Remembering Mon Jimenez 2
The marketing communications wiz, veteran ad man, and former Tourism secretary passed away early today. Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file
Culture

Remembering Mon Jimenez

A writer recalls the wealth of wisdom the former Tourism chief so generously shared with him—in the form of speeches and sometimes personally-given advice. By MIKAEL DE LARA CO  
ANCX | Apr 27 2020

Sa totoo lang lutang na lutang pa rin ako. Para akong naiiyak na hindi makabuwelo, hindi mapakali, masyadong lito kaya sa dibdib na lang naiipon ang luha at doon nagsasabato. 

In the midst of this haze, I got hold of an old recording of Sec Mon speaking to a gathering of young former colleagues from government a few months after the 2016 elections. Parang automatic ko na lang na itinranscribe yung recording. Yun ang unang impulse ko kapag malabo ang isip at hindi makahanap ng salita. Trust Sec Mon to help you cut through the clutter. Trust Sec Mon to help you make sense of things.

Ito ang unang linya nu’ng transcript: "…That was my— that was our special skill… We spent our whole lives pursuing what I talked about: An advocacy that was not necessarily behind any color or flag; it’s just that we believed very deeply that we had to engage our people with effective communication.”

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Jimenez speaking to the media during the launching of the Tourism department's then new slogan, "It's more fun in the Philippines" which sought to promote local tourism through the use of social media. Photo from ABS-CBN News

Typical Sec Mon. Ang telling nung self-correction: Yung “my," mabilis niyang pinalitan ng “our.” He spoke with confidence, but always kept egos in check— his own, and through that, everyone else’s. Du’n siguro nanggagaling yung matindi niyang gravitational pull, lalo na sa mga batang tulad ko na nakahalubilo niya. (Nakahalubilo— past tense na. Nakakabasag pa rin yung idea). 

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He treated everyone fairly, considered every idea thoroughly regardless kung sino ang nagsasabi. Stupid ideas like mine especially. Ngunguyain niya yung kaisipan, and even when he shot it down or disagreed with it, he never did it punitively, but always in a way that illuminates. He ran you through his thought process. He listened; he treated everyone with respect and humility. He never made junior and mid-level staff feel like they were beneath him; you might have sometimes become too at ease with him that you’d delude yourself into thinking you were colleagues— except that, a moment later, you’d realize na si Mon J yan, ano ka ba? He was never stingy with his wisdom; in fact, he seemed to delight in sharing and teaching us young ones. And always, always, he had this ability to cut through the clutter and articulate things precisely, powerfully.

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He had this ability to cut through the clutter and articulate things precisely, powerfully. Photo by Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Sigurado akong, gaya ko, maraming may mahabang collection ng mga one-liner just from conversations with Sec Mon. Naaalala ko ‘yung isa: "Authoritarians thrive on social tension." Naaalala ko rin, working on one of the SONAs, may isang mahabang linya tungkol sa alleged corruption sa overpriced na kape sa mga casino. It was one of those moments na ipinaliwanag niya ang thought process, tapos sa huli, the line was cut to five syllables: ‘Sa PAGCOR: Kape.’ With that, nagka-impact ang soundbite, while still indicating the point: The absurdity of it, the ways some people come up with to dip their hands into public funds, the exasperation it elicits from an administration intent on cleaning house. Five syllables. 

Yung ganyan bang moment, kung saan may sasabihin siya tapos magki-click na lang sa isip mo yung itinuro niya, tapos tatatak sa isip mo yung detalyeng yun, tapos magagamit mo na yun bilang part ng sarili mong toolbox habambuhay—ang dami niyan. At kasing-dami niyan yung mga wala namang magki-click, pero by osmosis at constant refinement, nate-train ka rin kung paanong i-approach yung paraan ng paggiling ng utak niya (na siguro imposibleng maabot talaga): Matalas, bunga ng malinaw at structured na pag-iisip, may foresight, laging nakaangkla sa big picture, at higit sa lahat, nanggagaling sa espasyo ng integridad at pagmamahal sa kapwa at sa bansa. 

Naaalala ko minsan nu’ng nilapitan ko siya to ask for advice on a matter that straddled both the personal and the professional. Siya pa ang tumawag nu’ng nagtext ako kung puwede ba siyang makausap. Sabi niya, “Treat this as a holding pattern,” at huwag na huwag kong kakalimutan ‘yung mga mas malalaking bagay na kailangang pagbuhusan ng buhay. 

Naalala ko nu’ng binisita namin siya ng isang tropa sa bahay niya sa Alfonso— siya na nga yung nagbigay ng libreng payo, umorder pa sa Antonio’s ng napakasarap na homemade corned beef. 

Naaalala ko nu’ng isang araw lang, nu’ng naisip kong i-message siya, kumustahin, tanungin tungkol sa nahaharaya niyang mundo, tanungin kung paano puwedeng i-address ang social anxiety na bumabalot sa atin ngayon, how to make sense of the future.

Naaalala ko kung paano ko ipinagpabukas yun, dahil hindi ko naisip na hindi pala siya nandiyan lang palagi, na puwedeng isang Lunes magising ka sa mga chat na nagtitimbre na wala na siya, na dala ng alimpungat mapapa-double check ka pa kung panaginip yung message na nabasa mo. Hindi ko napahalagahan nang husto ang isang napakalaking privilege na puwede lang siyang i-text o i-message sa Signal, na maaasahan kong hindi niya ako titipirin sa sagot o kaalaman.

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The author with Sec Jimenez and writer Ali Sangalang.

Naaalala ko yung ilang meeting na, matapos kong magsalita, may nagsabing, “Yan din mismo ang sinabi ni Sec Mon kanina du’n sa kabilang meeting.” Siyempre, nakakaproud na masabihan na magkahanay ang mga ideya namin. Pero kanina, may umikot sa mga chatroom na lumang speech ni Sec Mon, at napaalalahanan ako ng katotohanan. Sabi niya sa speech:

"We report to a collective consciousness that is a big part of what we can call our conscience. The 'little voice inside our head' is actually a chorus. A chorus composed of the good people in our lives as they say, 'Be good. We can see you.'

"The good people in our lives are the same people we report to in our hearts and minds. We anticipate their approval and their blessing even when they are not around, because we worry, almost automatically, that whenever we do wrong, we are less deserving of their love and respect.”

Lutang na lutang pa rin ako. Ganito yata siguro talaga kapag nagluluksa. Pero ngayon, reading those words, gets na gets ko— hindi naman galing sa ere yung mga lumalabas sa bibig ko; galing yun sa silid kung saan nagtipon ang lahat ng taong nagbuno ng oras para maging ako ako. At du’n sa chorus na ‘yun, sa maraming-maraming boses na humuhubog sa mga kilos at kaisipan ko, nag-uumapaw ako sa pasasalamat dahil isa sa pinakamalalakas na tinig doon e ‘yung tinig ni Sec Mon Jimenez, malalim, malinaw, maliwanag na maliwanag.

 

Mikael de Lara Co first met Mon Jimenez in 2009 in preparation for Aquino-Roxas campaign. Co later became a communications staffer in MalacaƱang while Mon Jimenez was appointed Secretary for Tourism under the PNoy administration. They again worked together, Co as a member of the Liberal Party and Jimenez as a volunteer-strategist for Otso Diretso, during the 2019 senatorial campaign.