Tess Catipay, a long-time peer in the tourism and hotel industry, sadly told me, “when things become normal, the social scene will not be the same without Jimmy Picornell.” True, our dear colleague, Jimmy, made every event significant, classy and beautiful.
A seasoned writer, Jimmy could make a simple event substantial, with cultural and literary depth.
I did not belong in Jimmy’s social circle, but he never let me feel like an outsider. He praised my projects to high heavens, gave me extra materials for my plays, and even did a “cameo” in the University of San Jose Recoletos’ (USJ-R) “Sound of Music.” Then Arts Council head John Domingo asked me to do a musicale, and with Jimmy, produced the “Cole Porter Show” at the Country Club. Through his help, we had Amparito Lhuillier, Teresin Mendezona, Monette Aliño, Sakdap, and a few others, sing the best of Cole Porter’s music. Jimmy had his special song, too.
My friendship with Jimmy flourished with the other lifestyle writers, Nelia Neri, Chinggay Utzurrum, Joe Recio, Cookie Newman and Flor Ynclino. One hotelier called us the “magnificent seven,” and I interpreted it to mean how our small group maintained our camaraderie on a very professional level. Eventually, we became like a small family. Jimmy had nice words about other media personalities like Honey Loop, Mayen Tan, Aissa de la Cruz, Bobit Avila and Nestor Alonzo. Well, we always met in many social gatherings in our favorite hotels, like Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Radisson Blu Cebu, then Cebu City Marriott Hotel and the Waterfront hotels in Cebu City and Mactan.
With Jimmy gone, things will not be the same. His spills of wit and humor, social graces and thoughtfulness will be greatly missed. I used to tell him that he was a “walking encyclopedia” because he knew so many historical and untold stories of famous personalities, events and places. Jimmy studied in USJ-R, then, guess, continued or taught in UV, extolled the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepción as the Seat of Musicales in Cebu and supported many Theresian projects. Of course, USJ-R was close to his heart.
We had some media travels together in the United States, and in spite of some slight difficulty in walking, Jimmy was never burdensome. Oh, one gleeful escapade we had in the US was a side trip to the mansion of Elvis Presley. Jimmy, Nelia, Flor and I took a cab from the airport. On our way to the place, I started singing the songs of Elvis, like “Poor Boy” and “Blue Suede Shoes,” and the cab driver asked Jimmy, “Hey, where did this lady learn the song, Poor Boy? I never heard of it before!”
Well, Jimmy told him that Elvis sang it in his first film, “Love Me Tender!.” Jimmy never forgot this incident and would always repeat the story during our gatherings.
Jimmy never missed greeting me during my birthday. How would I know that the chocolates (Toblerone), he gave me on July 16, 2021, would be the last! I talked to him over the phone, and he was the usual vibrant friend with his well modulated voice, careful use of words and subtle laughter.
When Nelia and I texted about Jimmy’s demise, I could feel Nelia’s sorrow, and really, I was sobbing almost breathlessly. I couldn’t fathom why our close friends are leaving us.
I used to call Jimmy “Zonto” because he supported and applauded the projects of Zonta Clubs of Cebu 1 and 2. Close to Jimmy was Tina Ebrada who, during her presidency, produced “An Evening with Frank Sinatra.” Jimmy gave us a complete album of the songs of Sinatra and did the finale with Tina at the Teatro Casino, Pagcor. Tina always called him ”Jaime,” not Jimmy.
Jimmy was privy to the many plans of Amparito for the USJ-R Lhuillier scholars. Through him, I realized what a fine lady Amparito is. Through him, I came to know Michel Lhuillier fully. After the “Night at the Oscars” musicale which I directed where Michel and Amparito had a part, Jimmy came to my office to relay the message of how Michel enjoyed his role.
Jimmy is gone. The Arts Council, Cebu City Historical Commission, the Department of Tourism 7, the Amparito L. Lhuillier Educational Foundation, the University of San Jose-Recoletos Arts and Sciences, the Zonta Club of Cebu 1, and Speechcom International, will long remember him.
Adios, Jaime Picornell. The heavens will enjoy your humorous anecdotes, tales and music.