AFTER concluding my four-part series about Mayor Fred Lim, I received a lot of questions asking about so many things like his lifestyle as a cop and mayor and his secret to long life. He died at 90 and not of any illness related to old age.
Lim, at least according to his good, old retired friends Capt. Rey Jaylo, Ben de Jesus and Rey Sanchez, never fully enjoyed being a cop because he never did what ordinary cops did, which is to have a good time whenever they get a chance to, like staying out late for drinking sessions.
All his life, Lim was an early bird. He would go to bed early and wake up early. By sunrise, he would have finished reading the papers and having his breakfast. He would wake up in the middle of the night and have a glass of milk and always had fresh buko juice once in a while.
Whenever we ate out, he would order fresh green mango juice or water. He was never a glutton and would only eat a small portion of every dish on the table, minus the rice. He would slice his food into smaller portions and masticate, or chew a whole lot before swallowing. His only vices were ube ice cream, dark chocolates, nuts and the sinful ‘chicharon with laman.’
To him, being on time or early for every appointment is a must. When my good friend Dra. RosaryMay Canay-Diaz and now National Anti-Poverty Commission deputy director-general Penny Belmonte opened a clinic in Malate years back, Lim, whom they invited to cut the ribbon, arrived way ahead of everybody, making Dra. Rose and Penny frantically rushing to the site ahead of schedule.
This, he said, is the reason why he took on board his close friend Ric de Guzman as his chief of staff and ‘big mayor (he is over six feet).’ His Pareng Ric, according to him, is used to the ‘American style’ of being always on time and acting on problems quickly, leaving nothing pending the moment he leaves office, thus easing the mayor’s workload.
A famous local politician who once was his foe told me it was a puzzle to everyone why Lim had loyal friends following him around and sticking to him despite his ‘stinginess and short-temperedness’. He said they were very envious of Lim since in their case, all their supposed allies had left them and joined their political enemy for money.
Actually, Lim was stingy only depending on the situation. It’s just that he spent wisely and was not into giving money left and right because he grew up poor and never stole from government coffers. He loses his temper only for a good reason like injustice (specially if the victim is a child or a woman), corruption, super incompetence and illegal activities, for instance. He definitely has no tolerance for all of these.
Lim is particularly stingy when it came to his own needs. He never bought branded clothes or material things. Then Councilor (now secretary to the mayor) Don Bernie Ang narrated that when they were in China once, it was drizzling and they needed to buy hats. Lim, he said, merely asked for a plastic bag and put it on his head. When Don Bernie and their other companions offered to buy for him, he flatly refused and said: “Isang beses lang naman yan gagamitin tsaka wala namang nakakakilala sa ‘kin dito. Sayang pera.’
Why many remained loyal to him for decades also came as no surprise, since Lim was a celebrity in his own right. In fact, Mayor Isko Moreno himself once told us that as young scavenger, he and his colleagues would leave their carts behind whenever word got out that Gen. Lim was in the area, just to get a glimpse at the most feared law enforcer of his time. Asked why, Mayor Kois snapped back: “Syempre! Si Gen. Lim ‘yun eh.’
Mayor Kois also recalled how, as a newbie city councilor, Lim made him feel really good by acknowledging him and his good work during a press conference so that now, he makes sure to give recognition where it is due and is generous with words.
Another trait that endeared Mayor Lim to those around him was that he always treated his friends, security personnel and office staff like family. Even though he was not hungry, he would make it a point to have a good meal with all his companions when his appointment reached lunch or dinner time. If he was attending a meeting by then, he would give his aide cum pilot Nato Tarca money so he and the other companions can eat outside the venue where he could not bring them with him.
Unknown to many, Lim was actually a funny guy and loved telling and listening to hilarious stories. His loyal, ever supportive breakfast buddies can attest to this, like ret. Maj. Abner Afuang who served with Lim at the NBI; Mark Ian Halili and Lex delos Reyes whose uncle and dad were Lim’s buddies in the police force who idolized him and as such Ian and Lex did, too; Jaylo’s buddy Nelson Ferrer; Lim’s favorite humorist Braggy Florentino; Emerald manager Cynthia Labrador whom Lim always teased as having rejected (‘basted’) him,and his friend of very long standing and condo-mate, barangay chairman Jimmy Adriano.
My bosses, our dear editor-in-chief Gus Villanueva and People’s Tonight managing editor Tess Lardizabal, also know this being among Lim’s closest friends ever. In their company, Lim can talk about anything under the sun and just be himself.
He also loved the chit-chats he had with publisher, Boss Miguel Belmonte whom he described to be very humble and kind and whose soft-spokenness was always compensated by his columnist Butch ‘Kamote’Quejada, whose brand of humor Lim enjoyed so much.
The nation lost an exceptional public servant whose dedication, character and integrity made him a rare gem, specially in the field of politics.
Tomorrow (Saturday), when he is finally laid to rest at the Manila North Cemetery, I can say this with certainty— all of us, specially those of us who have been his constant companions, will sorely miss him. His story-telling, his being the life of any gathering, his words of wisdom, funny pieces of advice and most of all, the unique way he shows his love and appreciation.
Apart from all these, Jerry and I will definitely (actually, we already do) miss his laughter, his corny jokes, the favorite olden songs playing in his car radio as we travelled, our serious confidential talks and all the silly secrets we shared.
Chairman Adriano’s car always sported a crude sticker that read: ‘Fred Lim Is A Good Man’ out of total admiration for Mayor Lim.
Indeed, he was. Very. This is what makes him so loved, in life and even in death. He will always be a part of us and we thank God for the closeness we were able to share with him. There was never a boring moment.
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