The name Cheche Lazaro, to many, incites fear and trembling. This is because Cheche is one of the country's hard-hitting and respected journalists—those who will not be bogged down by any threat when they're in the pursuit of truth and service.
But to Cheche's many children—people who work, and have worked, for her in Probe Productions—this award-winning journalist is a mentor, a friend, a mother, an ear willing to listen, and a hand willing to guide.
This is why tons of heartfelt gratitude filled 1Esplanade in Pasay City last July 4, for the thanksgiving party Probe hosted for Cheche, who's considering retirement. Many of Cheche's children were there, as well as friends, colleagues in the media, and personalities who have been part of Probe in its 24 years of existence.
Probe Productions is an independent media production house and is the producer of award-winning programs such as the The Probe Team, GamePlan, 5 and Up, Cheche Lazaro Presents, Art Is Kool, and Probe Profiles.
Probe pioneered investigative journalism on television. Many of its former anchors and hosts have become the pillars of today's media, including GMANews.tv Editor-in-Chief Howie Severino, ABS-CBN Vice President for News and Current Affairs Maria Ressa, and TV5 Vice President for News and Public Affairs Luchi Cruz-Valdes.
Thus, the Probe thanksgiving party was filled with many high-profile personalities. Aside from the three big bosses, present were former Probers Atom Araullo, Paolo Abrera, Suzi Entrata-Abrera, Love Añover, Paolo Bediones, Paolo Soler, and personalities like Efren Peñaflorida, Marlene Aquilar, Brillante Mendoza, Boots Anson-Roa, Senators Edgardo Angara and Frank Drilon, and Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.
The venue featured an exhibit of Probe memorabilia, including photos, videos, awards, and actual equipment they use to craft their programs.
The thanksgiving party perhaps was the first Probe event that Cheche did not oversee. Instead, it was her staff who arranged everything: the venue, food, guest list, and the various segments that would honor their boss.
The program started with a prayer and ended in a full-blast dance party featuring almost all the guests, around 250.
The program featured testimonials from old and new Probers that prove how revered Cheche is.
Paolo Bediones, a former host for GamPlan and now a news anchor for TV5, said, "She gave me a chance, Probe gave me a chance. When no one [took] a chance on me, Probe Productions did. So thank you, thank you."
TV host Paolo Abrera, also part of GamePlan, added, "I think I want to thank Cheche for a great opportunity that was Probe. Really more than a job talaga, it's really being part of a family."
Probe producer Booma Cruz said, "Puwede siyang kaibigan, puwede siyang co-worker, puwede siyang nanay, puwede rin siyang lola. Sa isang madaling salita, isa siyang magulong tao."
Current Prober Lucille Sodipe said, metaphorically, "Siya ang tao na pag naging lalaki, kaya niyang pasagutin lahat ng babae."
Guests also left kind words.
"Sana she won't really rush kasi kailangan siya dito ng media," said Director Brillante Mendoza. " At sana she'll have good health. Yun ang pinaka-wish ko sa kanya, and she'll be happy. Lalo na ngayon na nag-retire na siya. Pinaka-importante 'yon, maging masaya siya."
"Salamat sa kanya. Naging bahagi na rin ako ng Probe kahit nanonood lang ako," said educator Efren Peñaflorida, who won the CNN Hero of the Year award last year.
In response to everyone's gratitude, Cheche was at a loss for words. "I don't know what to say. I'm so overwhelmed by the size of this room, and by the exhibit that you did, and the number of people that are here tonight," she said in a speech she delivered to her staff, maybe for one last time.
She continued, "I can't even begin to think of how to thank you. I don't think I can express it fully. I want to give special honors to all my family from Probe. When we started 24 years ago, I did not think that we would last more than a year. And we have lasted 24 years and we have been the source of the best producers, on-cam talents, broadcast anchors, editors, graphic camera men, camera women, artists, and any other talent you guys have is a deep source of pride for me. I'm really very proud of each of them tonight and I would like to embrace them one by one."
SPECIAL EPISODE. ABS-CBN will feature Probe's last hurrah on Sunday, July 18, on Sunday's Best. Old and new batches of Probers get together and talk about their best and unforgettable stories. The episode will be peppered with clips from the best episodes, behind-the-scenes, bloopers, and many more.
Watch Probe on July 18, on ABS-CBN's Sunday's Best, after Twist and Shout.