Sir Ely, Negros Chronicle’s founder and publisher, turned a year wiser last March 26.  I was truly honored to be asked to give a testimonial during a gathering of family and friends to celebrate his birthday.  I would like to share on this space what I said that night.

I speak of Sir Ely not only as a media icon and a beacon of truth and fairness.  I speak of him as a mentor, a person who believed in me and my family way before anyone did.  You see, Sir Ely was instrumental to three “breaks,” three amazing opportunities that not a lot of people know.

My parents are Tito Len and Tita Wiv, the couple who started ABC Learning Center.  Back in 1987 when they decided to establish a school here, no one knew us, no one knew our family.  It was so difficult to find any support, whether financial or moral.  Sir Ely was the exception.  My mother chanced upon DYEM FM as it was called back then.  We did not have the money for advertising but my mother decided to speak to Sir Ely anyway.  She explained her vision for the school — a small preschool that would cater to three to six-year-old children.  Sir Ely listened and gave us our first break.  I, at four years old, was asked to record the very first advertisement for our school.  Thank you, Sir Ely, for believing in what ABC Learning Center could be back when no one else did.

The second break came much later.  Fresh from college, I was this woman reeking of naïve idealism.  I saw the world as black and white.  There was virtually no room for gray areas.  It was then that Sir Ely communicated with me and invited me to a meeting.  He broached the idea of me writing a weekly column.  Prime Cuts it would be called.  Through this column, I met so many people who made a difference in the province.  I saw the world through their eyes — the challenges, the struggles, their eventual success.  I learned not to be judgmental, not to feel so self-righteous, so entitled.  Thank you, Sir Ely, for letting me appreciate the hard work that comes with each triumph, the gratitude that comes with each accomplishment.

The third break came just recently.  After surviving a year in Manila (for a true blue probinsiyana like yours truly, surviving is the term that comes to mind after emerging from the metro-est of all metros in one piece), Sir Ely welcomed me back to Negros Chronicle after a self-imposed writing respite.  I returned more comfortable in my own thought processes, my value system, my beliefs, my opinions.  I have seen enough and went through enough to speak from a more certain place.  Thank you, Sir Ely, for allowing me not only to find my voice but to actually share it.

They say great people come from great mentors.  While I am far from being great, I will forever be blessed to be mentored by such an exceptional man. I hope, one day, I will live up to the belief and support that he has so generously given me through the years.

Happy birthday, Sir Ely! Aliens and elementals next time we talk.