MANILA Bulletin editor-in-chief Crispulo “Jun” Icban formally assumed Monday the post left by Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, who died last January 19 due to heart ailment.

Newly-appointed acting Press Secretary Crispulo “Jun” Icban officially starts his first day in office today, Monday. (Sunnex/Jill Beltran)

The newly-appointed Cabinet official took his oath of office before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in a simple ceremony at the study room in Malacañang.

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Icban, who also hails from Pampanga like Arroyo, said he will be serving as acting press secretary only for five months and bows down as the President’s term ends on June.

He will be returning to his job as editor-in-chief of daily broadsheet Manila Bulletin, where he temporarily took a leave of absence.

After the oath-taking ceremony, Icban had lunch with several members of the Malacañang Press Corps at the press working area.

In an ambush interview, Icban said he will hold his first press briefing on Tuesday alongside Secretary to the Cabinet and Lakas-Kampi senatoriable Silvestre Bello III.

“Bello will be the one to answer most of the questions,” he quipped.

Icban said the schedule of press briefing will be the same for the old spokespersons of the President -- Monday will be Presidential deputy spokesperson Gary Olivar, while Wednesday will still be the briefing of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

Olivar, together with spokesperson Ricardo Saludo, will be taking questions over radio interviews every Saturdays and Sundays.

“From the beginning I told them, is it okay if you (Olivar) and Secretary Saludo will do radio interviews. Maybe later when I know more about what's happening I can help. Fortunately, they are so very kind and they decided to take the schedule,” Icban sighed.

Icban said that becoming press secretary was never a part of his career path. He said what he only wanted to do was to work on newspapers and he was in fact looking forward to retirement.

“Then Cerge died and the President was looking for somebody. Maybe it is hard to look for somebody she (Arroyo) knows who can do it, whom she thinks can do it. She thinks I can do it so, but I am editor-in-chief already of the Manila Bulletin and I was looking forward to retirement. But the chairman said it's only six months, five-six months. So I said okay,” he said, adding that he will be more focus on facilitating the media.

Icban underwent angioplasty surgery last 2004 and slipped disc operation in 2000. Knowing that the job of the press secretary is one of the toughest posts in the Cabinet, Icban said he is trying to keep himself stress-free by relaxing amid left and right issues.

“Don’t take it too much to heart. I will see if I can schedule myself especially as much as possible in meeting the press because that’s where the stress is, the questions coming from the press,” he said.

Mass for Remonde

On the same day of Icban’s oath-taking, a memorial mass was offered for Remonde, nine days after he was laid to rest in his hometown Argao in Cebu last January 24.

The noon mass was held at NEB in the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS), where Remonde normally have his weekly press briefings. It was attended by the members of the Malacañang reporters and several OPS officials.

Fr. Bong Cabrera, in his homily, described Remonde as a “gracious” person who was always ready to give a warm treatment to others.

Cabrera recalled an instance when he was invited by Remonde to share lunch with him and the entire Cabinet regardless his inappropriate attire for the event.

He said although he was not that acquainted with the late Press Secretary, Remonde had a talent “of making people feel important.”

He said as he witnessed the countless people who have mourned for the untimely death of the 51-year-old Palace spokesperson, he could tell the kind of person Remonde was.

“With the universal outpouring of grief, we know what person Remonde was. Even from the people who met him briefly, people from the opposition, administration and all walks of life…He was like a grandfather to all… a very religious person,” Cabrera said.

Setting the life of Remonde as example, Cabrera encouraged people to maintain humanity, dignity and civility in dealing life.

Icban said in his earlier interviews that he mourned the death of Remonde as he was a friend to him. He said, in his short stint as press secretary, he will try his best to serve the President and fill the shoes left by Remonde.

Icban is the president of a Central Luzon-based group of media practitioners called Capampangan in Media Inc. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)