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His memory lives on

We woke up to sad news yesterday that Governor Freddie Marañon had passed on to the next life, just before midnight Thursday.

Social media accounts of Negrenses, including those in the Oriental side, paid tribute to Gov Freddie, remembering his works, his advocacies, particularly in agriculture and the environment and his legacy, the One Island, One Region program, even though it was short lived.

I was talking yesterday to his widow, Tita Marilyn, who said that we ought not to be saddened by the passing of Gov Freddie because “we will all face death someday. It was just his time today.”

Instead, let us celebrate the life that he had, especially the years he dedicated to public service and celebrate the gift that he had given Negros.

I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Gov Freddie when he ran for governor for the first time. He was somewhat reluctant to run initially, but in the end, was convinced that winning the governorship was the best way to continue the unfinished programs of his older brother, Governor Joseph, when he passed away.

We had our share of issues during the campaign but he would be indulgent even if he was clearly uncomfortable, especially when we had to do a photo shoot in the studio for his campaign. He nearly walked out when the photographer gave him pointers for posed shots and asked him to change from one outfit to another.

In one of our campaign sorties in Kabankalan, I was in-charge of the media vehicle but his convoy was just too fast and we ended up lost in the mountains without any signal. We had to cross fields and rickety bridges and after an hour, I was nearly in tears knowing the responsibility I had.

We eventually got a signal and I saw dozens of missed calls from him and Randy, his faithful aide for years. He told me to ask people where the closest main road is and he will make sure we will be fetched. Since then, when we travelled out of town, he always made sure that if his vehicle went too fast, which often happened, that one car was left behind to guide us.

At the Capitol, I mostly handled his speeches and events but I eventually learned to make speeches that had a good start of about three paragraphs and two more at the end to help him close his speech as he would spontaneously drift off from the speech to talk more about his advocacies.

Grace under pressure was what he expected, especially during big events he hosted like ambassadors’ visits and the Chief Justice meet-up with members of the judiciary. He was a stickler for protocols and would get irked when appointments were delayed.

When then US Ambassador Harry Thomas came to visit, preparations went on for days as the Secret Service were particular about safety. In the ante-room that was set-up to allow the governor and the ambassador for a one-on-one discussion, they each were allowed an aide to be with them to take instructions.

Armed with a steno pad and pen, I ended up scribbling nothing as Ambassador Thomas made little talk about business and was more enthusiastic discussing the delicacies that was served which he was familiar with, as he was married to a Filipina. Ambassador Thomas was eating with gusto that guv pulled me aside and asked me if I could remind the ambassador not to eat too much as there is another feast waiting at the reception hall. Of course I could not say it and guv laughed at how my face turned red.

Gov. Freddie was an emotional person. He was so transparent and was never ashamed to show his emotions even in public. He was like a father that would not mince words in berating you or praising you.

I often forget the position he was holding when we discussed matters casually. One time he asked my opinion of one official who visited. I replied “chakanasiya,” and kept on rambling what I thought of that person. He was quiet for quite some time after my spiel as if he was considering my point of view. Suddenly he asked, “What does chaka mean?” with a frown on his forehead.

I apologized and explained but will never forget the expression he had that day, which still makes me laugh today. In my short stint beside him, I would catch myself drifting to gay lingo but he learned to be indulgent. I do know he never kept track of the terminologies as he would often ask what it meant even if he has heard it a dozen times.

My last visit to Gov. Freddie was during the holidays when Carla Gomez and a few other media friends. He was sprightly and we had fun for a couple of hours. When I asked Carla if we have a photo of that day, sadly we never took one as we were engrossed in the conversation.

But it’s okay. As composer Irving Berlin would say, “The song is ended but the memory lingers on.”

Farewell, Gov. Freddie, rest in peace now. You will be missed.*

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April 2021

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