The first time I saw him was in 1965 and I was about five to six years old. He came to our house in Roxas District, Quezon City to attend the birthday bash of my late father, short story writer, and public relations man Clemente M. Roxas.
He and Papa were both Bicolanos. And although my father was older by a good number of years, both were campus figures at the Far Eastern University (FEU) and moved in the same media circles.
Neighbors gawked as he entered our gate, because the tall man with the smiling face, who knew how to hold his liquor, was charismatic radio broadcaster and television host Eddie Ilarde.
Those were the early years of radio and television in the country and Ilarde quickly established name recall because of his well-modulated voice that came across as warm and friendly to many listeners.
He further firmed up his foothold in the broadcast industry through a variety of “ firsts,” that included: “The Eddie Ilarde Show,” the country’s first musical variety program (1959-1962); “Kahapon Lamang,” the first TV drama anthology and public service-oriented program (started in 1955; 1976-1986); “Yagit,” the first TV soap opera, about the twists and turns in the lives of child scavengers (mid-80s); and “Student Canteen,” the first student/ youth talent search (1958-1965; 1975-1986).
Ilarde is perhaps the first radio-and-television personality to accomplish a successful crossover to the realm of politics.
In 1963, he got elected as the number one councilor in Pasay City. Two years later, in 1965, he won as congressman in the first district of Rizal.
As congressman he authored the Police Reform Act of 1966 and the Rent Control Law. He led in the creation of the National Telecommunications Commission.
It is not surprising that during his stint in the Lower House, Ilarde was hailed as one of the 10 outstanding congressmen of the sixth Congress.
Come 1971, Ilarde made his bid for the Senate. Almost three months before election day, he figured and suffered a leg injury in the now infamous Plaza Miranda bombing. Despite being unable to attend sorties during the last leg of the campaign, Ilarde landed no. 4 in the senatorial elections of that year.
But then Martial Law was declared in 1972 and Congress was abolished.
Ilarde made a political comeback in 1978 and he won as assemblyman in the National Capital Region. There, he became the author of the “Ilarde-De Vera hospital deposit law.” This law prohibited hospitals from demanding cash deposits for emergency cases.
He is also credited for being the first to propose the creation of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). He likewise advanced the Anti-Piracy Law and was the original author of the “Total Gun Ban” bill.
Ilarde also served as founding chair of the Maharlika Foundation for national transformation. The values-oriented, non-profit organization sought to “redeem our noble past by adopting ‘Maharlika,’ instead of the ‘Philippines’ as the name of our country.”
A committed public servant and family man, Ilarde and his wife of more than sixty years have seven children, thirteen grandchildren, and one beautiful granddaughter.
He continued to host his radio program, “Kahapon Lamang,” aired every Saturday and Sunday, from 1:30 to 2:30 pm at radio station DZBB.
In between his radio host chore, Ilarde authored the “Book of Seniors” and founded the Golden Eagles Society International in 2003. The organization claims to be the biggest organized group of Filipino senior citizens with a membership of 3,000.
In 2018, Ilarde was the recipient of the Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua Award—the highest recognition given to “living legend” senior citizens at the Dangal Awards, an annual recognition of outstanding senior citizens, founded by the BusinessMirror, Unilab, Ritemed Philippines, and the United Bayanihan Foundation.
That year, I interviewed him for the BusinessMirror and his first comment was, “Anak ka pala ni Clem.” Right that moment, I became a child again, awed by this charismatic broadcaster that many of us now know as Kuya Eddie.
It seems fitting that I should write this feature piece. When Papa died in 1978, it was Eddie Ilarde who announced his passing on “Student Canteen.”
Born on Aug. 25, 1934 in Iriga province in the Bicol Region, Eddie Uy Ilarde died of natural causes on Aug. 4 at the age of 85.
Image Credits: Illustration: Ed Davad.