‘You told me to keep fighting, I promise you, I will:’ Senators deliver emotional eulogies for Nene Pimentel
MANILA, Philippines — “Ka Nene, you told me to keep fighting. I promise you I will. We will.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros made this promise as she delivered an emotional eulogy during the necrological services for former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr.
“More than our achievements, more than our personal glory, I believe we are the things we protect. And Senator Nene Pimentel protected and defended our country and people,” Hontiveros said before the family, friends and former colleagues of the late senator.
She remembered Pimentel as “one of our most respected opposition leaders from Mindanao” and “a patriotic spirit we need to rekindle today.”
Hontiveros, a member of the minority bloc in the Senate, recalled one of her last encounters with Pimentel.
She said the late statesman talked to her on the sidelines of a Senate hearing on Charter change.
“In one of the last times I spoke with him at the beginning of last year, Ka Nene…said to me on the sidelines of a Senate hearing on Charter change: ‘I’ve been there at the Senate like you, and it’s so difficult to be in the minority, but regardless keep fighting’,” she narrated.
“With his clear and steady gaze, smiling mouth and his raspy voice, he showed his fatherly empathy and encouragement to us young activists and politicians especially in these times when we sorely need them to know that we are not alone and that we should hold the line. Ka Nene, you told me to keep fighting. I promise you I will. We will,” Hontiveros, who at this point became emotional, further said.
Tears, meanwhile, immediately flowed from Senator Pia Cayetano’s eyes as she stood beside the casket of a man she said looked after her and guided her like a father.
“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,” a choked-up Cayetano said.
“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,” she added.
Cayetano remembered Pimentel as someone who always encouraged and commended her for the work she 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,” she said.
“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,” she added.
Lightening up the mood, Cayetano recalled a conversation she had with the late senator’s wife, Lourdes “Bing” dela Llana.
“Yesterday, when I paid my respects, ito na po ‘yung nakakatawa, hindi na po ako iiyak sa part na ito (this was the humorous part and I won’t cry about this part). Yesterday…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,” she said.
“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,” she added.
Cayetano then disclosed that Pimentel introduced her 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,” she said, which earned light-hearted laughs across the session hall.
She ended her eulogy with an emotional expression of love to the late senator.
“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,” she said.
“When I saw Tita Bing last night, she said to me, “‘Love ka nun.’ Tita Bing, love ‘ko din siya,” she added.
Pimentel’s former colleague, former Senator Anne Dominique Coseteng, also delivered a eulogy to honor the late senator.
“It is a blessing to know at close hand and be familiar on first name-calling basis a passionate, impressive and genuine and well-grounded leader as Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr,” she said.
“Though was he was always just simply Nene to me. Nene was a man of focus, he embodied the values that a nationalist and a human rights warrior espoused” she added.
She turned emotional as she recalled how Pimentel encouraged her even long after their stint in the Senate together.
“Nene still managed to give me words of encouragement during the times that we would meet as I pursued my own advocacy sometimes very lonely by strengthening my resolve to do what is right against forces that would threaten our well being as a country,” she said.
“Very recently I heard once more for the last time, ‘Ituloy mo ‘yan, tama ‘yan (Do it, that’s the right thing), he would always reassure me,” she added.
She said Pimentel’s words served as her “own catalyst in never giving up to fight for what I believe me.”
“The teacher has taught the student well…Thank you Nene, you meant a lot to me,” she added.
Aside from the three women, former Senators Jose Lina Jr, Rene Saguisag, Heherson Alvarez, and Orlando Mercado also gave their eulogies for the former Senate leader.
Nene Pimentel passed away last October 20. He was 85 years old.
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