In our lifetime, there are a few people we interact with that leave a profound indelible imprint.
Earlier this week October 20, 2019, the former senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. passed on. He was 85.
I can count the late Sen. Nene Pimentel Jr. as one of a few whom I had the privilege of interacting at close range, that I could say shaped the way I look at life.
Nene Pimentel didn’t want to be called glorious names and titles.
In fact, he once said the word “honorable” should not be casually attached to names of government officials.
He even preferred to be called Nene.
For us young people we called him Tatay Nene.
To me, Tatay Nene was primarily a mentor, teacher about many things in life.
My first personal encounter with the great man was in 1998 when he was campaigning to regain back his seat in the Senate.
That was after he was cheated by that infamous “dagdag-bawas” scheme.
I was awaiting the results of the bar when he visited Dumaguete City.
I was at a crossroad then, trying to decide whether to stay in Dumaguete, or go back to Manila—where I had finished my law studies–and look for work.
When I first met Tatay Nene, I mustered enough courage to tell him Sir, if you win, perhaps you can give me a job.
Of course, I did not consider it a serious verbal application for a job because I knew that politicians would simply say “yes” without meaning it.
Yet during our encounter he asked me questions about myself.
Little did I think it was already a job interview.
After he won a Senate seat, to my disbelief, Nene Pimentel himself gave me a call.
I was already about to join a Manila law firm then.
But when he gave me that telephone call, and took time to talk to me personally who was nobody to him, I was stunned.
He could easily have directed his secretary or one of his junior staff to make that call to me and tell he wants me to be part of his team in the Senate.
In that brief phone conversation he told me if I want to join him as his staff, I should come to Manila as he will begin his term July.
And before putting down the phone, he asked me “Boy, abogado ka ba?”
I replied, “Yes sir, I passed.”
Because of that incident, I got the first impression of Nene Pimentel: What a humble man.
Thus, began my decades long of learnings from a man with so much knowledge, wisdom, foresight to share.
And he was generous to share his experiences and impart to us whether it be in politics, government work, or even living ones’s personal life.
He didn’t teach by lecturing. He taught by letting those surrounding him see how he comported himself, specially in trying, difficult moments.
Those were for me great learning experiences.
But foremost of all, with all his noble personal attributes, I knew him to be a man filled with humility.
As Senator Pia Cayetano declared in her eulogy in the Senate hall early this week: “For what is greatness without humility?”
It is true in our faith. The humble will be exalted.
He became Senate President, he shunned entitlement that comes with the office.
He didn’t use special low-numbered car plates, much less police escorts.
He ordered all gifts given to him listed, recorded one-by-one identifying the gift, and the gift-giver. He would say, “That is not for me. Those gifts belongs to the people.” So all gifts were endorsed to the Senate.
In the Senate it was strict policy that the doors of Nene’s office must be open at all times.
At that time, as far as I can recall, it was only his Senate office whose doors were wide open all day.
The policy was a sharp symbol of public service.
First it symbolized availability to serve.
When one is a government official, you must be open to receive all kinds of people, specially to the poor soliciting donations, asking for all kinds of help. Never shun them.
The reason why you are in government is because you are to serve your people, most specially the lowly, the “downtrodden” as Tatay Nene would say.
Second, having your government office door opened at all times symbolizes transparency.
A government official is foremost a public servant. He must be open for scrutiny by those who elect him.
I think simply opening doors of offices is a worthy practice that should be emulated by all government officials, whether you are barangay captain, mayor, governor, congressman.
Is the front door of your office open or closed?
Many close their doors, perhaps because those soliciting help/donations are “annoying”.
It was a rare privilege to be working for Tatay Nene Pimentel.
I was his staff, his errand boy (He once instructed me to personally go to Quiapo to procure/buy medallions which he would later award honored policemen in the Senate). I was his researcher, writer of his press releases. He allowed me to even collaborate with him in the pro-bono cases he handled, even if I was only good at carrying his case folders. But the cases he handled were high-impact, always followed by media. He allowed me to argue in court while he sat beside. What an experience.
So many learnings from a great yet generous, humble man.
Thank you Tatay Nene for that rare privilege to learn from you up close and personal.
As I told Luigi, his lawyer son in law who broke to me news of Tatay Nene’s demise, its time for Tatay Nene to reap the bountiful heveanly rewards of eternal life he richly deserves.
Till we meet again, Tatay Nene.