The talented Mr. Noche

published at The Standard, 07 June 2015

This was the title of the blog post I wrote sometime in August 2009, upon the retirement of former Manila Standard Today art director Dario Noche. I had been working with him almost three years, he drawing the editorial cartoons for this paper’s opinion page.
I wrote in that blog entry ( that I was bewildered that his retirement came and went without fanfare, given his contributions to the organization and his great talent. He wrote me, years afterwards when he stumbled into the blog post, thanking me for my kind words. I said my words were not enough.
And then there was Facebook, making keeping up with friends, acquaintances and former colleagues easier. Keep up, Mr. Noche did. I became updated about his activities with his friends at the Conspiracy bar along Visayas Avenue, and gained access to his drawings and pictures which he generously posted online.
Sometime in 2013, Mr. Noche agreed to be interviewed for a feature for MST Sunday. He described a life guided by passion and tempered with responsibility. He walked me through the many decades he spent in the publishing industry, hobnobbing with VIPs and getting his works published in many places.
He briefed me, too, on the art circle his group had organized and for which he acted as director. He invited me to visit; I said, sometime soon. He also said he was working on something big for Quezon City, even as he declined to go into detail at that time. I would later find out that he was one of several who were commissioned to render artwork for the city’s anniversary.
He talked about his children, as well. He passed up an opportunity to work in Singapore because they were still young at that time. Later on, he said he neither encouraged nor discouraged them to follow his path.“Let them look for what they want…just show them that you’re always there. Pretty soon they will find their place.”
In the story that was called “The doors are open for Dario Noche,” ( he pondered how he did not seem to have the killer instinct that possessed his contemporaries as they sought to be prolific and prominent at the same time.
“It was as if all doors were just opened to me,” he marveled, “and all I had to do was step inside.” 
The man was quick to attribute all his success to chance, but his story said otherwise. It showed he was diligent -- as a layout artist in the 60s and 70s, he read every piece he laid out and compared the raw copy to the edited version. He was vehemently against the “pwede na yan” mentality. At the newspaper where he worked closely with the editorial team to inject new representations of the same old issues, he worked consistently and unfailingly. “Every day, whatever the weather, however you’re feeling, you had to be there,” he said.
His retirement finally gave him the freedom to do what he loved to do sans the deadline. “I hope it’s not too late to start now,” he said.
It wasn’t, but he did not have much time to continue. Mr. Noche died last week -- a sudden passing when he seemed to be just as active with his online and offline friends mere days before.
Last month, on Mothers’ Day, he posted an early sketch of his on my wall: a street full of busy people with a mother, carrying a baby on one arm and a suitcase on another, making a mad dash for who knows where. I said thanks, and felt flattered that it was how he must see me, struggling with multiple demands, and I hoped, jut a wee bit succeeding.
It was not just his art that made Mr. Noche a remarkable man. It was his quiet, humble bearings. If you looked at him as a stranger from across a room, you would not be able to see at once how good he was in what he did and how deeply he cared for his family. He sat back and let others dominate conversations. He spoke only when he had something extremely important to say. In fact, he could seem tentative, even shy.
Who says we must all have killer instincts and advertise our worth all the time, by the way? It is enough that we do what we do best, as Mr. Noche did.
We lost a good man.