It’s seldom anyone witnesses a momentous occasion that is bound to go down the annals of history. Yesterday, I witnessed just that – a sight like no other. An event that I can tell my grand kids over and over again. It was not an entirely celebratory occasion. It was a death after all. But it was a legendary death.
When it was declared that Jesse Robredo was to be given a state funeral, at first, I did not understand what it was. I knew it to be some pompous funeral rites to be held in honor of great men. And indeed it was befitting Mayor Jess (as we call him) since in our eyes and our hearts, he probably was the greatest man to grace this planet. We all love him. How can we not? But the gravity of how huge or important the occasion was lost to me.
At first I thought this was the first time the country will hold a state funeral in the longest time. But upon further research, I learned that the last state funeral actually happened just last July 4, 2012. This was for a National Scientist, Perla Santos-Ocampo. National Scientists and National Artists by virtue of law have the right to be given a state funeral. Apart from them, heads of state (president, vice-president, senate president and speaker of the house) are also entitled to state funerals. Diosdado Macapagal was the last president given a state funeral which happened on April 1997. But does any of us remember what happened during those state funerals? Frankly, I don’t. I was still a kid in 1997 and the state funeral last July 2012 was probably not given much attention by the media (which is sad because she was a great scientist).
And so, it was not until yesterday, while under the blistering sun; amid the grief and sorrow that plagued the collective hearts of us Nagueños, I saw just how pompous the rites were. After the usual mass was said and the priest’s moving homily was given, came the eulogies delivered by Atty. Leni and Pres. Noynoy. But before the eulogies, Mayor Jess was awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest award the President can give without approval from Congress. The medal was really huge. And it was such an honor for the entire Naga to have our beloved mayor awarded with such.
After the eulogies, the rites were performed. Fancy dressed military personnel paraded in the space in front of Basilica. When the casket was brought out, the Philippine National Anthem was played amid 19- gun salutes performed in nearby Eternal Gardens. It was a sight and sound to behold. Although I did not follow the procession to the crematorium, I later watched replays in TV of how the rites, as pompous as ever, were carried out in front of the crematorium. Each step – each process – was a tribute to the greatness of Jesse Robredo. Such pomp was never really synonymous with the simple man. As to Atty. Leni’s words, if Jess was alive, he would say that everything was too much. But just this last time, we all want to give him the highest form of honor we all can.
In my mind, I can’t help but think, how even in death, he brought prestige to our humble city. Our city, who was once riddled with various woes and problems typical of 3rd class cities. Our city who thru him has earned various recognition for matters that has helped each one of us progress into the kind of citizens we are now. Mayor Jess, in his true fashion, served us to the very end. With his death, he brought national attention to Naga City. Even USec. Manolo Quezon said in a tweet, that for yesterday, Naga was the capital of the country. Major media networks flew in their top anchors and reporters to cover the events. Dignitaries and VIPs graced our streets. The world saw what kind of a city Naga truly was.
Whereas before, my friends from Manila would have a hard time deciding where Naga was, or what Naga looked like, now, everyone in the country, even abroad, knows of this humble, land-locked city existing as a living testimony to the possibility of good governance; the possibility that honest public servants exist amid the sea of corrupt traditional political dynasties.
Mayor Jess, even in his death, gave us great honor, for which we are grateful for. In his death, he brought the country’s – and the world’s – eyes to our doorsteps. He showed the entire nation that progress is possible if only public servants would become true servants and citizens would become active constituents. Mayor Jess showed how democracy should really be played out – where the leaders craft solutions and where the constituents participate actively not just in the implementation but in the crafting of such solutions. Where leaders can impose but constituents are welcome to debate and argue with their impositions. Where such discussions are held in a civil manner, not in the streets as most often portrayed by the media as the only means for citizens to air out their sentiments over certain issues.
Much laud and praise have been accorded this great man. Stories, both from ordinary citizens and from well-versed writers, have been told over and over again. Those are just but a taste, a glimpse, of how truly great he was and how much impact he has made in all our lives. Not just in the present, but in the future as well. Naga City, hasn’t been accorded this much honor, this much publicity, this much praise, as it has been given now. And we all owe it to him, our faithful and dedicated Mayor Jess who even in death, served us well.