CEBU CITY -- Flora May Chavez, 19, was so shocked by the news of Press Secretary Cerge Remonde’s death last Tuesday that she “almost blacked out” during her mid-term exams.

“We will never forget Sir Cerge. He opened our paths to a good future,” said Chavez, an elementary education major at the Cebu Technological University (CTU) campus in Argao, Remonde’s hometown.

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Chavez is one of 200 students attending college for free because of a scholarship that the press secretary established.

Among the mourners who met Remonde’s homecoming in Argao Saturday, stories like Chavez were common. Many mourned the loss of a benefactor, or a direct and accessible connection to the circles of power in the capital.

White ribbons adorned the posts from Sibonga town to Remonde’s hometown.

Hundreds lined the streets of Argao, waving white flags or holding banners marked with messages of sympathy.

“Cerge is finally home,” Remonde’s wife, Marit, said, as the hearse pulled over in front of the press secretary’s home in Barangay Lamacan.

Remonde will be buried Sunday in his hometown, with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in attendance.

His wake ended at the sports center named after the President’s father, Diosdado Macapagal, where hundreds gathered to pay their last respects.

Fr. John Roño, rector of the Theotokos Shrine in Carcar City, offered prayers for Remonde. He said Remonde was instrumental in getting President Arroyo to go to the Theotokos Shrine in Barangay Perelos, during one of her Cebu sorties last year.

“Cerge was a good friend and he even gave me a chance to celebrate mass in Malacañang. He was also a devotee of the Theotokos shrine,” said Roño.

Last Friday night, hundreds filed in and out of the Malacañang sa Sugbo in this city to condole with the Remonde family.

A necrological service organized by Cebu journalists and attended by almost all active and retired local media practitioners started late, because so many other people were around.

After the service began, politicians and local officials continued to arrive, among them was Governor Gwendolyn Garcia who came with her running mate Glenn Soco.

Cebu City Councilor Hilario Davide III, who is running for governor under the Liberal Party (LP), was also present but sat in the back.

Media practitioners shared a few words in remembrance of Remonde, while the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Cebu City chapter gave his widow, Marit Stinus-Remonde, its emblem.

Eileen Mangubat, Cebu Daily News publisher, described his death as the loss of Cebu’s “direct line to Imperial Manila.”

She said Remonde served the Arroyo administration well and “pushed on tirelessly, believing he was doing it for his country.”

Mangubat, however, said it was clear that Remonde “missed the freedom of being a journalist.”

Broadcaster Leo Lastimosa of ABS-CBN Central Visayas spoke of how Remonde gave many of the journalists today the break they needed to start working in the media.

“Thinking back, with all the thoroughness we now practice in selecting who we hire as reporters, I had no chance of becoming one,” Lastimosa said, had it not been for Remonde.

He said he got hired with no background nor training in the craft, learning the ropes under Remonde’s tutelage.

“He never imposed his style. He let you develop yours,” he said.

Frank Malilong, Remonde’s fellow columnist in Sun.Star Cebu and former teacher at the University of the Visayas College of Law, remembered more jovial moments with a younger Remonde.

Malilong recalled how he once had to miss a class and asked Remonde to go on his behalf just to call the roll and to relay the class assignment.

When Malilong reported to class and discussed the assignment, he noticed the students to be particularly sharp. As it turned out, Remonde did more than relay the assignment. He discussed it “because many of the students were pretty.”

He also recalled how he assigned Remonde the job of typing the columns handwritten by the law firm’s senior partner for the now-defunct Morning Times. Remonde, he added, started taking the liberty of editing the articles himself. 

He died at 51.

Chavez, the Argao student whose college education Remonde made possible, said she will never forget how he “fought for us scholars” in Malacañang.

“And he continued to fight for us, so that more poor students may benefit from this scholarship,” she said. (JKV/KNR/Sun.Star Cebu)