Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Memoriam: Jesse M. Robredo (An Essay)

In commemoration of the first death anniversary of the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, I am posting this essay which my former student wrote with my assistance.

Jesse and Jose: The Tale of Slippers 

(Chryz Angelo Jonathan Bagsic) 

At a young age of fifteen, there are two important lessons, which I know would help me in my whole life of existence. What is ironic is that the two J’s whose lives were intertwined by slippers exemplified them. Jesse and Jose- their tale of slippers.

My mom, like the mother of Jose Rizal believes that parents must teach the first lessons in life. She planted in me the value of selfless sacrifice thru the inspiring story of young Pepe on the boat. Mom shared how the national hero, after losing one of his slippers, was said to have thrown his remaining slipper with the hope that somebody might find both slippers and be able to use it. Unknowingly, her story told with much ardor taught me that we could detach ourselves from useless material things. That seed of rectitude planted at the age of six would haunt me when I finally reached high school.

It was during my Journalism class in high school that the second important lesson was embedded in my heart. It was that of “Jesse”. My teacher who is a native of Naga City asked our help to gather votes for a man introduced to us as, Sec. Jesse M. Robredo, the then acting secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government. He was one of the finalists in the World Mayor Contest joining other leaders from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, Mexico, and other European countries. My teacher’s accolades about her former mayor somehow amused us. After all, in the world defined by materialism and power of the politics, who would believe that the mayor of a first class city would attend government functions in shorts and slippers and walked along the streets devoid of armed men to protect him?

Though my stubborn mind refused to accept the veracity of what she was saying, the tale of young Pepe on the boat reminded me of the secretary. In the deep recesses of my mind, I was hoping that my teacher’s story was true and it was not only told because of over loyalty to her native land. When my teacher added though that when she was still in Naga City, Sec. Jesse would be the last person to go home during typhoons and the first to go out of the house after the storms wreaked havoc to the city, doubts lingered. I was a young person whose idealism was trampled by endless controversies on corruption and dirty traditional politics. Unbeknownst to both of us, she was instilling in me through the secretary’s kind words and deeds the value of simplicity and honest service. 

I have finally forgotten my teacher’s story or so I thought when most of my times were eaten by academic demands and pressure of coping up with different extra- curricular activities. Until that one fateful day when the country was shaken by the news, which captivated not only the Philippines but also other countries as well.

Tears, wails, grief’s, and unfathomable pains embraced the Filipinos with the news about the plane that crashed in the vast ocean of the province of Masbate. The secretary’s fate turned into upheaval with his sudden death. Surprisingly, I was one of those strangers who cried with his death. Little by little, while the search and rescue teams were scouring the colossal waters and islands of Masbate, all the amazing deeds of the secretary were dramatically unfolded. I have never shed that much tears in my whole life.

I cried with the loss of his children and wife. Their pain might be agonizing, thinking of his love and devotion for them. I cried with the people of Naga City, whose loving hands transformed the sleeping city into a multi- awarded first class city. I cried for the country, losing him was like an end to the long fight against dark tunnel of corruption and thievery in the country. I cried for myself. I felt like I was robbed of a good future. Who would continue his fight for good governance? I was angry and filled with desolation. Then I was reminded of the stories of my teacher about the good mayor of Naga City. I cried more and wept for losing one good man from the government.

It was the shadow of misery that brought me back into contemplation of the story told by my mother. Young Pepe and his slippers. If Jose Rizal is alive today, he must have felt so proud to write about a man of integrity. Jose once exemplified that, “The example could encourage others who only fear to start.” Jesse undeniably set an example which is slowly encouraging people to start the quest for good governance.

Paradoxically, the more than century old Jose must have felt amused that just like him, Sec. Jesse received part of his education in other country but opted to come back to the Philippines to continue his service to his fellow Filipinos. The path trekked by Jose is the same path trodden by Jesse. Only slippers intertwined their lives but both hearts were embraced by ardent love and commitment for the country.

The country has been cloaked with dark colonial mentality, greed of power, and helplessness of the dirty hands that once fed the foreign invaders of the country. Despite of this, Jose Rizal fought for sovereignty while Jesse Robredo fought for good governance. The former said, “Filipinos don’t realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is a product of sacrifice.” While the latter explicated, “The most important ingredient of leadership is character. Most of the proficiencies can be learned, but what’s inside you is something that is difficult to change.”

For many years, the country has been embraced with shadow of uncertainties. Probably, majority of the Filipinos has given up that change would eventually bring progress and hope to the country. With everyday news about wars, poverty, and countless plagues that haunt the country, Jose with his death showed that change could be achieved. While Jesse, fought a different battle to free the country from the shadow of doubt in administering the government.

More than one hundred years ago, Jose Rizal freed the country from the oppression of foreign hands. With his words, he bravely fought the Spaniards against their tyranny. This caused him his death but just like what he said, “One only dies once, and if one does not die well, a good opportunity is lost and will not present itself again.” On the other hand, Jesse Robredo continued to fight the same battle that Jose Rizal fought. Jesse’s fight however, was not against the enemies with foreign hands but with the people in power subjugating the ordinary citizens. He championed good governance and in doing so represented the poor and the oppressed. He “walked the talk” as elucidated by all his accomplishments.

Amidst the turmoil that brings confusion and wretchedness to the country today, Rizal clearly elucidated what he would have considered as the main obstacle to the country’s progress when he said, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.” Unless the country acknowledges the contributions of the past, we will never be able to move on toward the progress that we are all hoping for. Jesse however showed that he learned from the lesson of the past with the way he lived his life.

Two different lives. Two different eras. Two different persons. Each with unique achievements but very much alike with their wisdom, character, belief and aspirations for the country. Two lives whose experiences and legacies formed my values at a young age. 

In deeper retrospect, Jose and Jesse’s similarity did not end with the tale of slippers. Theirs were intertwined with the way people celebrated their lives and accomplishments and mourned their deaths. My life on the other hand has just started. The way I will live it would be defined if I can be a Jesse and Jose in my own way by letting the seeds of values planted in me grow into a beautiful tree of hope and sacrifice. Then, the shadow of doubt as to the country’s future would vanish completely. Perhaps the tale of slippers would one day continue. My slippers would one day find the light illuminating hope and love for our motherland. Then, I could follow the shadow of hope of Jesse and Jose.


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