Leni: "Jesse you're home now"

President Aquino presents to Leni Robredo the insignia of the Philippine Legion of Honor with the rank of Chief Commander conferred to her husband. (From Philstar.com)

MANILA, Philippines (Aug 29, 2012) - The widow of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo yesterday thanked her husband for sharing his life with her, their daughters and people in need during the televised funeral ceremony viewed by a grieving nation.

“You are home now. You are back where you truly belong. Rest well. We will love you forever. I will not say goodbye because I know you will never leave us and will always be in our midst,” lawyer Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo said during the last part of her 20-minute eulogy for her husband.

Robredo was laid to rest yesterday after an elaborate funeral ceremony at the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia in Naga City.

“Jesse, thank you for the gift of your life. How lucky we are that you shared your life with us. We are truly blessed to have been loved by you. As Tricia said it, you may have been prepared to die, but we were not ready to lose you,” she added.

Before her eulogy, Leni accepted from President Aquino the Legion of Honor award, a reflection of the nation’s appreciation for her husband’s dedication to public service.

“If Jess were here with us today, I know he would shy away from excessive praise. He might find all the fuss, pomp and pageantry a little uncomfortable,” she said. “But Jesse, just this one time, allow us to celebrate your life in the way we think you should be honored,” she added.

Although she remained composed, Leni admitted the family’s immeasurable grief since the plane carrying her husband crashed last Aug. 18 in Masbate.

“We are devastated by your loss, but even if we are grieving, we continue to live because your spirit lives in us,” she said, vowing to make sure that her husband’s dreams for their children will be fulfilled.

The widow reiterated her statement when she first met the media that she believed her husband’s cup was indeed overflowing.

Although Robredo had doubts if his efforts as interior and local government secretary were appreciated, Leni said the immensity of the public response to his death and the collective grief being displayed gave “us comfort that his effort made their mark.”

“We did not expect this kind of reaction, I am sure Jesse did not expect this either,” said Leni, who admitted to being surprised to see a big burly man crying over his death.

When the funeral cortege passed by the streets of Naga and Manila, Leni pointed out that there were more cheers than tears as people related how Jesse touched their lives.

She thanked President Aquino and other members of his Cabinet for staying with them during those trying times.

She said she was also grateful for the search and rescue team, the local government officials of Masbate and Naga City.

“You pushed yourselves beyond your limits of your physical and mental capabilities to rescue him.”

Leni noted that her husband’s death was “unexpected... but I believe for Jess it was not tragic and he was not taken before his time.”

“He was never fearful of his life. He was always ready to face his Creator, if it’s your time, you can’t do anything. Maybe for him it was the perfect end to a life well lived,” she said.

Last tribute

At past noon, Robredo’s casket draped with a Philippine flag was taken out of the Basilica and loaded onto a six-wheeler truck adorned with white and yellow flowers. Accompanied by almost all the Cabinet members, President Aquino escorted Leni and her daughters in the funeral procession to the cremation area.

Before Robredo’s remains were taken to the crematory, a final and solemn military honor was rendered, after which the President handed the folded Philippine flag to Robredo’s widow.

Sirens of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) were sounded to signify the final salute to their fallen boss.

Police estimated the crowd that participated in the burial rites at between 20,000 to 50,000. Those on the streets alone were placed around 8,000 to 10,000.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. signed Proclamation 461 making yesterday a special non-working day in Naga City to give the people the opportunity to honor and show their respect for their late mayor.

Robredo served as mayor of Naga City from 1988 until he was appointed Department of the Interior and Local Government chief in 2010.

During his term, he transformed Naga to a first class city.


In his eulogy, Aquino described Robredo as a “trailblazer in treading the straight path” and someone who lived a simple but meaningful life as a public servant.

The President said he was confident that with the tributes and love that the people showed Robredo, a generation of Filipinos would be inspired to serve in his name and by his example.

“In the second letter of Paul to Timothy, chapter 4, verses 6 to 7: ‘For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ This perfectly fits Jesse; he’s a ‘mission accomplished’ in this world,” Aquino said.

The President said it was just right for the late interior secretary to reap the rewards of a good and complete life in the arms of God.

“So let’s not cry anymore. Instead, let us be thankful. In the short period that he was here on earth, we were blessed to be with Jesse Manalastas Robredo,” Aquino said.

He said it was sad that his colleague, friend and “brother” would no longer be around to share their days of retirement from public service and still enjoy eating and singing together.

Aquino added that it was unfortunate that Robredo’s daughters would no longer have their father to screen their suitors or see their children and that it would not be easy to accept that he was gone.

The President conceded Robredo would have been apologetic and uncomfortable for the time and attention given to him.

Robredo’s legacy

As a person, Aquino said Robredo was just the same as a leader – a model for being simple, truthful and always ready to sacrifice for the people.

He said Robredo knew his capabilities and limitations – even in singing.

“He would have the biggest smile on stage. He would laugh and laugh,” Aquino said.

On Saturday during his wake at the Kalayaan Hall of the Malacañang, Cabinet members sang Robredo’s favorite songs – “My Way” and “Impossible Dream” – that embodied his beliefs.

“He never got contented with the status quo. He proved that in Naga, change was possible. It’s possible to win over a prevalent system, it’s possible to defeat officials who had long been in power and used the position for selfish interests,” Aquino said.

The President said it had not been easy for Robredo, especially when he was just starting, since he hoped for sweeping changes to occur in his city.

Aquino said dreams would have to go with a lot of practical considerations but Robredo chose to veer away from the usual formula in politics.

He said the people close to Robredo knew this and that the late secretary experienced political persecution with the citizenship case, among others, filed against him.

The President told Leni and her children that it was quite embarrassing that they were the ones giving strength to them at this time of grief.

Aquino praised Robredo for being a family man, always wanting to be with family and begging off from gatherings when it would conflict with his time at home in Naga City.

More tributes

Local government officials all over the country also paid their last tribute to the departed interior secretary.

Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali Jr., president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP), said Robredo was a “straight, dedicated, hardworking and objective” public servant who lived and led by example.

He said Robredo set the highest standards of public service that are so important to transparent and effective local government.

Palawan Gov. Abraham Kahlil Mitra remembered Robredo’s leadership by example.

Umali led a group of governors at the funeral service, among them ULAP-LPP national chairman Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singon, LPP secretary general Gov. Josephine Sato, and Govs. Jericho Petilla, Jocel Baac, Adolph Edward Plaza, Migs Dominguez, Edgardo Tallado, Toto Mangudadatu, Faustino Dy III and Damian Mercado.

“He gave all local officials strength and inspiration,” Umali said, adding that Robredo’s support for LGU programs was overwhelming, especially with regard to the millennium development goals.

Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia said Robredo had implemented a lot of reforms in the DILG that benefited the local government units.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon, on the other hand, endorsed Leni to run for senator in 2013 to continue the advocacy and the governance that her husband had implemented.

In a necrological Mass for the late Cabinet secretary at the San Sebastian Cathedral in Bacolod, Marañon urged his provincemates to let their collective voices be heard in Manila that Leni replace her husband in governance.

The governor said this is what the Filipino people must do to repay Robredo for his sacrifices and love of country.

“It is my personal conviction that she continue what her husband had started. And I’m very sure she will make a good senator,” Marañon added. (Philstar.com)