By Rich Mazon
20 Jan 2016
“Rich, pakitingnan mo nga itong laptop ko at di ako maka-connect sa internet.” (Rich, can you look at this laptop because I cannot connect to the internet.) Hermie Rivera asked me during fight week of one of Manny Pacquiao’s fight at the MGM Grand Press Room in Las Vegas.
“Ka Hermie” as I fondly called him, opened and gave me his laptop as I try to navigate around its settings to try to figure out the problem.
Ka Hermie then proceeded to tell me a story about our colleague whom I have critiqued in my previous columns, with the usual wit and banter that only he can get away with, providing me with laughs as I connect to his laptop to the press room Wi-Fi.
Ka Hermie Rivera has a bag full of stories about Philippine boxing, brought about by his wealth of experience in the sports as a writer, broadcaster and champion-maker.
He has seen them all – Flash Elorde, Rolando Navarrete, Louie Espinosa, Morris East, Manny Pacquiao and my personal favorite – his own personal account of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s Thrilla in Manila.
I handed him his laptop after successfully connecting it to the internet. He then went ahead and logged in to check his emails.
I cannot help myself and asked, “Walang computer at internet nung araw ano Ka Hermie, typewriter lang at telepono lang pag mag-susubmit ng report?” (There was no computer and internet before right Ka Hermie, you used a typewriter and a telephone to submit your reports?)
He smiled and replied, “You got that right kid, mano-mano.”
But Ka Hermie adapted to the modern ways of news reporting and news interaction nowadays – the internet and social media. He was very active via his Facebook account in sharing his side and feelings about sports and politics – two subjects that are close to his heart.
His use of Facebook stickers always gives me a smile when he interacts with me and other people's posts. His humorous remarks and postings always make me grin and laugh.
Hermie Rivera was one of the pillars of sports journalism in the Philippines. His hard-hitting and humorous style of writing and broadcasting mirrored his animated and cheery personality. His masterful mingling of words was both a delight to listen to and a puzzle to solve.
I remembered when promoter Bob Arum ignored and refused to answer him during one of Pacquiao’s post-fight press-conferences, probably because the renowned boxing promoter knew Ka Hermie so well and that he does not want to be trapped in Ka Hermie’s line of questioning.
Veteran boxing scribe and practicing lawyer Michael Marley compared Rivera to the late Bert Sugar, the prolific American boxing writer and historian.
“Some say Hermie was the Pinoy Bert Sugar. Others say (the) late, great Bert was the American Hermie Rivera. (I) bet they're having a boxing debate and a few adult beverages Up There right now,” Marley posted in his Facebook account alongside an old photo of him and Rivera with Manny Pacquiao’s wife-Jinkee over the weekend.
Like Bert Sugar, Ka Hermie was a historian of Philippine boxing and was currently working on a tell-all biography of the most famous boxer of his homeland.
He knew the behind-the-scene story in the rise to fame of Manny Pacquiao. He knew the ins and outs, the characters and players in the Pacquiao camp both then and now. He knew who uses Manny’s name for their personal and material gains and who does suspicious things behind the boxer’s back.
“It will all be in my book,” he said. “It will tell everything about him and the dealings of Team Pacquiao,” he told me.
While working on an old story on Pacquiao, Ka Hermie privately sent me a message as who I should reach out to, to get the right answers on the subject I was on, so I would not look like a fool when I sent my article for posting.
That is just the nature of Ka Hermie is. There is no air in him despite his distinction in Philippine sports. He was willing to help, mingle and interact with enthusiasm even to the new wave of boxing scribes, both Pinoys and foreigners.
“A few years ago, while I was watching Pacquiao train in Baguio, Hermie Rivera approached me and introduced himself. I was very surprised that someone of his stature would be the one to approach me or that he even knew who I was; but that showed the kind of man he was,” narrated Philboxing’s Dr. Rene Bonsubre.
Ka Hermie was not only a generous storyteller; he was also generous to his colleagues who became his life-long friends. He would gift them small mementos whenever he sees them during Pacquiao’s fights and when he visits the Philippines.
“This one is for you kid,” as he gifted me with a nice-looking necktie the first time I met him in Las Vegas. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the gesture of a kind gentleman and a smart scholar whose stories I read before I started writing about boxing. We communicated constantly after then.
I have not worn that necktie yet, it is still in its original wrapper in my drawer. I plan to wear it during Pacquiao’s April 9th fight with Tim Bradley in Las Vegas, where I will be missing my friend and confidante.
Paalam Sir. Paalam Ka Hermie. Philippine Boxing will surely miss you.
Photo: The late Ka Hermie Rivera with equally acclaimed sportswriter Recah Trinidad obliging the author's request for a selfie at ringside during Pacquiao-Rios in Macau.
You can reach the author at firstname.lastname@example.org> and @Freemazon910 on Twitter.
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