. With guts and pure cunning, he was elected as chairman of Barangay Taguibo in Butuan City where he met and befriended our neighbor in Padada, Lt. Alexis Noel Bravo, son of our school teachers Santos and Maria Lourdes Bravo, who just graduated from the Philippine Military Academy. Bravo was assigned in the provinces of Agusan and Caraga for several years. Dondon further tried his luck in politics in Butuan City by running as city councilor for the first time but to no avail.  After the election, he said in jest that he landed on the 11th place of the 10-place political game and became the honorable “onsehal” in Butuan City.

Dondon and family then found themselves traveling to Cagayan de Oro City where they tried their luck in real estate and construction.  Just in many places where he had been through, he was always interested in politics, national and local situation, poverty, issues of the poor and the oppressed, and the media. Due to his proven acumen in communications and tactical planning, he was often consulted by politicians and businessmen for advice.  Later he was elected president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club which became perhaps the most dynamic media club in Mindanao. Meanwhile, Gegie got a permanent job at the library of the provincial government of Misamis Oriental.

He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.  

So long my dear friend and comrade Jerry. Be happy for you are now in your resting place with the Lord. No more hardship, no more pain; no more fear and sadness, no injustice and inequality to fight and die for.

May your soul rest in peace.

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