[PHOTO -Photo from President Aquino’s official Facebook account]

MANILA, AUGUST 30, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Totel de Jesus - Accepting the posthumous Philippine Legion of Honor award in her husband’s behalf, the wife of Secretary Jesse Robredo on Tuesday said the entire family was honored though the pomp and pageantry would make “Jesse a little uncomfortable.”

“If we could hear Jess speak, sasabihin nya sobra sobra na ’to (this is too much already),” said lawyer Leni Robredo in her acceptance speech after the concelebrated funeral Mass that was broadcast live on television late morning at Naga City.

She thanked members of the Cabinet who were with Robredo until the end, naming Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Cavite Representative Joseph Abaya.

She also cited Social Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang and Peace Process Adviser Teresita “Ding” Deles for helping the family in organizing the burial rites.

Hands-on father

Recounting some of their happy moments, Leni said Robredo was always there for their three daughters despite his busy schedule.

“He would drop everything for the girls,” said Leni. She recounted how Robredo would badger Secretary Roxas for tickets at the UAAP basketball games whenever the Ateneo team played to give to their eldest, 23-year-old Aika, a student of Ateneo de Manila University.

She said her husband would ask her to pray before the Blessed Sacrament whenever their second child, 18-year-old Patricia, had an exam. Robredo would also tutor her on her math assignments their youngest, 13-year-old Jillian, by telephone.

“He was never too busy for all of us,” she said. Aika and Patricia live with Robredo in Manila while Jillian lives in Naga City with Leni.

She said Robredo would send her text messages only to inform her they had just finished eating dinner and his evening ritual would follow.

“The ritual means signing documents he had brought home.”

She said when he was still mayor of Naga City, he never made the children feel a sense of entitlement. “In the end, what’s best is leaving a good name,” she said.

Dreams fulfilled

She said Robredo’s dream for himself was simple and that he never dreamt of becoming Interior and Local Government secretary.

“He told me, ‘quoting quota na ako (I’ve reached my quota).’ His cup was overflowing,” she said.

During the tragic day of his death, Leni said she told Robredo to take the bus to Naga instead and not hurry home. But Robredo took a plane to be with them at once. “That was Jess to the very core, always working so hard, always rushing home to be with his family.”

When he knew that death was certain, she said in his calm voice, Robredo was able to call her only to tell her he’ll call again later because he had to attend to something important. The next call never came.

“He would always shield me from fear,” she said.

Addressing Robredo’s casket, she said, “You may have been prepared to die, we are not prepared to lose you.”

President Aquino in his eulogy said what Robredo had shown as a trailblazer was that being successful in politics doesn’t mean being a ‘trapo’ (traditional politician).

Aquino paid tribute to Robredo as a leader who got things done while rising above the corruption that infests Philippine politics.

“All of Naga feel like they have lost a father,” he said, wearing a black arm band as a sign of mourning.

Aquino’s entire cabinet attended the funeral of a colleague whom they had hailed as perhaps the most hard working among them.

They stood beside Robredo’s grieving widow and three daughters as police and military honour guards in crisp blue and green uniforms carried the coffin.

[PHOTO -PRESIDENTIAL SALUTE President Aquino bows before the casket of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo at Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia in Naga City on Tuesday. The President said Robredo was “already in the ranks of heroes watching over us from heaven, and he is giving us the strength to continue with their good deeds.” LYN RILLON]

As the mournful bugle music “Taps” played, Aquino handed the Philippine flag that draped Robredo’s coffin to his widow.

A three-volley salute by 21 military riflemen followed, before the coffin was wheeled inside the crematorium for a private ceremony reserved for family members.

Robredo, 54, was on his way home to Naga aboard a twin-engine airplane when it encountered engine trouble and plunged into the deep sea in the central Philippines on August 18.

After a three-day search, divers pulled Robredo’s remains from the wreck on the seabed. The pilot and his co-pilot also died, while Robredo’s security aide survived.

Aquino appointed Robredo shortly after he won the presidency in 2010 on a platform to end corruption.

Robredo was widely praised for leading reforms in the country’s 143,000-strong corruption-plagued police force and seeking to implement a policy of transparency in government.

His political star rose in 2000 when he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for good governance. The well-respected award recognises achievers annually across the region. With a report from Agence France-Presse Originally posted at 2:02 p.m.

Funeral celebrates Jesse Robredo By Jonas Cabiles Soltes, Juan Escandor Jr., Michael Lim Ubac Inquirer Southern Luzon, Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:15 am | Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Aquino: Let us stop weeping, let’s say thank you

[END OF STATE FUNERAL RITES, THE HERO BEGINS President Aquino along with Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, wife of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, and daughters Aika, Tricia and Jillian, stand by the casket at the entrance of the Imperial Crematory and Columbary in Naga City on Tuesday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU]

NAGA CITY—Eulogizing Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo on the final day of national mourning before his interment here on Tuesday, President Aquino said that the secretary had joined the pantheon of national heroes looking after his countrymen.

“Jesse is already in the ranks of heroes watching over us from heaven, and he is giving us the strength to continue with their good deeds. So let us stop weeping; instead, let us give thanks,” the President said in a speech delivered in Filipino that elicited repeated applause from the crowd at Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, where the concelebrated requiem Mass was held.

“For the brief time that he was here in this world, we were the ones blessed to be in the company of Jesse Manalastas Robredo,” said Mr. Aquino, who wore a black arm band as a sign of mourning.

“Goodbye, Jesse. In behalf of the nation, thank you very much,” the President concluded.

The funeral rites came 10 days after Robredo, 54, and the two pilots of a Piper Seneca died in a plane crash at sea in Masbate.

[PHOTO -Leni Robredo (left) holds the urn of her husband, former DILG secretary Jesse Robredo at the Eternal Gardens in Naga City yesterday. EDD GUMBAN]

In his eulogy, Mr. Aquino summed up the gravity of Robredo’s death. “His family lost a husband and father; the nation lost a trustworthy and efficient leader; I lost a brother in the official family of the Cabinet who was an ally in our crusades, and a party mate. I lost a good friend,” he said.

Robredo had served for 19 years as mayor of this city before joining the Aquino administration in 2010.

‘Tsinelas people’

Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose, Jamaican-based of the Missionaries of the Poor, who officiated the funeral Mass, declared Robredo a champion of the “tsinelas people,” referring to the poor, the abandoned, homeless, and neglected whom many considered a “burden” on society.

Ambrose, a Jamaican missionary, was personally asked by Robredo’s widow, lawyer Maria Leonor “Leni,” to officiate the requiem Mass.

The priest said that Robredo had proven that the “Filipino is worth dying for,” borrowing the famous line of the President’s father, slain Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.

“I am humble and honored to do this to a friend, a great man and a friend of the poor,” said the priest, who vowed to establish a free clinic for the poor “in his honor.”

Describing Robredo as a family man, a “man of the poor,” and a “God-fearing man,” Ambrose lamented that his wards would surely miss Robredo. “He was their father; they are his children,” said Ambrose.

“He was there even when we did not need him. You may call it a tsinelas friendship.”

Crowd like ‘Ina’ feast

The throng of mourners was so huge that more than a hectare grounds of the basilica and Magsaysay and Peñafrancia Avenues filled with people, which only happens during the annual September processions of the image of the Virgin Mary, to whom Robredo was a devoted.

Two Marian processions are held every third Friday and Saturday of September in Naga City—the Traslacion on Friday and the fluvial procession the following day.

But on the interment of Robredo, all three recognizable landmarks of this city were filled with men and women in yellow, who also wore tsinelas or rubber slippers as tribute to the simplicity of Robredo.

Thousands of Camarines Sur residents converged in Naga, mindless of the searing heat.


The size of the crowd on the streets was comparable to the crowd that would gather every “traslacion” or fluvial procession.

Some of the men donned the trimmings of the “voyadores,” or men who carry the Virgin Mary during the processions. They wear yellow headbands. Voyadores also wear headbands of different colors from red to blue during the Peñafrancia fiesta.

But unlike the voyadores who walk barefoot, most of the men wore slippers.

It was different, too, from the traslacion and the fluvial procession since many women came. Women are not allowed to join the main procession every September and can only trail the men.

Lea Marcelo, a teacher from Pili, Camarines Sur, who lined up with thousands of people as the bier of the late secretary was moving out of the compound of the basilica, was among those who described the funeral as “phenomenal one fit for a hero.”

“This is a manifestation of the greatest love for our secretary,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer as the cortege moved in slow cadence and the gun salute boomed.

“We can’t help but shed tears, yet only God knows the reason for the loss of a hero,” Marcelo said.

As Robredo’s bier mounted on an open truck decked with white and yellow flowers passed by, people waved to show they were saying goodbye to a well-loved son of Naga City. They shouted, “Pogi, pogi, pogi.”

Legion of Honor

[PHOTO -President Aquino presents to Leni Robredo the insignia of the Philippine Legion of Honor with the rank of Chief Commander conferred to her husband. EDD GUMBAN]

Before the eulogy, the President conferred posthumously the Philippine Legion of Honor, with the rank of Chief Commander, on Robredo.

It was the President’s penultimate act before he handed Robredo’s widow the flag which, for many mourners here, has come to symbolize the country’s undying gratitude to a fallen son of Bicol who had devoted his life to God and country.

The future

The President talked about a future when he and members of his Cabinet would meet and discuss what they went through during their incumbency.

“Jesse will not be with us during those conversations. We won’t be teasing Jesse about how he would size up his daughter’s suitors, and in the coming years, he won’t be around to play with his grandchildren,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said many in the Cabinet had hoped that Robredo would still show up and say, “Forgive me, you were all inconvenienced by my delayed arrival.”

Simple living

He made public what could probably be Robredo’s private personality—the “what you see is what you get” attitude; his quiet but hardworking work ethic; simple living; and proximity to the masses.

Mr. Aquino also joked about Robredo’s singing “limitations,” although two of his favorite songs were “My Way” and “Impossible Dream.”

“Jesse is a trailblazer in the ‘straight path,’” the President said.

“He proved that someone could succeed in politics without becoming a traditional politician,” and that early in his political career, “he longed for deep and widespread change,” Mr. Aquino said.

Cabinet pallbearers

By virtue of a presidential edict, Robredo was accorded full military honors befitting a head of state when he was finally laid to rest here.

The funeral and interment arrangements prepared by the Palace Committee on Funeral Arrangements and Burial were followed religiously.

After the President’s eulogy, the honor guard carried Robredo’s flag-draped casket and put it on a bier.

Secretaries Leila de Lima, Rogelio Singson, Rene Almendras, Edwin Lacierda and Teresita Deles; Metropolitan Manila Development Chairman Francis Tolentino and Lualhati Antonino, the chair of the Mindanao Development Authority, served as pallbearers.

The police and military detail rendered for the last time departure honors, including a 19-gun salute, before the funeral cortege proceeded to Funeraria Imperial Crematory and Columbary, some 700 meters away from the basilica.

All Cabinet members

[PHOTO - President Benigno Aquino III and Leni Robredo along with her three daughters watch as the coffin bearing the remains of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo is carried out from the Basilica of the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia on Tuesday to the Naga City crematorium. Andrew Pamorada]

The President, Robredo’s immediate family—Leni, Aika, Patricia and Jillian—close relatives and friends, and all members of the Cabinet followed the bier on foot.

The cortege reached the crematory at 1:03 p.m., when the military detail rendered the final honors for Robredo and a three-volley gun salute accompanied by a sounding of Taps.

For the last time, the crowd applauded Robredo before the casket bearers removed and folded the flag. It was handed to the President, who then presented it to Robredo’s wife at 1:24 p.m.

National Days of Mourning

This ended the state funeral, which began on August 21, when the President signed Proclamation No. 460 proclaiming National Days of Mourning until interment.

Later Tuesday, Robredo’s ashes would be interred in a plot in the Eternal Gardens beside the funeral home in a ceremony exclusive to the family and close friends of Robredo.

National figure

In a span of just seven years, Robredo was the second national figure from this region to be mourned by Bicolanos.

Robredo was a close ally of the late Sen. Raul Roco—also one of the region’s most beloved sons—who died in August 2005, after a long bout with prostate cancer.

Robredo walked alongside Roco’s hearse during the funeral procession attended by some 50,000 people.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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