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by Jermel Quillopo, staff writer

Having a father as a pioneer in local television and founder of the first Filipino-language radio station, Emme Tomimbang was on the track toward being in Hawai‘i’s broadcast industry. At the age of three, many kids are learning their alphabets or numbers, but Tomimbang already knew a song by heart and made her radio debut on her father’s radio show on KISA radio. At the age of 10, Tomimbang had her own radio program within her father’s show.

“ Being around a TV camera or radio microphone at such an early age, I was always comfortable with the medium,” said Tomimbang.

Tomimbang’s original aspiration was to become a high school counselor. She graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa with a degree in secondary education and minor in psychology.
Tomimbang waited for a position to open at Waianae Intermediate, where she had completed her teaching practicum, but then decided to go back and work at her father’s radio station. Her father, Tommy Tomimbang, was an engineer. Tomimbang stayed at the station for two years as a morning and afternoon radio broadcaster and was later promoted to program director at the radio station.
Tomimbang’s radio career opened her to new opportunities. She was later offered a position as promotions director at KITV television station. Tomimbang’s career within the television station varied from doing a two-minute quiz spot that aired in the afternoons, to reading the nightly weather report.

“ Not even seven months later [after having the weather position], I was hired full time in the news department and that was the beginning of my 18-year career as a news reporter and later anchor,” said Tomimbang.

Tomimbang loved being a part of the news industry, whether it was producing documentaries or being a reporter or anchor. Her favorite hard news story was covering the exiled Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos and his family for seven years. Her favorite documentary piece was about a vietnam veteran.

“ That one really put me face to face with local guys and their stories about fighting a war, looking like the enemy,” said Tomimbang.

A recent project that took her two years to complete was Mabuhay with Aloha: The Hawai‘i Filipino Experience 1906-2006, a two-hour special commemorating 100 years of Filipinos in Hawai‘i which also caught international attention in the Philippines. Tomimbang admits to receiving negative criticism about her writing and reporting.

“ Of course I had them, but each time I would take the criticism, analyze it, see what I could learn from it, and then move on.”

The 2003 Hawai‘i Filipino Woman of the Year, the 2004 Filipina’s magazine National Communication Award, and the 2000 Hawai‘i women Laywers award are just a few of the many awards that she has received through out her career. Michael Harris, former morning director of KHON television station, remembers how enthusiastic she was when out on the field.

“ She was very warm. Her best quality was knowing how to befriend people, where they would be so comfortable to tell her anything or their deepest feelings…she was a really good interviewer,” said Harris.

President and CEO of PBS, Leslie Wilcox, remembers Tomimbang “using humor as an icebreaker” to relate to almost anyone.

“ Her social skills, understanding of people, drive, and spirit have been key factors in her success,” said Wilcox.

Tomimbang also remembers the long hard working hours and not having the luxury of holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving to spend with family. Not only did she have to make a lot of sacrifices for her career, but her husband had to make sacrifices as well.

“ Now I’ve been married for 20 years. In the early part of my marriage, my husband had to work or socialize around my schedule. We had to leave events early so I could get to bed, or he would get to the office extra early while I did the morning news…There were a lot of sacrifices,” said Tomimbang.
Tomimbang admits that the most influential people throughout her career were Connie Chung and Barbara Walters.

“ At the time when there were no Asian newscasters to emulate locally, I watched Connie Chung and Barbara Walters—my favorite news broadcasters for their professionalism,” said Tomimbang.
Tomimbang also shared that meeting Barbara Walters in New York during the late ’70’s was one of her most memorable moments.

Since making her television debut in 1975, Tomimbang now has her own company EMME, Inc. and show Emme’s Island Moments. Her show tries to cover a range of subjects that really matter to Hawai‘i’s people, like traffic congestion, education, and health care.

“ I hope that my TV show Emme’s Island Moments somehow inspires us to look for the good in people and in this place so we can better “plan” to make our island ideal for tomorrow’s leaders.”





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