GenSan veteran journalist writes 30

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – Veteran General Santos City-based journalist Aquiles Z. Zonio died on Monday midnight, August 9, while battling lymphoma. He was 55 years old.

Aquiles Zonio outside the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo from Aqui’s Facebook page

Zonio died while in the intensive care unit of the General Santos City Doctors’ Hospital where he was taken after being diagnosed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on July 20.

A post mortem swab test on his cadaver, however, turned out it was negative of coronavirus, cancelling a plan by his kin to cremate his remains.

He was on his last sessions of chemo therapy and “was doing well” when he was infected with the virus, lowering his immunity, said his sister Amie who is based in the United States.

Amie posted on his brother’s Los Olvidados Facebook account, “You fought hard to stay alive our dear brother… You are now with our Lord. No more pain, no more worry dear Aquil. We love you sooo much and we will miss you that it hurts so bad to think that we will not hear your jokes, your plan for your kids, your stories about your passion and your stories of your travel around the world.”

In 2015, Zonio left his job from the General Santos City government, joined the boxing team of Senator Manny Pacquiao, serving as his press officer and joined the boxing idol in all his sorties.

Late in 2020, Zonio returned to General Santos nursing an ailment.

A kumpadre, his son being a godson of this writer, Zonio sought prayers to help him recover from his sickness. He texted this on Nov 16, 2020: “Pare, kindly include me in all your prayers. I went through the knife last Oct. 23 to remove a lump in my left inguinal region. Excision biopsy result showed it’s lymphoma.”

Aqui way back in 1993, writing with a typewriter. Photo from Aqui’s Facebook page

He went to say, “The specimen was sent to PGH [Philippine General Hospital’ for further study and definitive result. Tabangi kog ampo pare. That’s all I’m asking. Gihangak ko sa gastos pare pero, gisalig na lang naki Lord ang tanan. I believe, I can beat this kind of malady. God loves me and I believe in miracle. Salamat, pare. Stay safe…”

Zonio started his journalism career while he was a broadcaster at dxCP, a Catholic-run radio station in GenSan, while studying political science at the Mindanao State University.

He wrote for a number of local newspapers and became correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 1996. He also wrote for and stringer of Agence France-Presse.

He was a fellow of the Southeast Asia Press Alliance in 2011 and went to Brunei to pursue his stories which he wrote for The Brunei Times.

Zonio narrowly escaped the infamous Maguindanao Massacre that claimed the lives of 32 journalists on Nov. 23, 2009.

Among colleagues, Zonio was a known health buff, a mainstay figure in several local gyms.

As part of his therapy to fight cancer, Zonio shunned cooked food, eating only fruits and vegetables raw. “It was difficult at first, pero naanad nako pare,” he told this writer at a local store where he buys his food supply.

Aqui the bodybuilder in the gym. Photo from Aqui’s Facebook page

A close friend whom he often visited when Zonio was in the US, Julius Valmores said of him, “Pare Aqui is a dear friend. He’s one fine journalist. His reportage were unbiased and loaded with integrity. Above all, he is a decent sapien.”

Valmores narrated that on July 14 he asked Zonio if he was in the US already “as I’ve Sen. Pacquiao a lot on television, but he replied, ‘I’m in Gensan pare as my last round of chemo is scheduled last week of August’.”

Too bad he didn’t make it, Valmores said. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)