In his early teens, my uncle Ramon Jimenez, our beloved Tito Moning or Ramy, was sent by his father on a “toughening” mission that would be his own “coming of age” tale.
Two older brothers—Nick, who was with the Philippine Army, and Erning (my father), who was adjutant to Gen. Paulino Santos, then the leader of a group of settlers in Koronadal Valley in Cotabato—were based in Mindanao. Moning was sent all by his lonesome to visit his brothers and report back to the family on how the two were doing. He traveled by ship to Cagayan de Oro where Nick was based and, after a few days, on horseback to Koronadal, escorted by one of Nick’s men.
It must have been a grueling journey, made doubly so by the fact that before then Moning’s days were marked by youthful jaunts in Bohol, where our Lolo Ponso was based. But when he wrote his memoirs for our family book, all Moning could recall were the trips to the fields and streams and beaches. Indeed, he knew how to live life.
Later, as he and his family sought refuge in a beachside area in Tacloban where the Jimenezes were caught by the war, he even found time to fall in love, with Flor Reyes, daughter of Tacloban’s chief of the constabulary at that time.
Then, together with another older brother, Toto, he set up a homegrown laboratory for making soap and bootleg whisky, from the alcohol left over in the Japanese army’s depot which Toto, a chemist, made into highly saleable consumer products. “The profit was enough to help the family survive immediately after the War,” he recalled, “and even paid for my law school and the college education of Chulia,” their youngest.
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Tito Moning would have need of that ingenuity and energy later in life, as he and Tita Flor begat a family of 10. They later recalled a childhood that, while not exactly abstemious, was still rather demanding. “We never ate a whole mango cheek,” the children remembered in the family book. “Whenever we had mangoes, Mama would divide each cheek so that there would be enough for all of us.” On school days, they would line up to collect their daily baon, a few coins for the younger ones, and some bills for Bon, the eldest.
Tito Moning channeled his lawyerly training by specializing in labor relations and eventually heading (in 1963-1970) the Asian Labor Educational Center at the University of the Philippines, which was established to “promote social justice and labor empowerment.” The Center was eventually renamed the School of Labor-Industrial Relations (Solair).
Employment at UP brought with it an additional benefit, aside from campus housing (in one of the iconic sawali houses)—free education for his children, all of whom, they all proudly say, are UP alumni.
Another thing I most vividly remember about Tito Ramy (he adapted the nickname later in life, perhaps deeming it more dignified than “Moning”) and Tita Flor was their deep involvement in the Christian Family Movement. Once, when they were the president-couple of the CFM, then President Cory Aquino was to address its national congress and they asked me to draft her speech, which would then be submitted to Malacañang for approval. When President Cory finally delivered the talk, I couldn’t recognize it, for it had been cut-and-pasted and truncated. But I am forever grateful to them for giving me the chance to write for a sitting President.
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In 1999, aware of the approaching Millennium Celebration, some cousins had the bright idea of hosting a grand reunion of Jimenez cousins from the “Ponso and Pacita” branch in 2000. But, wanting a more substantial souvenir of the event than a few photos, Tito Ramy and Tita Chul called me and my husband Pie, an artist-designer, to plan a family book of memories, to, as Tita Chul put it, “gather all our stories before we begin forgetting them.”
The project was a real labor of love—and of politics. Painful memories had to be painstakingly drawn from family members still hurting from the remembering. Certain matters had to be worded in a “politically correct” manner. I was lucky in that Tito Ramy and Tita Chul acted as ultimate arbiters, smoothing ruffled feathers and imposing deadlines. It was through the filter of their memories that I got a first-hand view of the saga of the traveling Jimenezes, and appreciated the gift of family that has been their true lasting legacy.
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In the Jimenez cousins’ middle age, Tito Ramy and Tita Chul became our surrogate parents, the grandparents our own children had missed.
Neither did Tito Ramy ever forget his engagement with social problems. Fr. Bobby Ebisa, SVD, a good friend of the family, once approached Tito Ramy about a thorny labor problem at Radio Veritas Asia where he had just been appointed. Reading the collective bargaining agreement, Tito Ramy told Father Bobby: “This is what you should tell Cardinal [Gaudencio] Rosales (then Archbishop of Manila). Tell him that you should run away from Radio Veritas as fast and as far as you can!” Still, with Tito Ramy’s help, Father Bobby said, he was able to halve the labor force with little trouble while assuaging the workers’ grievances.
At Tito Ramy’s wake at Christ the King Greenmeadows, the halls and chapel were filled to bursting with wreaths from government offices, courtesy of his son Ramon’s being tourism secretary. Even P-Noy, with an entourage of his sisters, dropped by on the first night. They might have been there for Mon J, but I would like to think that they were paying tribute as well to a man who was a model in every sense: as a professional, a husband and family man, a Christian—with one heck of a sense of humor!