CEBUANO officials and members of the local media expressed sadness over the death of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde.
Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, a long-time friend of Remonde, talked to reporters even if he wasn’t feeling well.
“I am sorry for his family’s loss. He is truly a big loss to the Cebuanos and I pray that God will reward him for the works that he has done for his fellowmen,” said Vidal.
Vidal said he last saw Remonde during the Pontifical Mass at the Basilica del Sto. Niño last Sunday.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia mourned the death of Remonde, saying he always fought for the cause of the Cebu Province.
Garcia remembered that it was Remonde who announced that more than P300 million in funds from the Department of Public Works and Highways should be given to the Capitol so it could initiate the construction of the Tayud-Consolacion-Liloan road portion of the Cebu North Coastal Road Project.
She also remembered that Remonde lobbied for her nomination under the Lakas Party during the 2004 elections when there were three gubernatorial bets supporting President Arroyo.
Garcia will talk to the Provincial Board members on what they can do for Remonde.
The Province awarded Remonde as one of the Garbo sa Sugbo in 2008.
For Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Remonde’s passing meant Cebu City Hall lost its “panic button” in Malacañang. He was the one who would follow up the City’s concerns with the President and help fix whatever problems the City had.
The mayor expressed his sympathies to the secretary’s wife Marit, and said the City will offer a mass for the eternal repose of his soul.
The mayor credited Remonde for playing a major influence in President Arroyo’s decision to take her oath of office as president in Cebu City in July 2004, the holding of the Asean summit here in 2007, and for setting up the Malacañang sa Sugbo in the city.
“Cerge has helped us with many of the problems we’ve had in the city. He could make things happen because of his presence there in Malacañang. We will all miss him. I’m still in a state of shock, I can’t accept that he’s dead. He was just there at the Sinulog last Sunday,” said Osmeña.
Remonde watched the Sinulog from the VIP section of the grandstand last Sunday, where he greeted Osmeña and his son Miguel, as well as members of the media.
In his news conference at noon yesterday, he said that he would miss Remonde, who would feed him “chismis” during their late-night get-together whenever he was in Cebu.
He said that Remonde has contributed a lot to Cebu City, and has recently helped in following up documents related to the South Road Properties.
“I cannot attribute one particular accomplishment but he was some sort of a panic button whenever we have a hard time in Malacañang. He would just facilitate it. I would call him up then he will fix it and that’s a contribution, just knowing that he would be there for you whenever you needed him,” said Osmeña.
Those who cover Malacañang call him the president’s staunch defender. But to those close to him, Remonde was mentor, brother and friend.
“He pioneered the public affairs format which featured field reports and running commentaries on the most controversial issues of the day, Leo Lastimosa, president of Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-Cebu, recalls.
“He was to the broadcast media then who the most famous broadcaster is right now. His name was a byword. He interviewed presidents on his radio program. He was our Larry King,” Atty. Elias L. Espinoza, a Sun.Star columnist, also remembers.
Remonde was pronounced dead at the Makati Medical Center where he was brought after having been found unconscious at his Bel-Air, Makati home.
“I last talked to him aboard the Sto. Niño galleon before the start of the fluvial procession (Saturday). I was surprised by his enthusiasm to talk about spiritual things; not the usual stuff we talk about when we see each other. He showed me pictures he took of the image of the Sto. Niño in his Malacañang office,” Lastimosa said.
For Espinoza, his last encounter with Remonde came Friday night, when they both attended the annual Cebu Popular Music Festival.
Sam Costanilla said Remonde read a short Cebuano poem he wrote for Rep. Eduardo Gullas, thanking him for giving birth to the Cebu Pop Music. “Remonde was then full of life,” he said.
Fred Languido, a reporter for The Freeman and radio dyLA program handler, who is also a relative of the late press secretary, said the radio station plans to hold a mass but nothing has been finalized yet pending word from Remonde’s wife Marit.
Remonde was one time station manager of radio dyLA, running it in the mid- ‘80s after serving for many years as reporter and program handler and leaving his position only in 2001, when he was appointed to Malacañang.
While running the station, he handled the very successful program “dyLA Interaction” and created a new genre in program handling. It was here, according to Lastimosa, that Remonde mentored many young journalists on the craft.
Lastimosa, now newscaster of ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Central Visayas as well as the program handler of radio dyAB’s Arangakada and columnist for The Freeman newspaper, was campus beat reporter for radio dyLA in the mid ‘80s.
“He was very generous. He gave us all the chances to show what we can do. He did not impose his style on us and instead gave us the freedom to develop on our own. I
am forever grateful,” Lastimosa said, adding that there were 10 of them then and they all lived in the station.
Languido was among the last ones who trained under Remonde.
“I was worked as a deskman beginning sometime in 1995 and every week, we would have critiquing sessions with him,” Languido added.
The staff of radio dyLA was in tears and in shock over the news of Remonde’s death.
Radio dyLA station manager Jun Tagalog said they didn’t believe the news at first.
Tagalog said Remonde’s last moments here in Cebu were in the Sinulog Festival, which the late press secretary religiously attended.
Remonde, a devotee of the Sto. Niño, would visit Cebu during the Sinulog to take part in the religious activities, added Tagalog.
Tagalog said Remonde would serve as dyLA’s reporter during the fluvial procession every year.
“Even until now, he was still one of the best reporters the station has ever had,” said Tagalog.
Radio dyLA news director Jhunnex Napallacan, in a separate interview, remembered Remonde as a strict disciplinarian when he was still the station manager of the station.
“I have lost an idol and a mentor,” dyLA reporter Chito Aragon said.
Lastimosa said Remonde had skills not limited to journalistic craft.
“When he was KBP chairman, he reached out to everyone, including some of us who did not believe in the KBP then,” Lastimosa said, adding that Remonde knew how to handle people.
Then, as the head of the organization, the only one who has served six consecutive terms so far, he institutionalized the annual training of young KBP officials from the provinces.
“As press secretary, it was his job to defend the President however indefensible she is. But he did his job without interfering with ours. “He was loyal to Arroyo but I think he respected the media more,” Lastimosa said.
Remonde’s death came as surprise to his Cebu friends, who did not know he had a heart problem.
“I conferred with (broadcasters) Bobby (Nalzaro), Choy (Torralba), and others who were close to him, and they confirmed that none of us knew or was told by Cerge that
he had a heart problem; although we know he had his back problem with surgery, plus hypertension and diabetes,” said Cebu City Councilor Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem.
“I think it was the super stress that really ended it,” he said.
But while Cerge may have been physically taxed last week after joining the Sto. Niño procession, Jakosalem said joining the Sinulog was probably the press secretary’s most relaxed moment.
Remonde was seen often smiling during the Sinulog grand parade last Sunday and was caught taking pictures, something that he had not done in past celebrations.
Jakosalem, who is on his third and last term as city councilor, said Remonde was one of the first persons who encouraged him to run for public office.
For her part, Joy Lim, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions (ALU), yesterday said Remonde had been a fervent and dedicated disciple of trade and unionism.
Lim said that although Remonde moved to other fields after his engagement with ALU and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, his heart remained with the workers and their families. (JKV/JGA/LCR/KNR/JTG/EOB)