Sir Lem and the making of a journalist

By Dr. Herman M. Lagon

Within every journalist’s journey lies transformative encounters with mentors who enduringly shape their professional insight and personal ethos. For me, one of those mentors has been none other than Sir Lemuel Fernandez, the founder of the 23-year-old Daily Guardian. He might not be aware of it, but his influence on my media “apostolate” is as indelible as the ink on the newsprint he so passionately crafts in his heydays.

My “connection” with Sir Lem began in the early 1990s when I was a high school and college editor of the UI Star, and he had already made big waves as one of the most critical and progressive editors in chief in the same university paper in the 1980s. He was my local media rockstar from afar, especially during his early practicing mediaman years and stint as faculty in the mass communications department in the mid-1990s, admiring his knack for cutting through the fluff and getting to the heart of every class, story, and paper. By 1997, when I officially joined the ranks of the working press at the Daily Informer, the former editor-in-chief of the tabloid, Sir Lem, had just moved on to another local daily but left an editorial standard and style that would draw me into his orbit, albeit vicariously, once again.

In the early 2000s, our paths intersected more directly. I had just left the Daily Informer to join a new team of journalists at the Daily Headlines while Sir Lem was already a leading figure at the Iloilo Press Club (IPC). I aspired to emulate his reputation for sharp, insightful leadership in the local trimedia. By then, I had also started teaching, advising, and training on school papers and conferences, roles that Sir Lem had indirectly prepared me for through his illustrious career and masterpieces.

The depth of Sir Lem’s influence became even more apparent when I became deeply involved in basic education while continuing my journalism on the side. He was instrumental in having me mentor his sons (Lawrence and Lcid, now DG Publisher and VP External, respectively) and other young Atenean writers, nurturing their skills at a critical time in their development. Lcid and I even reached the national level for his exceptional sports writing skills, undoubtedly influenced by his father’s (and mother’s) innate talent. This mentoring extended beyond journalism; it was about instilling values of integrity, curiosity, fierceness, and resilience in the craft—traits that Sir Lem embodied and promoted through his leadership at The News Today then and the Daily Guardian afterward.

In 2007, under Lemuel’s editorial guidance, I published a feature article series that was both personal and poignant, detailing a harrowing experience during Typhoon Fengshen. This series underscored the importance of family and resilience, themes that Sir Lem has always held dear. His commitment to uncovering truth and fostering a well-informed public was evident again in 2009 when my column on systemic cheating in the National Achievement Test (NAT) sparked widespread discourse against the institution that is supposed to teach and model young students about academic honesty, thanks to the platform he provided.

Sir Lem’s latent belief in my potential and his support did not wane, even as I shifted more toward academia. In 2016, he sponsored my entry into the Rotary Club of Iloilo (together with DG EIC Francis Allan Angelo), opening another avenue for personal and professional growth. After my retirement in Ateneo de Iloilo in 2022, I decided to serve as calculus, physics, and research faculty at the Iloilo State University of Fisheries Science and Technology (ISUFST), the same school where Sir Lem is now assuming the role of one of the members of the school’s Board of Regents (BOR). Through our sporadic yet impactful encounters in ISUFST, in the Rotary, or through the Messenger, I continue to carry the invaluable lessons I have learned from him into the discussions I participate in, the issues I analyze, the articles I write, and the decisions I make.

But perhaps the most significant testament to Sir Lem’s mentorship is the Daily Guardian itself. Now a robust platform in print and digital forms, it carries tens of thousands of Ilonggo stories—including my over 150 column pieces. It is a print and digital mark of “fair and balanced news, exciting and edifying graphics and visuals, and views and opinions that matter to the lives of the readers” that spans nearly a quarter-century of journalism influenced by Sir Lem. It is a body of work that speaks not only to my development as a journalist but to the enduring legacy of a man who has dedicated his life to the truth, the just, and the beautiful.

Sir Lem is not just a mentor but a visionary who has consistently demonstrated what it means to lead with conviction and creativity. His cool-headed, clever, and strategic approach to leadership and editorial direction has not only shaped the Daily Guardian but has also profoundly impacted those lucky enough to work or be inspired under his quiet, even vicarious, guidance. As the Daily Guardian celebrates its 23rd anniversary, I salute Sir Lem—not just as a press guru, a topnotch DG publisher, an unassuming ISUFST regent, a model Rotary brother, a wise conversationalist, an intelligent strategist, or a humble friend, but as a fundamental force in my journey as a crusading weaver of words and as a person, like many others, striving to make a difference in the world one at a time.

To some, he may be best known as the man who started and ran a prominent newspaper. To me and I think to many others who resonate with me, Sir Lemuel Fernandez is an inspiration as we navigate the murky seas of journalism, public service, and life in general. Here’s to furthering our journey to learning and becoming one of the industry’s finest!


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.


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