Please indulge me as I share a tribute of sorts to a dear friend who had just passed away. Many of you don’t know Niel Lim (a.k.a. James Cartmire in his email address), but I wanted to use this space in my blog to make sure that he will always be remembered.
I will forever remember Niel as the N1 to my N2–or was he the N2 to my N1? It didn’t matter. What mattered was that, at a particular point in the reform advocacy, we were N & N, N1 & N2, a weird combination of two people who weren’t exactly compatible, not exactly the same, not exactly opposite, yet complementary in ways that unusual ingredients could be complementary.
Niel introduced me to Henry Jenkins’ blog, among other things, and it was amazing how he could talk or tweet about food during ungodly hours. During Team RP days, we would share long train rides and during the YouthVote days we would share long cab rides. I always insisted on dropping him off at his place, and he would always insist on getting off at the corner of Buendia and Reposo (now N. Garcia). Niel loved to walk–perhaps even when it would have been dangerous for him to do so. But what was danger to Niel? Was it commuting at ungodly hours? Was it speaking one’s mind when one should perhaps keep his mouth shut? Was it questioning authority? Niel was as irreverent and as abrasive (at times) as he was brilliant, and it was this brilliance that I tried to capture and learn from.
I never really knew what was wrong with him; I was never really aware of the gravity of his situation. Unlike some of you here, you had the benefit and the honor of working closely with Niel until his passing. At some point, N & N had to each be their own Ns in their respective organizations. We no longer had the time to debate and somehow agree (with me usually concurring more than the other way around); we could no longer talk about his beloved Koreanovelas; he could no longer berate me about my teenage-girl impulses which he would find so immature. But just a few days before I heard of his passing, I saw one of our YouthVote shirts that proudly hung on one of our walls (don’t ask me why, but we have all sorts of statement shirts hung on our walls, just because) and I wondered if it was he who designed it, because Niel always had an eye for good layout and design. And I thought to myself, “Kumusta na kaya si Niel? (I wonder how Niel is?)“
Two days later, I got the call that he had died. 😦
I still haven’t gone to his wake, and I honestly don’t know what I would do or say when I see him later. Would it be, “WTF are you doing there, lying dead? We still have so much to do!” Or would it be, “Why, Niel? Why didn’t you take care of yourself better?” Or would it be, “You deserve to rest now, dear friend. You have done us proud and we will miss you.”
Or maybe it will be all of the above. And, to this day, whenever I take the train from Ateneo or whenever I pass by Buendia corner Reposo, I will always see him in my mind, walking confidently away, sure that there will be more exciting debates and challenges to solve. Maybe in this lifetime, maybe in the next.
Farewell, partner. ‘Till we meet again.
😦 😦 😦
And here is something that Tanya Hamada, Executive Director of INCITEGov, had written about Niel on Facebook:
…in 2010 when INCITEGov began its transition, pulling in 2nd generation reform leaders from YPS and YouthVotePhilippines, Niel was excited to shape the communication and media strategy for the team. He prodded, cajoled, berated and inspired us to appreciate the rigor, professionalism and principles of communication and journalism. He was hardheaded about print media still being the driver for opinion. He saw radio as the logical position setter and he was not convinced at all about the buzz of ubiquitous ‘citizen journalism’. There are many ideas, goals and aspirations he leaves behind – as a young professional, a thinker, and as a journalist.
But the loss we feel most is that of losing a dear friend. Conversations, debates, ribbing, and decision-making by our motley crew (we all hardly ever agree with each other completely) always included one or the other ‘Nielisms’ with his unique brand of logic.
He will be missed…..