THE passing of Ray Butch Gamboa left a void that is hard to fill in the nation’s motoring journalism milieu. Butch—or Elvis as I fondly called him, a moniker that was very much to his liking as he was a self-confessed ardent fan of the king of Rock ‘n’ Roll—was the epitome of everything about the car world insofar as the media twins of broadcasting and writing are concerned.
When Elvis “left the building” last week due to a lingering illness that had left him wheelchair-bound for almost five years, the whole industry was in deep mourning. Like his namesake from the music world, Butch aka Elvis can never be replaced by anyone in this lifetime. Any wannabe will be quickly, sadly, pathetically, reduced to a poor imitation, an impersonator of the lowest kind.
When Butch launched his iconic “Motoring Today” television show in 1987, it broke barriers as it became a watershed moment in the then fledgling world of motorization. It was a risky gamble only the likes of him would ever dare do. Gutsy to the bone, he took on the challenge head-on despite the unfriendly winds buffeting the industry then, as only a handful of car companies were in circulation—grappling with costs, courting customers well deep into the night just to make a buck. Together with the late, lamented Pocholo Ramirez, the duo plodded on through the unchartered path, braving the unseen traps of emptied pockets at the worst of times.
“WE thought of quitting, but our will, our stubbornness, carried us through the storm,” I remember Elvis telling me that during one of our many drinking bouts.
Oh, how Elvis loved to drink. We practically tried everything, until Elvis settled down with single malt. Make that Jura or Macallan. Other times we killed Yamazaki, if not Hibiki.
Whether we were on home shores or in an overseas coverage, as in the Tokyo Motor Show (renamed this year as the Japan Mobility Show by event chairman Akio Toyoda, the dynamic chairman of Toyota Motor Corp. in Tokyo), Elvis almost always made it a point to host a drinking session, either at his office at Green Valley or at his nearby condo in Pasig that is a mere spitting distance from the Commons mall. And when we did single malt, we made it neat. Cold water always the chaser.
We made it a point to get dizzy, if not drunk.
“What’s the use of drinking if we don’t get happy,” Elvis loved to say.
THERE was this night when Vince Socco, now Lexus Manila chairman, brought us to a bar in Malate, Manila—Elvis, Ding Marcelo and myself. This was in 1991, the year I began as Motoring Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Ding was Motoring Editor of Manila Bulletin, with Elvis as both motoring columnist of Philippine Star and TV anchor of “Motoring Today.”
“Thank you for coming,” said Vince as we sat down at the bar with rock sounds blaring. “You are the big three today in the motoring media and I am honored, indeed, to be with you.”
When the night wasn’t that young anymore, Elvis made an unforgettable move only he alone could ever perform: He did ledge dancing to our eternal delight. There he was, gyrating on the ledge in an impromptu Elvis D’ Pelvis act. The crowd lustily cheered; some gave him a standing ovation.
“Ayos ba?” Elvis would ask us after his performance, wiping off beads of sweat from his forehead, smiling heartily while giving us a wink.
And so, although Elvis “has left the building,” the building will house a memory reserved only for him. He will forever be in my heart.
PEE STOP Ray Butch “Elvis” Gamboa, father of iconic DJ Tintin and Wee the assigned successor, was also a passionate poker player. And he relished preparing good food cooked no less by his beloved wife, Babes, before every poker session that he loved to host. When Babes had passed on couple of years before the pandemic, that’s when Elvis went downhill. He lost the appetite not only for good food but the good life, as well. They are together Up There now where they’d surely rekindle the flame of their love—so famed it knows no end. Godspeed, lovers.