Veteran Cebuano photographer Antonio ‘Tatay Tonee’ Despojo dies
CEBU CITY — A Cebuano photography icon passed away at 9 p.m. on Thursday, August 18.
Antonio “Tatay Tonee” Despojo was 60.
His family has yet to announce details of his death, funeral, and burial.
According to persons close to him, Despojo was dealing with prostate cancer and a slipped disc.
He had back surgery last year since he could no longer move his feet. It was found out that his disc problem was pinching his nerve already, affecting his leg movement.
Despojo had a successful operation and underwent rehabilitation.
However, he underwent a blood transfusion last week because his platelet went down.
In a statement, the Cebu provincial public information office, where Despojo worked, said the veteran photojournalist “moved on from this world peacefully in his sleep.”
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our dear friend, colleague, mentor, confidant, and most of all our beloved Tatay Tonee,” it said.
“Tonee is a multi-awarded photojournalist, an artist. He has been our guiding light, our role model, and we need to continue shining his light by carrying it within us,” it added.
Despojo, a native of Santa Catalina town in Negros Oriental, first worked at The Freeman newspaper as its cartoonist and photographer before he transferred to the Cebu Daily News where he served as chief photographer from 1998 to 2018. He retained that position when CDN pivoted to digital on January 1, 2019, to become the Cebu Daily News Digital or CDND.
A few months later, however, Despojo left after he was hired by the Cebu provincial governmen t as its lead photographer. While working at the capitol, Despojo decided to study journalism at the University of San Jose-Recoletos through the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program so he could become a regular employee of the provincial government.
When he was a photojournalist, Despojo received multiple awards and recognitions from different organizations for his photographs and artworks.
Veteran photographers Junjie Mendoza and Lito Tecson, who worked with Despojo in Cebu Daily News and eventually at the provincial government, were among those who mourn his passing.
“I would not be who I am if not because of Tatay Tonee,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza described Despojo as a “true friend, a brilliant photographer, and one who helped many people.”
“He was my idol so to speak,” he said.
Tecson, for his part, was shocked upon learning that Despojo had passed away.
“I considered him as my father. That was why I was completely surprised when I found out that he died,” he said.
Despojo, he said, taught him many lessons that eventually inspired him to reach his goals in life.
“Not only was he a father to me. He was also my mentor and guide,” Tecson said.
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