Working for Willie Fernandez

The life, passion and loves of Daily Tribune president and publisher Willie Fernandez. | PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAILY TRIBUNE

I first heard of the name Willie Fernandez at the paper I used to work for. He was known for hosting parties that my bosses attended.

This guy must have good public relations, I thought to myself, for him to make my snob bosses come to his gatherings.

In 2020, I found myself being interviewed by Willie himself, along with his wife Chingbee, for a job at the paper they ran, the Daily Tribune.

Willie struck me as a warm, jovial and funny person. He talked about the exciting possibilities I could do at Tribune.

The interview lasted less than 30 minutes, and soon I was reporting for work — in person, at the height of the pandemic.

The Fernandez couple insisted newspaper work demanded the physical presence of editors, and everyone agreed.

Pretty soon I found out about Willie’s temper—which would rise to boiling levels whenever he found something wrong with the day’s issue of Tribune.

I hated it when he shouted at the top of his voice. But then I also found it amusing that he would crack a joke and break into fits of laughter shortly after losing his cool.

He would speak to me by phone whenever he disagreed over something I wrote. Once, when I wrote a piece titled, “Imagining a Bongbong Marcos presidency,” in which I laid out the most unimaginable scenarios, Willie told me: “Sabagay, tama ka.”

Willie established a fine reputation in public relations, said businessman Arben Santos.

He used to celebrate his birthday by inviting his clients to play golf with him.

“One time,” Santos recalled, “he hosted a birthday golf tournament. There were 18 flights and Willie had to play one hole with each flight, to make sure that he gets to play with all of them. Willie is a decent bogey player.”

Willie also liked to engage in small talk with Tribune staff. He would walk to our side, tap us on the shoulder and ask something about our work, or recount a hilarious incident.

But what I really like about the man is he’s well-read. He knows what a well-written story looks like. And that’s why he never gets tired of calling our attention to discuss the plus and minuses of a particular story in the paper.

Today we celebrate Willie’s birthday the way he likes it — with good food, good music, and good conversation, never mind if we indulge while beating deadlines.

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