REMEMBERING JESSIE ROBREDO: AT BATASAN COMPLEX, A NEOPHYTE LAWMAKER DRESSED IN BLACK



Leni Robredo: I will never get over with Jesse's death

MANILA, AUGUST 19, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Louis Bacani - Inside Room 205 of the North Wing building at the Batasan Complex is a neophyte lawmaker who has always been dressed in black for about a year now.

She arrives at this office as early as 8 a.m. to start the legislative work. Later in the day, she would attend House sessions and committee hearings. Sometimes, she would also grace events or receive guests.

Having no prior experience as a lawmaker, she admits of already feeling the enormity of her new profession. "Parang ang pakiramdam ko, sobrang dami ng trabaho ko," she said while looking at the paperwork piled up on a nearby table.

Just a year ago, Leni Robredo was outside the halls of Congress. She was a practicing lawyer, an NGO member, and a mother to her children. But perhaps, she was just particularly known then as the wife of an official who championed good governance.

And then the great tragedy befell her family, which completely changed their lives.

It was the afternoon of August 18, 2012. Leni was supposed to welcome her husband Jesse at the Naga City Airport when she received text messages from him saying the plane needs to go back to Cebu. Jesse also said he was just "taking care of something" and promised to call later.

But he never did.

Several minutes passed and Jesse's chief security officer was the one who called Leni. He said the plane carrying his boss needed an emergency landing at the Masbate airport. After the phone call, sightings of a plane crash near the said island were reported. Leni then realized that something happened to her husband.

"When I took down the phone, parang nanlumo ako. It dawned on me," she said. "Kapag pinagkabit-kabit mo, sila na nga 'yon."

The Piper Seneca plane carrying the then interior and local government secretary crashed off the shore of Masbate. The nation was stunned; the highly esteemed official was nowhere to be found. After a few days of search and rescue operations, Jesse's body was retrieved hundreds of meters from the coast and nearly two hundred feet below sea level.

"Noong hindi pa siya nahahanap, I knew that he won't survive," Leni said.

Government officials and ordinary citizens mourned. Numerous tributes were offered to Jesse as his wife tried to become resilient. "It was very necessary to hold the emotions. I was only doing it for the children. That was where I was drawing my strength from," Leni said.

Her family was overwhelmed by the enormity of public support and sympathy, which she said had suspended their sadness. "It was a bomb to the grief," she said.

Big changes happened very abruptly in the family from then on. Public grief turned to clamor that urged Leni to run for office and defeat a political dynasty. Several months later, she was elected as a legislator of Camarines Sur.

Today, Leni Robredo fills in the void left by her husband in public service. A widow to an honored official, the nation has high hopes and expectations that she would live up to the image of Jesse.

"A lot of people are pinning their hopes on me," Leni explained. "It's a reality I have to deal with. I anticipate that if I don't perform at par with my husband, a lot of people will be discouraged and lose their trust."

But also today, Leni feels the sorrow inside more than ever.

"I am now allowing myself some emotions. Mas ramdam ngayon," she confessed. "Akala ko 'pag tumatagal, parang nasasanay ka. Hindi pala."

She promised to herself that she will not wear any color other than black for an entire year. "For me, wearing black is like assuring myself that he is still here."

Leni recalled that her husband had been “a strong presence” in the family despite him being a government official. “He was a very regular husband, he was a very regular father. He spent a lot of time at home," she said when asked what she misses the most about Jesse.

Leni is unsure if she will be able to completely move on from the tragedy as she is still learning on how to deal with the loss. "It's there everyday. The reality that death is so final is there," she lamented.

"I don't know if I will ever reach the stage when I can say that I'm completely okay with it, that completely, I am moving on," she admitted.

But what's keeping her move forward, she said, is the obligation at hand.

"I will be doing his memory a big favor if I do well. It is expected that I will continue his legacy," she said. "So even if I'm feeling the pain, what keeps me moving is the reality - the responsibility that was left to me."

On the occasion of the first anniversary of her husband's untimely demise, Leni will visit the site off Masbate where Jesse's ill-fated plane crashed. And after August 18, she will return to Room 205 of the North Wing building at the Batasan Complex.

But this time, Leni said she can wear other colors already.

Simply like Jesse: Leni Robredo still takes public bus to Naga

By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated August 17, 2013 - 9:00am 40 2273 googleplus5 6

Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Leni Robredo tries to fulfill her duties as a mother despite her hectic schedule as a lawmaker.


Photo from Tricia Robredo's Twitter account

MANILA, Philippines - After the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo met his untimely death last year, big things have happened to his family like the election of his wife Leni to Congress.

But some things never change.

Leni Robredo, the Third District Representative of Camarines Sur, said their lifestyle remains the same, despite her being a lawmaker now.

"It's crucial for a public official to remain the person that you were before you started," she told Philstar.com

"Everyday, I have to remind myself: one of the reasons why my husband was revered and honored was the fact that even after long years in government, he was able to maintain [such simple lifestyle]."

Robredo said they are still living in their same house in Naga City and in the same small condo unit of his husband's mother in Manila.

The neophyte lawmaker still also takes a public bus to Naga City whenever they go home there during weekends.

But other passengers are not shocked, she said, since seeing the Robredos taking a public bus is "very ordinary" to the people of Naga.

"Kahit nung buhay pa 'yung asawa ko, sanay silang nakikita kaming naka-bus. Hindi 'yun novelty sa kanila. Walang nagugulat 'pag kasakay nila kami sa bus kasi we do that all the time," Robredo said.

Still a mom, but difficult

And despite her hectic schedule as a public servant, Robredo also wants to remain unchanged as a mother as she tries to fulfill her duties to her three children. But she admits of having difficulties in juggling her work and family role.

Robredo said she often brings some work at home while trying to address the needs of the family. The lawmaker said she still helps her kids in their homework.

"It is something that I need to get used to... It will take time before I learn to juggle everything," she said.

Robredo admitted that she is unlike her husband, whom she said was good in "compartmentalizing his life" despite of the enormity of his work as a Cabinet official.

The lawmaker said she can't perform like her husband who was still able to give a hundred percent attention to the family at home.

"Mas busy siya sa akin (as Cabinet secretary), but you hear stories that he has time for all," Robredo said. "Ako nga distrito ko lang inaasikaso ko, hirap na hirap na ako. Pero siya yung inspirasyon ko."

"I appreciate my husband more," she said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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