Joe Sulit signs off one last time
Joe Sulit at the helm of Good Morning Philippines in 2007
WINNIPEG – Joe Sulit, Winnipeg’s beloved Filipino broadcaster since 1976, passed away on Friday, January 4, 2013 at the age of 70. He had been battling various forms of cancer since his initial diagnosis in 2000.
Flags flew half-mast at the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba (PCCM) where two evenings of lamay (viewing) were held on January 9 and 10, 2013. At the request of the family, the public viewings were held as a celebration of Joe’s life rather than a mourning of his death.
On the first night, Joe’s former CKJS radio colleague, Sheryll Dandan Zamora served as emcee for informal eulogies from friends and members of the Sulit family.
On the second night of viewing at the PCCM, Sheryll and husband Maui Zamora hosted a faux broadcast of Joe’s radio show Filipiniana: Live on Location with projected photo and video presentations and even some recorded messages and songs from Joe himself.
Former CKJS colleagues Emmie Joaquin, Lito Taruc, Paquito Rey Pacheco, Donna Natividad Arenas, Jimi Cruz, Marck Salamatin, Norman Umali, Nadya Garces, Gloria Gal, Paul Morrow, Lendyll Soriano, and Gido Gigliotti paid tribute to Joe with stories and songs, including a solo performance by former Tuklas Talino champion and CKJS personality Michele Majul Ibarra. Singers Mimoza Duot and Moises Duot also performed songs in honour Joe.
Friends representing other facets of Joe’s community involvement, such as Lito Camuyong of the Pasig Association of Winnipeg, Ron Cantiveros of the Filipino Journal, MP for Winnipeg North, Kevin Lamoureux and Tess Marcelino also paid tribute to him.
A public life
Joe Sulit arrived in Canada in April 1974. His wife Alma soon followed with their first-born, Mary Ann, a few months later. Originally from Pasig, Joe and Alma settled in Winnipeg where Joe’s sister, Letty, also resided.
Although he was deeply involved in his church and several community organizations, Joe came to be known best to the general public for his work on the radio. In 1976, while working full time at New Flyer Industries, he took over the hosting duties on the one-hour evening show, Radyo Pilipino, from Resty Taruc, brother of the current Good Morning Philippines news director, Lito Taruc.
“The Filipino community in Manitoba was just beginning to grow at that time, said Joe in an interview with the Pilipino Express in late 2008. “The show aired only three times a week, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays… the strange thing was that it did not even have a regular time slot on those three days… listeners had to guess when it was airing!”
Joe continued to host the intermittent program until Resty Taruc returned to do the show in 1977.
In 1982, Radyo Pilipino was given its regular time slot of 7:00 to 8:00 p.m., Monday to Friday. Joe became the regular announcer with Kaka Paquito Rey Pacheco doing the news.
With Winnipeg’s Filipino population growing significantly in the late 1980s, CKJS launched the prime time morning show, Good Morning Philippines (GMP). Joe together with co-host Emmie Joaquin signed on for the first time on April 24, 1989. Joe left his job at New Flyer Industries to take on the full-time job co-hosting GMP.
Joe, Emmie and Kaka became household names in the local Filipino community. They were involved not only in Filipino events such as fundraisers for Philippine disaster relief, the Philippine Centre on Juno St., the Folklorama Philippine Pavilion and Tuklas Talino singing contests, but also in numerous mainstream projects like United Way campaigns, McDonald’s McHappy Days, Canadian Blood Services and the Winnipeg media’s annual fishing derbies where Joe always wound up as a top angler.
From 1989 to 2008, many changes occurred on GMP but Joe was the constant element. In the late 1990s, Jimi Cruz joined Emmie and Joe when Kaka retired. Then, when Jimi moved on to another job, Lito Taruc took over as news director. In December 2003, Joe’s co-host, Emmie Joaquin – now Editor-in-Chief of the Pilipino Express news magazine – changed careers, leaving Joe anchoring GMP solo for a few months. In the spring of 2004, Donna Natividad-Arenas became GMP’s new female voice. Lucille Nolasco stepped in as Joe’s on-air partner when Donna went on maternity leave in 2008.
Chester Pangan and Lito Taruc have continued the GMP tradition with Donna Natividad-Arenas since Joe’s retirement in December 2008 but Joe continued on the airwaves with his own Sunday night program, Filipiniana until December 30, 2012.
On that night, Joe was unable to host the show due to his declining condition. Sheryll Dandan Zamora, Joe’s own protégé whom he recruited for the airwaves straight out of high school in the mid 1990s, filled in as host for the evening with her husband Maui Zamora and aired a recorded interview with Joe.
Other fellow CKJS broadcasters, past and present, hoped for yet another recovery for the indomitable man when they joined the couple on air. Emmie Joaquin, Pacquito Rey Pacheco, Lito Taruc and former CKJS technical producer, Paul Morrow, were in the studio to reminisce with Joe over the phone. Chester Pangan, Lucille Nolasco, Michele Majul Ibarra and Donna Natividad Arenas also called in to give their best wishes for Joe’s recovery. One-time co-host, Joy Lazo, also sent in a message by e-mail.
Joe Sulit was interred at Glen Lawn Memorial Garden following a funeral service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 700 London Street, on Friday, January 11, 2013. He is survived by his wife Alma and children, Mary Ann, Luisa, Michael, Aaron and nine grandchildren. Joe is also survived by five siblings; Lydia in Vancouver; Hector and Lucy in Pasig and; Florencia (Nene) and Letty in Winnipeg.
Photos of the PCCM lamay courtesy of Arnel San Jose of Jeprox Photography