Rina Jimenez David, journalist, women’s rights champion; 68
MANILA, Philippines — Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez David, a passionate women’s rights advocate, died of an illness on Sunday morning. She was 68.
David joined the Inquirer in 1988, where she wrote the column “At Large” for nearly three decades before her retirement in 2021. She was named best columnist twice, by the Global Media Awards in 1994 and the People Management Association of the Philippines Makatao Awards in 2019.
She also wrote books such as “Woman at Large,” a compilation of her columns from 1989 to 1994 which became a finalist in the National Book Awards in 1994, and “Nightmare Journeys,” which told the stories of women survivors of trafficking.
Her conscientious voice against prevailing inequalities that marginalize women drew national recognition with a TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) Award for Women’s Rights Advocacy in 1995.
A former national chair of the feminist group Pilipina, she also received a fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 2015, she was honored by Woman Delivered, a global advocacy organization, as one of 15 journalists worldwide who use their voices and media platforms to bring attention to significant issues affecting girls and women.
Remembering David as a “women’s rights champion and a stellar journalist,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said: “She handily wielded her pen for Filipino women, especially when it came to our health. I remember that she was one of the clearest voices in the public sphere supporting the reproductive health bill, which she recognized as a landmark women’s health policy.”
“While she may have died, her memory will remain alive through the words she had masterfully crafted,” Hontiveros added.
Elizabeth Angsioco, chair of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, recalled that David always had a pen and notebook and took notes conscientiously.
“Rina used her voice and pen to push for women’s rights and social justice. She was quiet but unwavering. She was always mild-mannered even when she got excited or felt strongly about something,” she said in her tribute to David.
Chi Laigo Vallido, executive director of the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare Inc., shared photos of David dressed in purple, “her signature color.”
“Wearing her advocacy constantly, consistently. Generous with her time. Always willing to teach, to listen, to stand with you, to take the lead, to let you lead, to acknowledge, to critique, to discuss and to mentor so many of us,” she said.
Vallido added that she was able to go with David to different women’s rights training and conferences here and abroad as she recalled “these times away from her desk at Inquirer that I had the privilege to see how she works.”
‘No mere storyteller’
“I am amazed at how she asks the questions. Hard to describe but it’s like looking at someone with a ‘I-don’t-buy-what-you’re-saying’ facial expression and you know that the speakers will be on their toes or they would comment, ‘Good question’ to buy some time to think about the answer,” she said.
Recalling David as a columnist, former Inquirer Opinion editor Chato Garcellano wrote: “What was it Joan Didion said about life and the living? ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live.’ Rina Jimenez David told us stories in the long duration of her column in Inquirer Opinion—stories of family, friendship, feminism; of the peaks and valleys of marriage and raising children; of various causes and issues and the abiding necessity of women’s involvement. And more, with a light touch, and a conversational tone that ensured connection with her readers.”
“She was not a ‘mere’ storyteller; she walked her talk, whether in the company of a personal/political sisterhood, or in the course of discovering herself in a foreign and suddenly-familiar land, to where she had flown with unbounded eagerness for lessons. Rina was, like the recently departed Conrad de Quiros, a stalwart of the Inquirer when it was in its prime. Her family’s loss is ours and her readers’ too,” Garcellano said.
Indeed, for David, the personal was political and vice-versa. Not one to content herself with preaching to the doubtful and the converted, she waded right in, translating advocacy into action. Together with this writer, former Sunday Inquirer editor Lorna Kalaw-Tirol and Inquirer union representatives, she helped draft the company’s antisexual harassment manual in the mid-1990s, the first in the industry.
But it was a cape of commitment she wore lightly, said her niece, award-winning filmmaker Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala.
“For Rina, family and feminism always came first. She was fearless for the truth, but never offensive because she always gave diverse voices a platform that sparked conversation and solutions,” Alikpala said.
“She never showed off her wisdom, but preferred to always listen. She was a gentle, thoughtful, and a generous mentor to other storytellers like me. She had an infectious, unrestrained laughter and a bedimpled smile I will never forget!”
‘Abiding touch of grace’
Of her passing, former Inquirer Opinion editor Gibbs Cadiz noted on social media: “If Conrad (de Quiros) was the fist of power in the Inquirer Opinion pages, Rina was their abiding touch of grace — her column for decades a touchstone of practical, relatable, smart and even cheeky commentary not only on the politics of our times, but the evolving manners and mores that are sometimes the bigger but less examined force in our lives and society.”
“Her pioneering commentary empowered and expanded the space for Filipino women, calling out patriarchy and gender inequalities as among the enduring ills that hindered the nation’s progress. But she did all these with a light, above all humane touch, provoked more often to laugh than sulk at the unending tragicomedy afflicting the country,” he said.
Inquirer columnist Gideon Lasco also mourned the passing of David, whose column “championed women’s issues, challenged our politicians, and captured our national experience in ways that give voice to the plurality of our nation.”
“You will be remembered, Ma’am Rina, with fondness and gratitude,” he said.
Maria Regina Emilia Jimenez David, the sixth of nine siblings, was born on Jan. 11, 1955, to lawyer and teacher Ernesto and homemaker Narni. After high school at Miriam College (formerly Maryknoll), she took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and graduated magna cum laude.
She had an early start in writing as editor-in-chief of The Varsitarian, the UST official paper. She also did radio dramas for Fr. James Reuter that aired over dzRH even while in college.
Right after graduation, from 1976 up to the Edsa Revolt in 1986, David worked at M.E.D.I.A., the information office of the late Cardinal Sin, and was managing editor of the Archdiocese of Manila’s biweekly publication, Cor Manila. Before joining the Inquirer, she briefly worked for Veritas Newsmagazine, the Philippine Star, Women’s Home Companion, and Life Today and also contributed to other publications.
David is survived by her husband Rafael David, their children Raphael and Emilia Narni, daughter-in-law Therese Marie, and grandson Lucas Anakin.
There will be no wake upon the family’s request, although there will be a Mass open to the public after her inurnment on Nov. 22 at the Shrine of Jesus in Christ the King Church on E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Quezon City. The 1 p.m. Mass will also be streamed live at a site to be set up later.
Novena prayers will start on Tuesday, Nov. 14, until 8 p.m. on Nov. 22 (Manila time). The Zoom link details will be announced online.