I was in Donsol, Sorsogon when I learned on Saturday that a private plane carrying DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo had crashed off the coast of Masbate City. We were two hours by boat from where his plane crashed and for the next two days, I found myself walking by the beach, hoping to see Sec. Robredo awash somewhere near.
I constantly checked on my Twitter feeds expecting to hear some good news, but every time I would learn that the search and rescue operations continue with no positive development, my heart sank in sadness.
On Sunday, as I made my first long walk along the beach, I came up with a small bargain with the universe. If Sec. Robredo showed up, I will cook for him the best Bicol express and we will talk about how it is to serve our fellow Bicolanos.
Before I left for Manila yesterday afternoon, I took another long walk along the beach fervently wishing to see Sec. Robredo this time. The sky was dark and I couldn’t see the islands of Burias and Ticao from afar. With the waves getting rougher and the wind a little stronger, I thought it would be hard to expect for a miracle at this time but I remained hopeful that Sec. Robredo would be saved alive.
I had not really met him, but I have heard of so many good things about the man. When I was still teaching in one of the universities in Legazpi City in 2004, I made sure I kept track of his engagements in Naga City where he was its mayor. I was in need of a Bicolano role model then, having just gone home to Bicol to teach after graduating in UP in 2003.
Not a lot of people understood my decision to come home at such a young age. When I learned that Bicol was one of the poorest regions in the country at that time, I wanted to help in my own little way. Teaching university students, some of whom could barely afford to photocopy the class readings, became my shot at giving back to my community.
And Sec. Robredo became my poster boy. After all, he was 29 when he became mayor of Naga, the youngest elected to such post during his time. His sense of idealism struck me and his unwavering faith on his kababayans was inspiring. Sec. Robredo was an antithesis to the phrase “the youth is wasted on the young,” showing dynamism, integrity, and true leadership can save a dying city.
Because of the man, I had developed high regards for promising young Bicolanos who choose to serve its people even when their dreams can take them around the world. I understand it takes great sacrifice to abandon the wild calling and promises of young age. For some, when a young man chooses to stay and serve the underdeveloped Bicol, that is suicide. This is why I had so much respect for the man. Sec. Robredo stayed while most of us have left Bicol.
Up until today when news about his death came out, I was hoping I could meet him one day and we will talk about how we can help alleviate the living condition in Bicol when I decide to finally come home soon.
We will talk about how he transformed the city of Naga when he became its young mayor and how he had remained so simple and down-to-earth in spite of the many awards he had received through the years.
I would want him to tell me how it is to shun away from dirty politics and that a good, genuine leadership is what a young public servant needs to endear him to his people. More so, I wanted him to assure me that it is possible for a young man to be elected into office even when he lacks the gigantic political machinery, even when all that he has is idealism.
Bicol has produced too many public servants, some of whom we’ve lost to political grandstanding and cruel intentions. Sec. Robredo was not just one of the few good men; he was one of the greatest Bicolano leaders our generation has ever witnessed.
No, we have never lost Sec. Robredo. His true statesmanship will live on forever.
- I was supposed to blog about how my long weekend in Bicol went but the news about the death of DILG Secretary, and fellow Bicolano, Jesse Rebredo got the better of me. I found myself musing about life and death. There are just too many deaths this year – a childhood friend, a UP Baguio colleague, a high school batchmate, a dear friend’s father, and now, Sec. Robredo, one of the Bicolanos I look up to. What does it tell us about life? That it is indeed fleeting. That we should always be grateful. That a life well-lived and well-served will be remembered long after we’re gone. And that we should not delay love. We should not delay love.
- Photograph taken in Donsol in August 2012 with a Canon 550d.
- Our Lady of Penafrancia (ameramor.com)