Collector Danny Garcia says Inquirer worth more than news
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The room where Danny Garcia and his wife sleep looks like any other room shared by two people who have been together a long, long time.
There is a wide bed on one side. A lifetime of odds and ends lie idly in places. A dresser loaded with the bits and pieces of daily life stand in a corner. There are stacks of books on several Monobloc chairs.
There is a certain smell in the room, however, that is a little out of place. Filling the air is the smell of newspapers. Plenty of newspapers.
The smell of printing ink and aging newsprint, like that of newborn puppies, is unmistakable, and it comes from the copies of the Philippine Daily Inquirer stacked more than 2 meters high in three columns at the foot of the couple’s bed.
Oddly, the newspapers themselves look like they were carefully stacked just that morning. Unlike the dusty piles of old newspapers sitting in somebody’s garage and waiting for the junkman, they are free of dust, mold and mildew. The newspapers, some brownish, look like cherished books neatly kept in a bookcase and just as loved.
“Those copies are from 2009 onward,” Garcia said, pointing to the neat stacks of copies of the Inquirer.
“I had many, many more but I lost them to ‘Sendong’,” he said, referring to Typhoon “Washi,” which struck northern Mindanao in December 2011, killing at least 1,080 people and displacing thousands of others.
By “many, many more,” Garcia meant that he had been keeping almost every issue of the Inquirer since, well, the paper was founded in the last days of December 1985, just before the Edsa People Power Revolution.
Lost in ‘Sendong’
Before 2009, Garcia had been keeping the copies, in stacks 3 meters high and more than 7 meters long, in a wooden shack beside their concrete, two-story house in Bulua village here.
He said he almost wept when the floods generated by Sendong swept away his collection.
“I thought they would be safe there, protected by a thick door,” Garcia said. “But they are gone now. They are irreplaceable.”
Garcia, who has been working as a draftsman at the city engineer’s office, gets the Inquirer from a favorite vendor, spending P142 a week. He has probably spent a fortune buying the Inquirer all these years, he said, but he does not mind.
He said he kept the copies because, aside from reading each issue cover to cover, he rereads each story periodically, especially reports that he really finds interesting and those that he finds useful.
No TV, Internet
According to Garcia, he doesn’t watch the news on television or browse the Internet. He finds all the information he needs in his Inquirer collection.
“The Inquirer is my reference for every issue that I think matters,” Garcia said.
An Adventist deacon and a leader, Garcia regularly gives talks at his church on controversial issues, such as the reproductive health law and the environment, enriching his discussion with knowledge acquired from reading the Inquirer.
Once, he said, he was one of several speakers and his presentation was the only one that drew applause from the listeners.
“That was such an encouragement for me,” he said.
Garcia’s name has appeared in the Inquirer. He wrote a letter to the editor that was published on March 16, 1991. Titled “Devil’s Device,” the piece was about the controversy surrounding the death from hazing of Ateneo law student Lenny Villa.
Writing to leaders
Learning much from reading the Inquirer, Garcia sometimes feels he must write to some of the people in the news.
“I have written (US) President (Barack) Obama, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. I have also written the Pope,” he said.
Of the three Popes he had written to, though, only Pope Benedict XVI replied, he said. “The Pope wrote me back, thanking me for writing and he enclosed P81, as he just celebrated his 81st birthday,” he said.
“I wrote him back to thank him for the four P20s and one P1 coin,” he said, smiling.
Over the years, Garcia has developed the habit of following certain reporters and opinion writers, like Amy Remo and Randy David. “I keep their stories in separate folders,” he said.
He used to clip stories that he particularly liked but found that newspapers with portions cut out do not keep well and lose their form. Now he comes to the office early to photocopy news stories from the Inquirer and file them.
Part of their lives
Garcia’s wife of 37 years, Ammabelle, smiles and shrugs when asked about her husband’s newspaper collection. She says she has always known him as a newspaper reader.
“He reads his newspapers every night till about 2 in the morning,” she said. “That’s how much he loves them.”
“It was irritating at first, all those newspapers lying around,” Ammabelle, a nurse, said.
“But I understand that it is part of his life, so now it is part of mine, too,” she added.
Garcia’s passion for reading, and reading the Inquirer in particular, has rubbed off on his family.
“My wife reads the lifestyle and entertainment pages, and my two grandchildren do the crossword puzzles with me,” he said.
Asked what attracted him to the Inquirer, Garcia said he had always liked how the paper looked. “Neat columns, no clutter,” he said.
“I guess that comes from my being an engineer. I always look for balance,” he said. “I also love the friendly, lyrical style of its writing.”
Garcia loves his newspapers so much that he keeps the bedroom padlocked when he or Ammabelle is not around.
“I will never sell them, even if somebody offers me $1,000,” he said. “They are like magic to me.”
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