Tribute to a good man, an unforgettable character
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-07-03
Many Filipinos are of course cognizant of the great entertainment we all enjoyed from such TV classics as Knight Rider and The A Team as well as the many other great TV series that aired on ABC-Channel 5 when Edward U. Tan was its chairman.

But few Filipinos really knew the man who brought to our living rooms those superb TV productions that made us forget for a moment our daily drudge and allowed us some precious moments of shared entertainment with our loved ones.

Thus, in this column, I chose to share my fondest recollections of the friend and former colleague I lost recently — advertising and television pioneer and trailblazer, former ABC-5 Chairman Edward U. Tan.

Ed made most of his fortune in real estate. But his heart was always in media, especially television. Ed pioneered in expanding ad agency operations into media ad sales. His ad agency, Atlas Promotions, formed a successful sister company that programmed foreign television series. Such operations were called blocktiming — buying specific television hours or blocks from the networks.

From there, Ed eventually got his fondest wish to have his own television network when he was able to revive ABC-5 (during the Cory Aquino era) which was closed down during martial law.

Having successfully pioneered in blocktiming, Ed did not relish our company’s venturing into the same business in 1978. His dislike for me and my group was heightened when we acquired by some stroke of luck the series The Incredible Hulk which starred the late Bill Bixby. Ed felt that the series should have gone to him.

The Incredible Hulk went through the roof in ad revenues and every peso we made intensified Ed’s dislike for the group he felt took it away from him. From 1978, all the way to the mid-1990s, Ed and I fought what may be termed a television ‘cold war’ that was reminiscent of the US-USSR Cold War. No quarters were asked and none were given.

But it was a constructive type of competition in that it brought out the best in both of us which benefited the viewing public and the TV industry. We were both passionate and relentless in pursuing our goals but we always maintained a healthy respect for each other. That mutual respect allowed the development of genuine friendship. The friendship got warmer the older we got, especially after we both retired from the television game.

Warriors that we were, Ed and I shifted to competing in basketball. No, not play the game but bet on basketball games. He won some and lost some. I know that Ed never relished losing, even if just a bet on a basketball game. But he always paid his losses.

He had one weakness though which I was able to exploit. Ed would never bet against our alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University. Even if De La Salle clearly had the edge — La Salle, as you know, specialized in team recruitment — Ed would never bet against the Ateneo Blue Eagles. I would if knew that a weak team (often plagued with poor coaches) like Ateneo will lose to La Salle.

The 2004 NBA finals which the Detroit Pistons won over the LA Lakers was particularly rewarding for me and devastating for Ed’s wallet.

In between friendly bets, Ed and I, together with our other dear friend Johnty Lamoglia, would break bread and enjoy reminiscing about our television adventures and misadventures. The Makati Shangri-La’s Shang Palace was Ed’s favorite Chinese Restaurant. He was treated there like royalty and somehow the food he ordered tasted much better than when my wife and I dined there without him.

It is characteristic of Edward to maintain a high standard in what he ate. He did not mind the price so long as it met what he considered fit to pass his esophagus. One time, he treated us to a special abalone dinner that cost him US$25 per abalone.

Good food is a passion I share with Ed. I go to Hong Kong not to shop but to eat like a Chinese Emperor and cuisine is at the top of my criteria for choosing a travel destination.

Edward Tan was not born rich. He worked his way to a life of comfort. More than having the brains, he had the passion and the drive to succeed, a man who did not tolerate failure.

There are those who worked for Ed who claim that their work experience were simply nightmarish. But one sees the kind of boss he was by the loyal core who stuck with him through thick and thin. Ed was a winner and you have to be a winner type to be able to successfully work for him.

Ed always looked at the BIG PICTURE. Many Filipinos, who have the tendency to be stuck on insignificant details, see only the trees and have no sense of the forest, will do well to emulate the way Edward Tan thinks and approaches problems.

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