We can still hear Donnie’s throaty baritone that almost always would explode into laughter after he gave a wisecrack or naughty comment. That’s because we still can’t quite believe that Donnie just died last Tuesday at dawn, a few hours after his 73rd birthday.
In the first place, who would have known that Donnie Ramirez was already in his 70s? We wouldn’t have, had his sister Celia not told us at Makati Med when we visited a comatose Donnie a week before his death. Donnie looked, thought and acted much younger than that.
In the second place, he’s gone quite quickly, after only about a month of ailment—he fell to the ground, suffered a head bump and sprained arm. Then after going on a junket to Ilocos with friends, he complained of dizziness. A test showed he had blood clots in his brain. He fell in a coma after that, had brain surgery, and never woke up.
So, in a way, he was never able to say goodbye to family and friends. But his friends—an innumerable quantity of them—did bid him a fond farewell. If the jam-packed chapel at Funeraria Paz Manila Memorial Sucat was a gauge, so many took the time to make their final goodbye, including President Aquino who went to the wake Wednesday night right after the Mass that marked the reopening of the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. Mr. Aquino and Donnie had been friends since the ’80s.
In complete attendance at the wake were Donnie’s Bulong Pulungan core members Deedee Siytangco, Joanne Rae Ramirez, Domini Torrevillas, Cynthia Santiago, Elizabeth Tagle. Indeed Bulong, whose weekly media sessions Donnie had helped mount the past 28 years, wouldn’t be complete without Donnie. Deedee, the other founder and whom Donnie fondly called “prima,” was with Donnie through his final days, up to his birthday Mass last Monday. A few months ago, Donnie himself took the time to be with Deedee after she had a procedure to remove a tumor in the brain.
An incredulous Sen. Loren Legarda recalled how she spoke to Donnie on the phone last month asking him when he’d like to set his birthday lunch. “He told me that he’s in the hospital, so we’d just set it when he checked out,” Loren recalled the get-together that was not to be.
After a long corporate stint in Levi’s, this De La Salle graduate put up a PR firm, DCR, that thrived on a gamut of accounts, from business to celebrities. In the early ’80s, his good friend, the late Ernie Evora Sioco, the founder and editor of Mod weekly magazine talked Donnie into writing a society column.
From then on, writing society columns became Donnie’s main focus—Chronicle, then Inquirer and Metro magazine. As his editor, I knew that he himself wrote his column—he was different in that sense.
And he gained many friends. It was touching to note that, in death, many years after he stopped writing a society column, people went to his wake to pay their final respects.
Effortlessly, Donnie was a people’s person—he was comfortable in whatever setting, and with whomever. He truly enjoyed facilitating things and helping out.
Facebook has been running endless posts from friends. Alya Honasan wrote, “I remember how he sent Binky Lampano a Frank Sinatra ticket when Binky announced in his Chronicle column that he couldn’t afford one!”
We will surely miss his laughter, his regaling, funny—and bitchy—stories, but most of all, his good heart.
Over dinner, a guy, in his middle age, gave us, his friends around the table, an instruction in the event he finds himself at death’s door: “DNR—Do not resuscitate, and DRA—Do not reveal age.”
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