Manila: The wife of former Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo —who died in a plane crash in Masbate, central Philippines on August 18 — expressed the loss of a good husband and father, a government worker passionate about his work, adding that the people’s show of love for him would be beyond his imagination, but he would be “a little uncomfortable” with the pomp and decorations bestowed on him.
“If we could hear Jess speak, he would say this is too much already,” said lawyer Leni Robredo when she accepted the posthumous Philippine Legion of Honour award from President Benigno Aquino at the last rites for Robredo at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City, southern Luzon on Tuesday.
In Aquino’s eulogy, he called Robredo a man who did his job well without becoming a traditional politician. The Philippine Legion of Honour gave Robredo the rank of a Chief Commander.
Leni received the Philippine flag draped on her husband’s casket, from Aquino, after which a 19-gun salute followed at the final rites for Robredo. A three-volley gun salute accompanied by a sounding of taps was also rendered when his remains were ushered for cremation at the Funeraria Imperial.
All residents of Naga City lined up the streets to watch his hearse pass by. Almost all Filipinos grieved nationwide as they watched the event on TV, that lasted for hours.
“I am sure what people have shown him was beyond his imagination. He was always assured of the love of the people of Naga but it turns out it is not just the people of Naga who love him,” said Leni in an earlier interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
She added, “Whenever he would come home, he would say, ‘Will anything that I have been doing amount to anything? Are my efforts appreciated?’”
She said, “[During his wake and funeral, I silently told him], ‘See, the people have answered [you].”
One time, she texted him about going to church when a hearing of his confirmation by the Commission on Appointment was scheduled, he texted back and said, “Don’t pray for that any more. It’s okay if I am no longer confirmed. Just pray for the midterms of your daughter.”
“I’m just speculating, but maybe that is no longer that important for him. What was more important to him was that he did his job well. [I think] that not being confirmed was no longer a big thing with him [at the time],” Leni said.
Talking about how to keep Robredo’s legacy in governance alive, she vowed to “keep his memory alive” and confessed she could not continue his legacy “because I could not do what he had done”.
Her wish-list included: “Whoever will take his place would continue what he has begun. And hopefully the seeds he had planted in local government units would grow. If that does not happen, it’s as if the labour that my husband had done have gone to waste.”
Talking about him as a husband and father, she said, “Jess was a regular husband, a regular father. He was not a Secretary, not a mayor if he was home. He wanted to feel important to us.”
“When he would come home on weekends and the busted light and plumbing, and the out-of-order telephone waited for him. He wanted to feel like a regular dad, a regular husband. Whatever it was that needed to be done had to wait for him. It might have been unnecessary to bother him with these trivial things, but it made him feel important. He was always doing something for the family,” Leni said, adding, “ Whenever I said, ‘Thank you,’ he would say, ‘Least I can do, Ma.’”
“He [also] said one of the reasons why he wanted to come home every weekend was he felt grounded here [in Naga City],” Leni said.
“When people asked him, ‘Why do you keep coming back home?’ he would tell them, ‘If I don’t come home, I would lose my head in Manila,’” she recalled, adding, “He would tell me, ‘It’s difficult to get used to certain things,’ referring to perks in the office. He would tell me, ‘It’s difficult to get used to those things because you might get used to them.’”
A week before he died in a plane crash, she recalled, “He told me that Sunday, ‘I have reached my quota [of dreams come true].’ He said he no longer had any dreams for himself — just for his children. He was saying his cup was overflowing, that what he had received was too much.”
“I think he was prepared to face the Lord. He often went to Confession, two or three times in a month. His kind of death was perhaps a reward for the good things he had done,” she philosophically said, but added, “What happened was tragic for us because we were not prepared for it.”
Painting a picture of a simple man, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said, “After 18 years as mayor of Naga City, Sec. Jesse would still take public transport coming to Manila or returning to Naga and travelling within Metro Manila. This is the quality of public service that Sec. Jesse displayed.”
“Secretary Robredo has time for everybody. He could take breakfast in Manila, lunch in Cebu and dinner in Naga. He was there for you. He was there for everyone,” Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose said in his homily.
“I couldn’t believe he would risk his own life to make sure the poor were safe [during typhoons]. I found out later it was something he did every time there was a typhoon,” the priest said in his homily.
“A grateful nation is forever indebted to him,” was spokesman Edwin Lacierda’s final goodbye to Robredo.