Thief in the night

Early this week, my wife was leaving for London to visit an ailing aunt. She promised to see her as the illness is terminal. Our two year old daughter who slept with us was crying for her mom not to leave anymore because she would be sad. My wife could not help but to also cry.

Sometimes, we take things for granted. Someone’s absence, whether temporary or permanent, makes us realize the importance of that person. This makes me think of the countless of OFWs who leave their children and spouses to seek a better future for themselves and their family. Think about the pain on both sides. Seeing the bond between a mother and a daughter reminds me of the sacrifices of the many overseas workers. Imagine how it would be like for a permanent loss in life.

Last Tuesday, I sent an SMS to Sec. Cerge Remonde at 8:30am if he could answer a question for me that will be featured in the Go Negosyo column. I asked him about his aspirations and visions for the year 2010. I usually send him a message early in the morning and he normally sends a feedback within a few hours. But, that day, he did not respond. Then, I got a text from a friend who has quite good connections with everyone. He said that Cerge died of a heart attack and he asked me to verify if was true. I called Isaac Belmonte, the Editor-in-chief of PhilStar. He confirmed that Cerge did pass away, as his reporter was there in the scene. I was quite stunned, as Cerge was only 51 years old. He always had a smile on his face.

When I was asked to help as an advisor in developing the entrepreneurship culture in the Philippines, I thought that as I came from the private sector, I would easily get impatient having to deal with the internal politics in getting things done. Cerge, who was then head of the Presidential Management Staff was also tasked by PGMA to head the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Council that will coordinate all MSME activities in different government agencies. This was the time when we started working together. I had the opportunity to work with someone dedicated to really helping uplift the lives of many Filipinos for two years. Even when he was appointed as Press Secretary, which was a more demanding job, he would always try to help.

In fact, the last time we did see each other was during a small dinner hosted by PGMA. There were no signs that Cerge was sick. This was just about five days before his passing.

I would ask him how he handles this pressure-packed job. He would joke that they should blame me for the President’s poor ratings in the survey. That was Cerge. He would give up everything for his boss and his loyalty to serve the Filipino people. It was truly inspiring. Sometimes, people take their jobs so seriously that it would override their priority in life. Maybe this was the weakness of Cerge. But, he was a real soldier at heart.

Cerge would attend almost all Go Negosyo events all over the country. In our last dinner, he shared with the group the emergency helicopter landing we had in a cemetery. He had to figure out how to carry Vicky Belo and Karen Davila to dry land. The surrounding area was full of mud, and he also had to be carried to dry land.

We cannot take our relationships for granted – our marriage, family, and friends. We do not know when our time or their time will come, like a thief in the night. As entrepreneurs, professionals, or leaders, our quest for success is sometimes taken to the extremes. Sometimes, our passion that gives us the drive to succeed can also cause us to overdo things. The death of a friend like Cerge reminds us that all material things we have here are temporary. While we should be passionate about what we do, we should not forget our health and see how we can do our best to keep fit. A proper balance in life is always required. We should treasure the time we spend with our spouses, parents, family and friends. I guess with Facebook, things are made easier. But we cannot also take for granted the personal touch of a handshake, hug or a kiss. Technology should not take this away from us.

I am glad that I was invited to that dinner, as it was truly the last dinner I had with a great friend who has helped the cause of Go Negosyo reach this level of inspiration. Cerge Remonde is truly a man who loved this country. He wanted to see Filipinos be uplifted from poverty. Most of all, he was a loyal and trustworthy friend to many of us.

You were truly an Angelpreneur Cerge. I am sure that your family, friends and the Go Negosyo community will surely miss you. Now, you move on to being a real angel guiding us.

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Cerge was very committed to our entrepreneurship advocacy. This is how the Go Negosyo community remembers him. This is how we will always remember him.

“Cerge was such light and positive energy. In Go Negosyo, during our travels and tours, he was always funny, light hearted and took nothing personally. He made time to make people feel welcome, and always loved the working press. I felt Cerge was a friend in the sense that, if I came to him with a problem or concern, no doubt – he was and would be there for me.” –Karen Davila

“I am so sad, deeply sad, about Cerge. He was a true gentleman, and despite not knowing him closely, you knew he was such an open and kind presence. May we have more public servants like him.” –Myla Villanueva, Managing Director of MDI Group of Holdings

“He was a dear friend, all those years. He was my boss in RPN when I newscasted. He taught me how every opportunity must not be taken for granted.” –Anthony Pangilinan