RENE B. LUMAWAG, Photographer
Veteran photojournalist Rene Lumawag of Davao City passed away on Monday, July 1, at the age of 74.
Lumawag, or Tatay Rene as he was called by colleagues and friends, was known for chronicling the political career of President Rodrigo Duterte President Rodrigo Duterte when the latter was still mayor of Davao City.
Born in Panay Island, on December 22, 1944, Renato “Rene” B. Lumawag started earning money from classmates and friends who would ask him to draw school projects and make cards for special occasions. To improve his craft, Rene would go out on weekends to participate in on-the-spot painting of sceneries or sketching with the use of pencil or pen and ink.
He bought his first camera in 1979 — a Minolta 100X, single lens reflex full manual, with a 45 mm fixed lens, “to record my children as they grow.” Much- later, he got a 110 format camera and a 135 Minolta 7S2 rangefinder.
But his first photography teacher was “the manual of that P1,800 SLR with a Rocor lens 45mm fixed lens, f/0.2.” Tatang Rene burned many candles to fully understand basic camera operations.
Later, he stopped participating in on-the-spot painting contests on weekends. Instead, he would bring his kids to good locations such as riverbanks and seashores to shoot the sunrise and sunset.
Before venturing into photojournalism, Rene, then a broadcaster at UMBN, was documenting weddings and birthday parties. Before that, he was a radio deejay, a caminero, and even had a stint as embalmer.
But in the summer of 1985, a tragic landslide struck the gold rush site in Diwalwal in Monkayo, then part of Davao del Norte, burying hundreds of miners and workers in the allied industries.
Willie Vicoy, the veteran photojournalist from Reuters who spent years covering the war in Vietnam, requested him to cover. That Diwalwal tragedy, captured on film by Rene, was his first stint in photojournalism. It did not only give him national recognition, it also gave him his first international recognition as a photojournalist, as his photographs appeared on front pages of the world’s newspapers, his name properly credited by Reuters.
That same year, Rene joined the San Pedro Express for about two months, just as the weekly business paper shifted to daily. From there he joined Ang Peryodiko Dabaw until it became Sun.Star Davao about six years later.
Rene was a staff photographer until he retired in August 2008. He served as photo correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer for a couple of years in the 1990s but passed it on in the latter part of the 1990s to his son, Gene Boyd.
Two months after his retirement from Sun.Star Davao, he signed a contract with Mindanao Times, Mindanao’s oldest community paper, also based in Davao City, as its lifestyle contributor and photo consultant.
Rene married Minerva “Minnie” Rodriguez, a nurse. They have five children — Renee Belle (Dimple), Gene Boyd (who was killed in Jolo, Sulu on November 12, 2004 while returning to the hotel from shooting the sunset at the pier), An-an, April John (Skippy) and Tyron. (Mindanao Daily Mirror)