“WE lost a friend,” was my swift reaction when I received a news bulletin in my cell phone that Press Secretary Cerge Remonde died of heart attack at 11:51 a.m. Tuesday at the Makati Medical Center. Cerge was 51.

Before that, pare Bobby Nalzaro texted me that Cerge had a heart attack and was at the Makati Medical Center in precarious state. I did not take the message seriously because Cerge looked healthy when I met him Friday.

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Cerge was not only a friend but he was like a brother to me. We both had humble beginnings. But his appointment as press undersecretary when then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president after Edsa II kept him away from our group.

My friends who also knew Cerge reacted in disbelief and uttered the word “sayang.” Others said that we lost a Cebuano in Malacañang. His sudden death may be difficult to accept by his grieving family but there is consolation in the saying that good men die young.

While death is certain, we never know when it comes. And when death does come, not even an urgent motion for reconsideration, to use the lawyers’ lingo, could reverse the situation.

The last time I saw Cerge was at last Friday’s concert of Vina Morales during the 30th anniversary of the Cebu Pop Music Festival. I met him on the way out of the hall.

He tapped my shoulders and said the usual line, “kita ta.”

Vina sang “Last Dance” for her finale and was joined by interpreters of Cebu Pop’s winning songs. She then invited Cerge and Rep. Eddie Gullas up the stage. Call it premonition, but when Vina asked Cerge to sing along with her, he could only mutter the line, “last dance.” Eddiegul, who was holding a microphone, did not sing.

The beautifully worded entry that Cerge posted in his Facebook profile also seemed to indicate that something was afoot and he was ready to face it without fear. It read:

“Lord, thank You for the infinite love that meets our every need and provides all the beautiful and wonderful things we experience in life. Release our hearts and minds from fear and worry. Fill us with Your peace as we learn to fully trust in your providence. Help us to do all that we are capable of and the rest we entrust unto You. Amen.”

Cerge was the guest of honor of the 84th Alumni Homecoming of the University of the Visayas at Cebu Casino Español on Jan. 12.

He did not show signs of illness and he enjoyed the occasion.

When he was alive, Cerge always said in jest every time he joined our Saturday group that he was the “only news reporter who made it to Malacañang.” He was a jolly and thoughtful person, although sometimes bossy.

As a young reporter of The Freeman, he earned the moniker “wa ka kaila nako” for the phrase that he uttered when he encountered a bank teller who asked for his ID.

I first came to know him in 1977 in UV when I returned to college after five years of absence due to financial problems. He always wore his favorite beige attire. He was a heavy smoker.

Cerge was editor of the Visayanian News, UV’s school organ where I applied as contributor. I was accepted and a few years later I became the school organ’s editor when Cerge quit his law studies. He was also a student leader.

Cerge, I know you are happy where you are now because you have realized the dreams that you once shared with me in those difficult years of our struggle for a better future. Farewell, and may your soul rest in peace.