My Nene Pimentel story
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - October 28, 2019 - 12:00am

By now, everyone who has a Nene Pimentel story to tell has probably already told it. So let me tell my own. I never knew Mr. Pimentel personally. Never met him, never shook hands with him. But of all the people that mattered in my 35 years as a professional journalist, nobody had as much an impact on my career as had Nene Pimentel. He made me a journalist. He never knew it, and now he never will.

The time was 1981, not an auspicious time to be a journalist. I did not have a job. But I always knew I had a fairly good grasp of the English language. So I decided I might as well try to earn a little from it. To the offices of the now-defunct Visayan Herald I went. I was hoping to find employment as a proof-reader.

At the Herald offices, the man who seemed to be all agitated over something was Cerge Remonde. Yes, the Cerge Remonde who would later on become press secretary to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. So I decided he was the man in charge. And he was. He was the managing editor. So I went to him. Sir, I would like to be a proof-reader, I said.

Cerge looked at me, then at the only other person in the office, Manny Lumanao, another editor. Then he looked at his watch. Then he went back to me. Do you know Nene Pimentel, he asked. A person applying for a proof-reading job does not expect a question like that. The mayor of Cagayan de Oro, I said hesitantly. Thrown off track, I was no longer sure.

Well, he no longer is. Marcos kicked him out, Cerge said, by now all agitated, looking back and forth between me and his watch. Something was clearly eating him. Finally he slammed the pencil I did not know he was holding until it crashed onto the table. Ayaw no lang pag proof-reader, pag reporter na lang. Before I could protest my own lack of experience, Cerge was already penciling down several names on a notebook.

As he wrote he explained the situation. It was a tough time for breaking news. All his reporters were out. There were no cellphones in 1981. There were even no pagers and beepers yet. Cerge had no one to send out but me. On the notebook he handed me were the names and addresses of Cebu's top opposition figures.

There was Tony Cuenco, Billy Legaspi, George Baladjay, Dodong Holganza, and Inday Nita. Go ask them these questions, Cerge said, putting a finger on several questions he had written on the notebook. He stuffed some money in my hand and said go. In the early 80s, it was bad manners to call a source by phone. You had to go and seek a face-to-face interview. For radio, sources are invited and have to go to the studio.

Anyway, after an eternity, I finally got everything Cerge wanted and I went back to the Herald. He asked when he saw me if I got it. I said yes. He said go write it. I said I don't know how. He uttered some profanity and said go, just tell me what happened. There's the typewriter, he motioned with his lips to a dirty Underwood. I said I don't know how to type. Gaddamit, he said, and shoved a paper and pen into my face. Write!

I eventually managed to put a handwritten story together about how Cebu's opposition leaders condemned Nene Pimentel's ouster as Cagayan de Oro mayor by Marcos. When it came out the following day, not only was it the banner, there was my name right next to it. A byline for my first story at a time when bylines still meant something! Nene Pimentel is gone. So is Cerge. I still do the keys with just three fingers, but this time on an iPad.

MANNY LUMANAO
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