The Humility and Diligence of Atty. Domingo T. Duerme
by Apolinario Villalobos
I first heard about him when I joined Philippine Airlines, middle of 70’s, as another Notre Damian like me when the late Joseph Alabanza, one of our instructors asked me if I knew him. I replied in the negative because while I graduated from a parochial Notre Dame during the time, he was a product of the education system’s university in Cotabato City, the prime city of the yet, undivided and vast Cotabato province. The same question was asked by the late, Ricardo Paloma who was also curious about our school. Our paths crossed when he became the Branch Manager of Davao station, when I used it as my jump-off point in covering tourist areas in Mindanao as editor of the PAL TOPIC Magazine. From then on, I called him, “Atty. Duerme”.
The next time we met was when he was sent to Manila to take the place of the late Federico Pabelico as Director for Luzon Sales Area. I took note of the paintings that he hung in his room, and which I observed to be different from those that the Construction Office of the company purchased to enhance the rooms of executives. I thought they were just among his personal collections that he preferred to display. I only learned about them as his own paintings when he was packing up for another assignment as Sr. AVP for International Sales-Philippines to be based at S&L Building along Roxas Boulevard. He gave me an unframed sketch of an old woman as a precious token.
I had an opportunity to meet his better half, Connie when she came over from the province. She struck me as equally humble and soft-spoken, too. Atty. Duerme confided that they met while both of them were studying at the Notre Dame University (NDU). She was taking up Banking and Finance while he was struggling with his Bachelor of Science in Education. She was also his “sponsor”, being an officer of the Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) of the university. Connie was an able support to the struggle of Atty. Duerme as he tried his best to establish a home and family. She went into different business ventures, supplying beef to patrons in Davao and Manila, as well as indigenous monkey that abundantly thrive in the region, which were sent to Europe for scientific experiments and medical purposes. To cap her business acumen, she opened a canteen that fed about 2,000 employees of a garment factory at Awang district of Cotabato city. The two are blessed by daughters, Ma. Dolores and Ma. Lovella, both nurses and currently working at Houston, Texas.
The journey of Atty. Duerme started at Pototan, Iloilo where he was born in March 28. His parents were among the farming pioneer settlers of M’lang (today, part of North Cotabato). As a young boy he had a share in tending their farm, a task which did not hinder him from graduating with honors from elementary (Bialong Elementary School) to high school (Notre Dame of M’lang). He finished a Bachelor of Science in Education (BSE) at the Notre Dame University (Cotabato City) in 1968, and Bachelor of Laws in 1973, hurdling the Bar in 1975 (Roll 25707).
What is remarkable about his struggle is that he joined Philippine Airlines in 1968, a month just before graduating with a BSE degree and went on with his struggle to finish his Law degree. His being a Ticket Freight Clerk with a “just-enough-wage” did not deter his determination to become a lawyer. And, to think that it was during this time that he and his wife, Connie were putting up the foundation of their family. To work with PAL Domestic Sales during the early days of the company was being like a soldier who should be ready for assignments anywhere. This commitment made Atty. Duerme assume positions without question, as Branch Supervisor of Dipolog, Cagayan de Oro, and Bislig within the period of 1972-1978, within which he also successfully passed the Bar examination.
The hard-earned achievement as a full-fledged lawyer, easily gave him the opportunity to become a Branch Manager of Cotabato station from 1978-1986, moving up as Branch Manager of Davao from 1987-1992. The rest of his journey became more challenging as he became the Director of Luzon Sales Area from 1992-1994, Sr. AVP for International Sales-Philippines from 1994-1996, and finally coming home to Mindanao as Sr. AVP for the said region.
The feat of the unassuming Atty. Duerme is such that, a roll could be filled with his accomplishments as he struggled his way up, from their sun-drenched farm in M’lang. He was a Rotary Exchange Student and as such he was sent to Ontario Canada, aside from being a Jaycee scholar. He received an award from his alma mater, Notre Dame University as an Outstanding Alumnus, aside from having been given recognition as an Outstanding Son of M’lang. When he had a stint in Davao as PAL’s Sr. AVP, he actively got involved in the local tourism industry as member of the Davao City Tourism Council; President of the Rotary Club of Davao; President of SKAL-Davao; Representative of the Private Sector in the Region XI Development Council; consistent Chairman of the PAL Inter-Club Golf Tournaments; Chairman and President of the Davao Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Private Sector Representative to the Tourism Inftra-structure and Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA); Trustee of the Philippine Red Cross. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board of the M’lang Water District.
Despite all those accomplishments, Atty. Duerme seems not a bit tired, as he might give in to another opportunity that is persistently knocking on his door…