Jeremias “Jerry” Tundag, 70

 Photo from The Freeman’s Facebook post.

VETERAN JOURNALIST Jeremias “Jerry” Suico Tundag passed away on December 8. He was 70.

His daughter Nina Tundag confirmed his passing on Facebook on Friday morning. The journalist had been battling cancer for some time. In an article published on The Freeman on November 13, Tundag shared his experience in dealing with the disease, which had affected his thyroid.

“Alright, this is it. This is the big fight. If I were to liken this to something I am familiar with and not something strange and unheard of, I would say I would be in a room full of loud, rowdy, and foul-smelling men in a small jam-packed room. I would have just been told that I just had a crack at the world title held by the world’s greatest undefeated monster. After a series of hospital visits, confinements, and tests, the word cancer first broke into the open and became a speakable word in discussion. So I have it. In my throat. On my thyroid,” Tundag wrote.

Tundag was former publisher and editor-in-chief of The Freeman, a top daily newspaper in Cebu. His wife Arlinda said that Tundag has “long stood as one of Cebu media’s forefronts, dedicating most of his life to bringing the truth through his writing.” His legacy and contribution to the community may hopefully be remembered and cherished, she added.

Born September 15, 1953, Tundag was raised in Cabadiangan in the northern Cebu town of Compostela. He went to college at the University of the Visayas in the 1980s, where he was a former staff writer of The Visayanian, the school publication. It was around this time that he was recruited by Jose “Dodong” Gullas to join The Freeman’s editorial team.

Starting as a reporter, Tundag rose from the ranks to become managing editor, editor-in-chief, and publisher of The Freeman. He also worked as a local correspondent for Reuters for 17 years. He bagged multiple journalism awards during his career and attended the ASEAN Editors’ Conference twice as a Philippine delegate.

The Freeman in a statement extended its condolences to the family. Tundag, it said, “not only steered our editorial team with unwavering dedication but also left an indelible mark on our publication.” The Cebu media community remembers Tundag for helping to nurture the next generation of Cebu’s journalists.

Heartfelt messages poured on social media. “In his prime years as editor, Sir Jerry would have the writer sit next to him while he was editing. He showed, not just told, the writer the hows and whys of the craft,” former Freeman editor John Destacamento wrote on Facebook. Tundag, he added, also taught reporters to “write every story as if you’re writing for Page 1.” 

“Sir Jerry handled Page 1 and would remind reporters whose stories landed on the front page to write these first” as these were the hardest and most important stories, former The Freeman reporter and journalist Max Limpag said in his blog. He added that Tundag once printed a quotation that said “reporters should put the feet of the mayor to the fire,” reminding them that a journalist’s job is to hold officials accountable.

Journalists recall that after his colorful career, Tundag moved to Leyte, his wife’s home province. Even with the distance, Tundag wrote his column “To The Quick” for Freeman until December 1. Journalists shared that when he could no longer encode, he dictated his copy to his daughter to type and send to the newsroom. His last piece reprised the question of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ever fulfilling his campaign promise of a PHP 20-rice a reality.

Tundag is survived by his wife Arlene and daughters Nina, Carmel, and Lia. As of this writing, his remains lie in state in their residence at 1050 Mabini Street, in Barangay San Mateo, Carigara town, Leyte.