Gasser: Last of ‘true-blue dyed-in-wool broadcasters’
MANILA, Philippines—It came like a thief in the night.
The death of broadcast icon Harry Gasser came as a surprise to his wife, veteran comedienne Flora, son Henry and daughter Anna Marie.
“I guess he didn’t tell anyone about how he really felt because he didn’t want our mother, who is a diabetic, to worry. He just wanted to serve her, to tend to her needs,” said Henry of his father, who died of a heart attack on Thursday morning.
Gasser was 76.
Gasser was brought to the Quezon City General Hospital on March 27 complaining of difficulty breathing. The following day, he suffered a stroke while undergoing a series of tests.
“By then, he could no longer recognize anyone and was already incoherent,” Henry said.
Gasser caught pneumonia in December 2013, a development that aggravated his heart condition, which in turn triggered the stroke, said Henry.
He was declared dead at 3:50 a.m. on April 3.
Gasser’s remains lie at St. Peter’s Chapels on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. He will be cremated tomorrow morning. Sunday, a Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m.
Gasser appeared on the news program “Balita Ngayon” on ABS-CBN from 1969 to 1972, and on “BBC Primetime News” on BBC from 1973 to 1977. He transferred to RPN 9 in 1975 and became the anchor of “NewsWatch” until 1999. From 1999 to 2007, he was anchor of “TV Patrol Central Visayas.” He also worked with Radio Veritas as news manager.
“We are coping well but knowing that he’s no longer around causes pain in our hearts,” said Henry. “Life goes on for our mom. She’s just sad that she didn’t get to talk to dad before he passed on. I was the only family member present during his final moment. I heard him take his final breath. It had been very painful to witness.”
“I kept seeing his last moments and remembering the time I bargained with God to give us more time with my dad. But even then, I already knew that he was gone. His eyes were open, but they were unseeing, not really noticing anything,” he said.
Henry said people have noticed a big change in his mother, who is known to be always happy and perky.
“She’s often quiet. She cried this morning (Friday) but has remained strong. We’re monitoring her health,” he said. “Since we started welcoming visitors at the wake, we noticed that mom’s mood has improved. She is comforted by their company. She welcomed Sen. Loren Legarda (on Friday night).”
Legarda coanchored RPN 9’s “NewsWatch” with Gasser for years since 1981.
In a statement to the Inquirer, Legarda said she was “deeply saddened” by his passing. “Harry was very professional. He was kind, a gentleman and a credible person. He was the face of NewsWatch, but more than that, he was an icon in Philippine broadcast media. He was a well-respected news anchor and he was a proud Cebuano. Harry will surely be missed.”
RPN 9 president and CEO Robert Rivera said he never met Gasser, but his colleagues considered the late TV personality “one of the country’s finest news anchors.”
Rivera said: “He was described as someone who was flawless in his diction and pronunciation. He had always demanded balanced reporting and truthfulness in content in newscasts. He even confronted producers and news managers if he believed they were not right. His reputation was impeccable.”
Actress and radio commentator Boots Anson-Roa, chair of the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation, said Gasser “was perhaps the last of the true-blue dyed-in-the-wool broadcast journalists of the ’60s to the ’90s. He held his public in high esteem alongside the equally revered Joey Lardizabal, Phil Delfino, Angelo Castro Jr., Ernie Zarate, Bong Lapira, Jose Mari Velez and Dong Puno.”
Henry said he was amazed at the number of messages the family received on social media since his father’s death.
“I have yet to read all of them, but based on my kids’ reports, the outpouring of love for my father is overwhelming. We feel honored. It’s great that people remember him and speak highly of him,” he said. “This helps in the healing process. This comforts us and helps lessen the pain of his absence.”
A Facebook page called “Harry Gasser Appreciation Society” was created a few hours after Gasser’s death. Its followers took time out to post heartwarming comments. “Rest in peace, Mr. Gasser. I have always been fascinated by you and your wife. You are one of the personalities that made me like watching news,” said Cris Cepeda.
Manny Tonogbanua recalled how Gasser delivered the newscast in the ’70s. “He had no affectations. There was no political color in his reporting style. He told the news as it ought to be told—honest, factual, with enough sincerity and a whole lot of credibility. Thank you Mr. Gasser and may you rest in God’s everlasting peace.”