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’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.”