(Eulogy delivered by Senator Pia Cayetano at the necrological service for former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. at the Senate on 23 October 2019. Pimentel passed away on Sunday, October 20, at the age of 85).
Tita Bing, Koko, Gwen, and the rest of the Pimentel family. SP, Tita Helen. President Erap, colleagues and friends of Tito Nene.
I have grappled since Sunday morning to find the right words to honor Tito Nene. In a matter of hours, the news reported out the loss of a leader of a generation that fought for democracy, the father of the Local Government Code, the original proponent of federalism.
Tito Nene did grand things. There’s no doubt about that. But for me and those who knew him well, we will remember him for the small things. For what is greatness without kindness? Without humility? Without compassion? Traits I saw in my seatmate and mentor for many years. Whenever he fought for on the floor, I saw it up close. Beyond the brilliant legislator and defender of democracy that he was, I got to know the kind and gentle person who was a loving husband to Tita Bing and father to their children. His kindness extended to me. I felt like I had a father who was looking after me and guiding me.
In the middle of my first term, there was a change in leadership and I became a member of the minority. And that’s when Tito Nene became my seatmate. I would often consult him. He always took time to provide me with his feedback. But more than that, he always encouraged me and commended me for the work I was doing. Thinking about him while writing this, I am reminded of how generous he was with praise and how slow he was to criticize.
In a world where trading barbs and sometimes the use of foul language can be the norm, I cannot even recall Tito Nene saying an unkind word about someone. Don’t get me wrong, he was quick to stand up and register his opposition to something he was against, but always in a professional manner. In fact, the image I have in my mind is him in a huddle or someone approaching him and him saying, “Sige na, okay na.”
During the session breaks, Tito Nene attended conferences abroad. He would then deliver a privilege speech detailing his trip. He told me I should do the same. Thus, I adopted the habit of documenting and reporting out on the floor the meetings and conferences I attended abroad, just like him.
Tito Nene also was constantly writing and editing his papers and books. When I asked him how he keeps track of all the details, he told me to record everything that happens in a day because one day the information will be useful. Just a name, just a place, and from there it will help you remember more details. I do that now too.
Tito Nene and I were both very active in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the oldest and largest organization of members of parliaments from all over the world. In 2010, I was ending my term as Vice President for what is now known as the IPU’s Women Bureau. I had the opportunity to run for higher office but I hesitated because of the workload. I went to him to basically inform him that I wasn’t going to pursue it. He said, “Sige na, kunin mo na. It will be a great honor for the country.” I trusted him completely, and then and there, I changed my mind. I ran and won and became the first Asian President of IPU’s Women Bureau.
During the many conferences we attended together, I also became close to Tita Bing who was his constant companion. Over the years, I heard the stories of what they went through as a family, how Tita Bing held them together during the difficult times while Tito Nene was fighting for the causes he believed in. When I got to know Tito Nene and Tita Bing, it was much more quiet times. Tita Bing was always there. And it’s true, beside every great man is a great woman.
Yesterday, when I paid my respects, ito na po ‘yung nakakatawa, hindi na po ako iiyak sa part na ito. Yesterday, when I paid my respects, I sat by Tita Bing and I said I was at a loss on what to say because many of my stories about Tito Nene were very personal. Stories I would tell his family but was not very comfortable sharing in a eulogy.
Tita Bing asked me, “Like what? Tell me.” And I said well, one day out of the blue, Tito Nene said to me, “Pia, I don’t do this, it’s not my thing, but you deserve to be happy and have a good man.”
Tita Bing burst out laughing and said, “Totoo ‘yan. Ikuwento mo yan para they will know that side of your Tito Nene.” So there. Kwinento ko na po. I’m including that part of Tito Nene. He proceeded to introduce me to someone, the outcome of which I will leave to your speculation because it will remain forever a Pimentel and Cayetano family secret. Of course my dear sister Gwen knows all about this, but I was surprised that even Koko knew and he was laughing last night recounting his version of the story.
One last story, the late Joker Arroyo who was also my seatmate after Tito Nene retired, sat behind me and Tito Nene. True to his name, Joker often ribbed Tito Nene saying that he could not understand what was Nene’s obsession with the poor and his fight for democracy. According to Joker, Nene was an unico hijo and a brilliant lawyer who did not have to bother fighting on the streets. Tito Nene would just laugh heartily. Kilala na niya si Joker. They go back a long time. They were comrades in the parliament of the streets. But it’s true, Tito Nene used his best days fighting for things we take for granted today.
I hope my contributions add to your appreciation of the Honorable Nene Pimentel, who was great in the big ways and marvelous in the small ways that made him human and beloved to those of us whose lives he touched.
I’ll end with this… The Senate staff would know that we were still in the building because my pink water bottle and his cup of pencils and pens would still be on our table. I have since upgraded my water bottle to a bamboo tumbler. He has turned in his cup for one that flows eternally.
When I saw Tita Bing last night, she said to me, “Love ka nun.” Tita Bing, love ko din siya.