AS a young boy, Mayor Fred Lim was put in the Hospicio de San Jose orphanage by his mother who settled with her new family, after they were abandoned by his father. There, Lim stayed for several years until he was located by his grandmother, Flora Valisno-Siojo, who paid him a regular visit before finally taking him with her.
Each time, Lim said his lola will take him to Luneta where she would buy him ice cream and a balloon. Every time he was returned to the orphanage, Lim would see off his lola until she was no longer visible and then he would began to cry and wait for her next visit.
When her lola passed on, Lim was at her deathbed. Her last words made a lasting imprint which served as his primary goal in life. Lola Flora made him promise that no matter what, he would finish his studies, as it is the only way for him to succeed in life and be able to fend off for himself.
Lim was then adopted by his godmother where he would be ostracized by her children out of jealousy for the extra attention being given to him.
One time, inside the car, I asked him if he had any recollection as to how his mother looked like. He said he had no idea what a mother was in the first place, except for what he saw on television in the orphanage. When his voice cracked, Jerry, who was then seated to my left, signalled me to stop, so I did.
Lim would become emotional and even cry at times, each time he spoke of his lola, saying his biggest regret in life was that she was no longer around when he had already become successful and could have already somehow given her a taste of a good and comfortable life and to return all the love that she had showered on him as a young, abandoned boy.
He feels envious of students who get fully supported by their parents so that during graduation rites, he would always ask the students to turn to their parents and say ‘thank you.’ He would then almost always give the students some money and tell them to treat their parents even to a simple fastfood meal as a way of showing their gratitude.
Speaking of which, Lim is also known for giving importance to debt of gratitude. His loyalty to the late President Cory Aquino was such that rumors began swirling that they might be together. To this, Mayor Lim would feel great shame and have goosebumps, since he put President Cory on a pedestal and had the highest respects for her.
Someone in the know --- and this was confirmed by Lim himself-- intimated to us that when Lim retired as a cop, President Cory summoned him to her office in the presence of her executive secretary Joker Arroyo and offered him the post of Bureau of Customs Commissioner. When Lim refused, President Cory nearly fell off her seat out of shock and asked why he was refusing a post that everybody wanted.
Lim told her that if took on that position, ‘baka ni hindi pa ‘ko nakakatuntong sa loob ng opisina, madumi na agad tingin sa akin ng mga tao.’ This was how Mayor Lim landed the job as National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director.
He was old school in so many ways. He was not attracted to women who wore heavy make-up or very revealing clothes. He would also constantly pull a chair for a woman or hold her elbow when negotiating a flight of stairs.
As a boss, he may be a ‘terror’ but the goodness in his heart was always evident in that he makes sure that his companions also ate whenever he attended lunch or dinner meetings.
Randomly and for no particular occasion, he would bring them –security, staff, etcetera—to a restaurant and just treat them to a hearty meal. He sometimes even serves food himself to the ladies, even to us. He said eating was his only vice because all his life, he never drank, got into drugs or gambled.
What about women?, so I asked, to which he curtly replied, to the swift approval of all our men companions: “Pambihira ka naman pala eh. Ang babae, hindi bisyo. Necessity!”
Friends and those close to Mayor Lim, like his protege Col. Nelson Yabut, would often say that Mayor Lim was lucky to have friends like us who stood by him through ups, specially during downs, all the way, until the end.
I wish to correct this common perception. I say it is us, Jerry and I, who are actually very fortunate and privileged to have had someone like Mayor Lim for an extended family member who was also there for us through thick and thin.
Lim had that kind of impression on others that if he gets to call you by your first name, it’s like hitting the jackpot. A policeman we knew told us that when Lim handed him a P50, he had it framed because ‘it came from Gen. Lim.’
We thank him for the countless wonderful things and life’s lessons that he had taught us. We thank him for letting us in on his very colorful, private life and for all the happy memories and laughter we shared for many, many years.
It was such a privilege to learn from his rare wisdom and principled stance on many important issues, where becoming popular and liked never counted.
There is a saying that a true friend is one whom you can call up in the middle of the night and ask for help because you killed a foe. And then this friend will appear at your door with a shovel and, without asking what happened, would just want to know how he could help you bury the enemy. Mayor Lim is that kind of friend. Actually, he is to us, a father, mentor and friend rolled into one.
Having lost our fathers early on before we became close, we have considered him as one, so that when he passed on, it was like losing a father all over again. Believe it or not, he would eat our leftovers while admonishing us that many people go hungry and we must not let any food go to waste.
He will forever be in our hearts and I’m sure, ditto with the countless people whose lives he touched and changed for the better. A snappy salute for an awesome man for a life so well lived.
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