There are already countless articles on Jesse Robredo, especially in the past two years since his untimely demise. I myself have contributed a few of those stories, commending the late Interior and Local Government secretary on his achievements and his oft-praised character that is badly wanted in Philippine politics.
Which is why I am struggling to write another one. What more can I say that has not already been said by those who grieved two years ago? What stories can I share that showed a part of Robredo that many others have not also experienced?
I was privileged to have known him for 4 short years, though the extent of our working relationship did not involve daily face-to-face encounters. And in the last two years of his life, I very rarely had the chance to talk to him after he was appointed secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. My stories and experiences with him are not gut-wrenching, heartstring-pulling, or soul-searching.
But when I got the text that his body had been found, I felt my gut wrench. When I saw his widow Leni Robredo on television, I felt a tug on my heartstrings. When I saw the millions who mourned for someone whom they had little or no encounter with, it prompted me to reflect on how I’ve been using my God-given talents and whether or not I’d leave this world better than when I was in it.
It is difficult writing about Jesse Robredo because throughout his life, he has shown us that words, although powerful and necessary to effect change, are not sufficient if we are to achieve genuine change. Many words have been said on and about Robredo; what we do with those words will determine if Robredo’s legacy will live on.
It is difficult writing about Jesse Robredo because no matter how many times we write about him, we would not be able to fully capture who he was as a person. In writing about his accomplishments, we are only able to see his capabilities as a government official. In writing about his family, we are only able to have a glimpse at how he prioritized his wife and daughters. There will always be something we will never fully grasp—we may know the “what's” and the “how's,” but we will not know the “why’s.”
Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. Robredo’s “why’s,” after all, are his, and each of us have our own. There will never be another Jesse Robredo, but there will be people who will learn from his life and live out different parts of him. We cannot transform ourselves into Jesse Robredo clones, but we can use what we have learned to transform our own communities the way Robredo has transformed Naga City.
Yes, writing about Jesse Robredo is difficult, but it is only half as difficult as embodying his best traits and characteristics and translating it into our own individual lives. Whenever we pause to read about Robredo and all that he has done, may it urge us to step away from our computers, set aside our cellphones, and find that thing in us that will make us as great as the man that our nation mourned for two years ago.
Jesse Robredo found it and used it to fulfill his purpose on earth. Because of his example, I expect from myself nothing less than to serve others as humbly and excellently as he did. I expect this from myself, and from the multitudes who have been inspired by him to be both “matino at mahusay.” This is a far more difficult task than to write about it, but one that I gladly accept, if only to express my gratitude to the man who made me believe in a better Philippines.
Salamat po, Sec. Jesse.
The author is currently the Executive Director of the Excel Center for Educational Leadership (ExCEL) and co-founded the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership with the late Sec. Jesse Robredo in 2008.