CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Thousands flocked to the streets and gathered at city hall here on Wednesday night, October 23, for an emotional welcome for the city's most illustrious son.
The remains of former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr or "Tatay Nene," as he was fondly called here, arrived at the Laguindingan Aiport late Wednesday afternoon, onboard a Philippine Air Force plane.
The Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division gave full military honors upon the arrival of the late senator, who was city mayor from 1980 to 1984.
Mayor Oscar Moreno said the city government prepared for Pimentel's final homecoming, in anticipation of residents who want to pay their last respects to him.
"We know that many people would have like to see him and [pay tribute to] his legacy, not only in material things but his philosophy and principles," Moreno said.
Moreno has always credited Pimentel for his entry into politics. "I got from him the political virus. Tt was through him that I joined public service," he said.
"I have learned a lot from him, it is his spirit that had given me the opening [into public service], and I saw in him the nobility in public service," Moreno added.
Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
Moreno and Pimentel became very close friends, and had a mentor-protege kind of friendship.
Press freedom defender
Veteran broadcaster Manny Jaudian, known to be Pimentel's favorite radio reporter, recalled how much the late senator supported a free press.
Jaudian said that he first met Pimentel in 1980, then Jaudian was just fresh out of high school. Like Moreno, he and Pimentel became close friends.
Jaudian said that the city held its first Press Freedom Week celebration during Pimentel's time as mayor, because he believed so much in the importance of press freedom in nation building. The late strongman Ferdinand Marcos was still in power then.
"He would often say that it is better to have a free press than to have elected officials," Jaudian said. (Nene Pimentel: Courageous stalwart of democracy)
"He loves press freedom.... Did you know that Nene was a columnist? He wrote for the defunct Mindanao Star and for the Ang Katarungan," he added.
Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler
Former mayor and congressman Constantino Jaraula, whose friendship with Pimentel began in the 1950s, recalled the tough years Pimentel endured during the Marcos regime but this did not deter him from fighting.
"Nene believes in 'he who perseveres prevails' and he was right," Jaraula said.
Jaraula also said that it was during Pimentel's time as mayor that the city got its first congressional district, which he had fought for.
The public viewing of Pimentel's remains at the City Tourism Hall started on Thursday, October 24.
A 5 am mass will be offered on Friday, October 25, before Pimentel's remains would be brought back to Manila.
The 85-year-old Pimentel died on October 20, after a bout with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. – Rappler.com