Love endures: Ging Reyes remembers late husband as a true romantic and her forever Valentine

GING Reyes and husband.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day when the one you commemorated it with for many years—the dearest and most special, your life partner—is already gone?

Unthinkable, to say the least, as in the case of Regina “Ging” Reyes. The-now retired longest-serving head of ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs lost her husband Milo Santiago Cacanindin, a broadcast engineer and cyclist, in March 2021 due to cardiac arrest while undergoing treatment for Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease. She hurriedly flew home from a trip abroad to be by Milo’s side, even just to catch his final moments.

‘Marrying late in life can have its rewards; both of you have had life experiences that tested your values and defined your characters’. | photographs courtesy of GING REYES

“My husband always celebrated Valentine’s Day,” Reyes tells DAILY TRIBUNE in an email interview. “I really didn’t think much of this holiday before I met Milo. It became special because of him; he used to send me the reddest of roses on this day. He never forgot birthdays and anniversaries, always planning a special treat, or a trip out of town. Between us, he was the true romantic. And that’s what I miss the most.”

In this Q&A, the broadcast journalist, who was named as Southeast Asian Laureate for Women in News Editorial Leadership in 2022 by the World Association of News Publishers, honors the memory of her beloved and the enduring love they shared:

DAILY TRIBUNE (DT): Picking up from the essay you wrote for an online news site, does peace still elude you?

Ging Reyes (GR): Peace can be a tricky thing. Some say you should move on, months or years after losing a loved one, but you don’t. You can’t really move on. This grief is something I’d continue to carry with me for the rest of my life.

Peace? There were times I thought of raising hell and making healthcare professionals accountable for the events leading to his cardiac arrest, but that wouldn’t bring him back. That scenario just makes me relive those terrible hours in my head, with me by his side instead of an ocean away, or him getting another dose of miracle to bounce back like before. This debate with myself always ends the same way—back to thinking I should accept that it was perhaps, his time.

DT: It’s been nearly four months since that essay was published and just a month before Milo’s third death anniversary. How are you now? How are you and your family coping?

GR: I have good days and bad days; I take road trips with my kids, travel with friends, share stories and have a good laugh.  But the loneliness creeps in randomly. It just can’t be helped—a familiar place, a favorite dish, the sight of a lone biker on a mountain trail could open a floodgate of memories. And I think I’ve come to terms with that; I even welcome the piercing pain that comes with it.

DT: You and Milo got married in 2014. What was your married life like? How did you complement and/or contrast each other?

GR: Marrying late in life can have its rewards; both of you have had life experiences that tested your values and defined your characters, as well as previous relationships from which to learn and gain strength. We were opposites in some ways and similar in others. He was an engineer and an expert on technical design, I was a journalist and later got promoted as news media executive. We were both committed to our jobs when we met, and we found common ground on the creative process behind the production of news and documentary programs.

There were disagreements on work-life balance when I became news chief (in 2010) and he was almost-retired and freelancing on various projects. Journalists have no work-life balance! I lived and breathed news for over three decades, constantly monitoring events, never turning off my mobile phone, always on call even on weekends, holidays and special occasions.

The demands and pressures of my post required an almost 24/7 laser focus at the start of my 12-year stint. Before and during our marriage, Milo would complain that he had to compete with ABS-CBN (36 years in total) for my attention, but eventually he would always give in, acknowledging who I was before we became a couple. This turned out to be a blessing later on, because all that was nothing compared to the fierce loyalty and steely resolve that the last three years demanded.

My husband was my greatest cheerleader and my worst critic; he would tell me if a certain news story was “too showbiz” or shallow, notice if the show had poor audio or bad lighting. He kept me grounded, taking me to his outreach projects that benefited communities he met during his numerous mountain bike trips.  

He made me laugh. He was a master of pranks and silly jokes, and was fond of baptizing friends with crazy nicknames. 

DT: How did dealing with Milo’s health concerns, particularly Type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, affect/alter/strengthen your marriage?

GR: When we met, Milo had already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By the time he reached his 50s, his situation worsened and he became insulin-dependent. He loved living on the edge though; he took risks in his career and personal life, which unfortunately affected his health. He refused to accept limits, and that included diet restrictions. He would eat his favorite dishes, enjoy chocolates and other sweets at the end of a meal, despite my (and other family members’) constant reminders and warnings.  

DT: Looking back on the day you were flying back home and was told that Milo had cardiac arrest and slipped into coma, what kept you strong and hopeful up until seeing him pass away?

GR: When your loved one is fighting for their life, you realize how helpless you truly are. You’d storm the heavens with prayers for a miracle which may or may not happen. You’d put your trust in doctors and the entire healthcare system.

My family and friends, even my coworkers were extremely supportive, praying with me, sending messages and making their presence felt. They kept me strong and sane. In the end, I prayed for the Lord’s will to be done.

Here’s the deal — while you’re going through this hell, no one truly knows what goes on inside your head.  Waiting and hoping for a loved one to wake from a coma, and seeing that hope disappear is the ultimate test of one’s emotional resilience and sanity.