What happened to all the good men?

After such a long time, we finally have a long weekend holiday. And for someone who’s working, long holidays are a much welcome respite even if admittedly, we would have to do some work during the time period. Yet I still welcome the pressure-free & stress-free 4 days.

Yet what should have been a blissful holiday has turned into a tension-filled waiting game for Naga City – and the whole nation for that matter. Saturday afternoon, I received a text from a friend that DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo’s plane crashed in the waters of Masbate. I checked the news and true enough, it really happened. Then the waiting game began.

It was horrendous. This game of not knowing what would happen next. After that fateful crash, came rescue efforts and news casts clamor to be the first to report what was happening. There was even a false alarm that he was found which many believed. But after checking with close sources to the family, I knew that the worst was not yet over.

I am not here to talk about what the public already knows. Every second, social media updates us on how the rescue efforts are coming along. It’s all that the news contain now – the President is personally leading the rescue efforts – what could be more newsworthy than that? Even the typhoon threatening the northern provinces receive much less airtime than what is happening now at Masbate, at the Robredo’s residence and at prayer vigils in ┬áManila.

Rather, I am here to narrate how kind a man Robredo was is. (I refuse to talk to him in the past tense.) I am in the same batch as his eldest child, Aika. She became my classmate back in Grade 4 and for a time being, when the entire family went to the US, she became my close friend through letters we constantly sent each other. It was there I caught a glimpse of the humble life they lead.

Yes, they were part of the high society of Naga City – I guess all politicians in high places are. But never did they make anyone feel like they were elite and you were beneath them. They embodied the true meaning of public servant – someone who serves the public first and put them above themselves.

My mom tells me that when she arrived in Naga it was a very sleepy town. It was a far cry from the city it is now – and indeed I recall how backwards it was back then. But under Robredo’s guidance and leadership, it bloomed to the city it is now. It now has so much potential that I was encouraged to go back and live here; starting my career here – a feat that would have been impossible if Naga has remained the backward city that it was before.

Under Robredo’s leadership, my faith in good governance returned. It was he who started transparency in the city government – where the public can easily access records and see how project biddings went so that we knew what transpired in all projects and were assured there was no corruption involved. With Robredo, the faith of the people returned to the government. Good governance was possible. And so he won election after election until his term expired. Then he would rest, run again, and win. He would have continued on becoming mayor if not for the offer of PNoy to be the DILG Secretary.

Robredo has no ambition for greater power. He could have easily became congressman, senator and climb up the political ladder. But that was not his intention in becoming a politician. His intent was to transform Naga and show the entire country that it was possible to become a progressive nation. Naga City is a testament to that.

Yet he is the only politician I know who doesn’t flaunt his projects. Not once did I see a waiting shed, or any other government project with his name etched on it. He didn’t preserve power by reminding people he erected this and that. He preserved power because he remained true to his oath of serving the people. And the people saw his sincerity. He is their champion.

Despite all these recognition, Robredo and his family remained firmly rooted to the ground. In his years of service, never did he amass ill-gotten wealth as some shameless politicians do. You can visit their house and it is not some mansion which looks new every now and then. Our apartment looks better with its newly painted walls than theirs do. I recall a mayor in this town who was not even a mayor for long and yet was able to erect a mansion! Robredo was mayor for almost 2 decades and never do you see him having some fancy house or fancy car. His wife lives a modest life and his daughters are all modest as well. Aika even works hard for a living.

Whenever in Naga, you can see him walking the streets in simple clothes – a tshirt, shorts and slippers. He was always approachable and he lived a really simple, normal life. You would never feel ill-at-ease with him. I recall one time, he attended a swimming competition of his youngest daughter and since there was no guest of honor that time to award the prizes, he was asked on the spot to give the awards. He complied without question and dressed simply, he gave out awards.

They were also a family who made sure never to abuse power. I recall, back in Grade 4, Aika and I were rivals for the honor roll. Aika got the 1st spot when I had higher grades than her. But it was because I lacked extra-curricular activities. Her mom was kind enough to explain to my mom those details and was even afraid that we might mistake that just because Aika was a Mayor’s daughter, special favor was accorded to her. They were nice that way. Both Mr. & Mrs. Robredo even attends the PTA meetings of their daughters.

They are a good family. He is a good family man, ever involved in his daughters’ day-to-day lives despite the busy schedules. He is a good public servant – always the first to go out and the last to retreat when it comes to ensuring the safety of his constituents. He was a hands-on leader – not content with merely remaining in his office. He is a good man – a key to the success of the present administration’s TUWID NA DAAN campaign.

And so it is a shame to lose him – the country cannot afford to lose a good man like him at this point. It is such a waste of talent and potential. He was a servant through and through; a good father; an ideal husband; a true friend.

Apart from Sec. Jesse, there is also the case of the pilot, Capt. Bahinting. Though I don’t know him personally, he is also, apparently a good man – a hero in fact. It was him who volunteered to rescue a zookeeper who was on the brink of death due to a cobra attack. He selflessly flew to Camiguin despite turbulent weather to secure the anti-venom that would save the man’s life. And he did so without a second’s thought, without promise of any reward or payment. He was a man who would risk his life for others.

Such good men – such a sad fate. Sometimes, I am led to wonder how come God allows such dire things to happen to good men? Why not all the evil ones out there? How come they get to get away with their evil doings? Then again, I think I know the answer to this one – perhaps I do. But at this point, I can’t really seem to remember.

I am simply overcome with grief – grief for the family (I cannot begin to fathom the distress they are feeling now); grief for the people of Naga (it is such a heavy burden to lose someone with so much potential and at such a young age); grief for the entire nation (he hasn’t even begun to show the Philippines the extent of what he can do); grief for the PNoy (his biggest pawn in his campaign is missing – what would he do?). At first, when the news broke out, I was full of hope he will be found and things will turn out well. As hours turns to days, the hope wavered but the faith remains. God is good and he will not forsake.

Yet whatever the outcome of all this is, my faith in Him remains strong. He has a reason for everything – no matter how hard it maybe. I’ve had my own experiences with accidents – friends dear to me and with so much potential whose lives were cut short and at the expense of others they leave behind. God has his own mysterious ways. We can only live our lives to the fullest and trust him for the best.

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2 thoughts on “What happened to all the good men?

  1. I never get tired of reading blog posts and articles about the life & works of Sec Jesse. But among those blogs I’ve read, this is the most touching & heartfelt. Maybe because you had a close & personal encounter with Sec Jesse & his family. Or maybe because you are from Naga City and have witnessed & experienced Sec Jesse’s great leadership. Thank you for writing this article. It was beautifully written that speaks from the heart.

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