THE outpouring of love, gratitude and cherished memories on veteran photojournalist Renato “Tatay Rene” Bernardino Lumawag, who succumbed to a six-year battle with prostate cancer at 6:23 p.m. on Monday, July 1, 2019, flooded social media accounts of Dabawenyos even outside the media industry where he really made his mark.
He was 74, and survived by his wife Minerva and four children Renee Belle R. Lumawag-Bryant, Melanie Ruth, April John, and Tyron Kristoffer. It can be recalled that Gene Boyd, the second of the Lumawag brood and was also then following the footsteps of his father, was murdered in Jolo, Sulu while taking photographs of the sunset at the pier in 2004.
Tatay Rene, more known for chronicling the political career of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, was still part of the Presidential Photographers Division when he was recently admitted at Davao Doctors Hospital.
He joined Peryodiko Dabaw in 1986, few months after the paper opened, upon an invitation from one of its owners Elpidio Damaso.
In a previous interview for the SunStar Davao Yearbook 2016, Tatay Rene narrated that he started as a photographer-reporter and darkroom man. He also helped newsboys fold the eight-page paper before they delivered it to newsstands at dawn. “First it was weekly, then it turned daily. I do field work during the day taking pictures of news events and personalities and newsmakers and back to the office to develop/print pictures in the darkroom for publication the following day,” he said.
He stayed on when the paper was renamed Ang Peryodiko Dabaw in 1987 following the entry of new investors until SunStar Publishing, Inc. took over it in 1995. He retired from the company in 2008 as he continued his online studies for a Diploma in Photojournalism at the Asia Center for Journalism where he got 100 percent free scholarship with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ateneo de Manila. He received his diploma in February, 2009.
Tatay Rene, born in Iloilo City, came a long way from painting road safety signs as painter of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Digos, Davao del Sur while doubling as radio announcer with DXDS of the University of Mindanao later becoming section chief at Digos Treasurer’s Office; to working with UMBN and its mother station DXMC when the family relocated to Davao City while learning photography from the late Jose Locsin; doing documentation projects for budget reports of multinational companies and doing freelance photography for local and national dailies; doing art works for TV slides and commercials for all television stations in Davao City eventually becoming an artist-cum-photographer of an advertising company under the Anflocor Group of Companies; and finally landing a job with then Peryodiko Dabaw now SunStar Davao before he retired in 2008. He also had stints with wire agencies like Reuters International.
Have you ever wondered why everybody calls him Tatay Rene?
Former SunStar Davao editor-in-chief Stella A. Estremera shared, “Actually, that’s why he’s called Tatay, because his children called him Tatay. We just followed suit. The younger generations of journalists just picked up the name because by then, he was among the seniors and also lived up to being a Tatay.”
She also said that when new SunStar reporters get to cover high-risk stories, like out of town trips to NPA areas, she’d request Tatay to keep an eye on the newbie even when he’s already retired from SunStar. “Tatay has a lot of practical work and survival skills to share,” she said.
Estremera reminisced times when Tatay Rene would bring his four elder children to work. “Tyron, the youngest and the fifth was still a toddler, and we’d just play around and listen to my Disney songs. Then later on, when the two boys - Gene Boyd and April John - were big enough to be his assistants, they would trail along with big camera bags, with Gene Boyd being assigned to develop the black and white films even before he was in high school. I always associate him with his children because they were very much a part of his life at work,” she added.
Former SunStar publisher and editor-in-chief Antonio M. Ajero, for his part, said, “As his former editor, station manager and partner in many crimes, I found him unforgettably very lovable. Rene Lumawag was a jack of all trades, master of photography. His favorite minor masteral skill is telling jokes about himself and others. He was a painter, a designer, a clerk, a fisherman, an embalmer, a dancer, a disc jockey, a phonepatch reporter, newswriter/ newscaster, a continuity announcer and an excellent photographer. He took pictures that the subject, his editor and the reader like very much. He was excellent in following editorial suggestions on top of his outstanding creativity. He has idols and models whom he praised to high heavens.”
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) commissioner Charles Raymond A. Maxey, who also worked with him for several years, remembers Tatay Rene not just for his expertise in photography and being a joker but also for his candidness.
“He always tells you if you’re right or wrong straight to your face. But he was a good motivator and shares words of wisdom from time to time. I remember the time when I took over as president of the Davao Sportswriters Association years back, his advice to me was just five words: ‘Just do what is right,’” Maxey said.
After a day’s coverage for the Sports for peace program of the PSC in 2008 in Midsayap, North Cotabato, he and Tatay Rene spent hours listening Nat King Cole and Beatles classics over bottles of beer until the wee hours in the morning.
Maxey continued, “Chairman Butch was just at the adjacent room but didn’t mind our little activity at the kitchen. Yes, Tatay Rene was a fan of the Beatles and often belts out a few lines of their songs during coverage.”
Presidential Photographers Division chief John Quineth “King” Rodriguez, who also worked with SunStar Davao prior to his resignation to join the presidential campaign team of former Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2015, said: “VIP namo cya, Mam. Never nako sya gitreat as co-worker kay dako kaayo akong respeto niya eversince (He’s our VIP. I never treated him as a co-worker since I hold him in high regard eversince).”
This writer also remembers him as a loving father always addressing her, “Anak”, “Dear” or “Darling”. He always treats her for a snack or lunch when they go on a sports coverage together. Tatay Rene was a great fan of sports. He loves the drama and the action of just every game he covered.
Meanwhile, Davao City’s Sangguniang Panlungsod, headed by Vice Mayor Sebastian Z. Duterte, Monday passed a “Resolution Expressing the City Council’s Deepest Condolences To Bereaved Family Of Veteran Photojournalist Renato “Rene” B. Lumawag As We Thank Him For His Contribution To The Art Of Photojournalism in Davao City”.
Tatay’s remains lie in state at Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes, Inc.
Tatay Rene was a photojournalist-cum-storyteller par excellence, a loving father and husband, a doting grandfather, a highly-respected colleague, a humble man despite his many awards and achievements and also a great friend to most of us. He will surely be missed.