Today, August 18, is Jesse Robredo Day—an actual special working holiday specified by law (Republic Act No. 10669), in effect since 2014. In fact, schools are mandated by this law to talk about “Jesse Robredo’s legacy of good governance and leadership…to encourage students to continue the same for the good of the Philippines and the Filipino people.” *looks meaningfully at several government agencies*
Jesse Robredo was the former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary from 2010 until 2012, when he died in a light aircraft crash. Prior to that, he was a six-term mayor of Naga City, Camarines Sur. His widow, Leni Robredo, is of course the current Philippine vice president and possible candidate for the presidency in 2022.
One can only imagine what it must have been like for the vice president and for the townspeople of Naga after Robredo’s death. Today, one of the former staff members of then-Representative Leni Robredo recalled the poignant first anniversary of that tragic plane crash.
“I stayed close to Tita Leni during the trip. I was in my early 20s. I did not understand the meaning of loss (probably still don’t). Just figured it might help to have someone close by,” Panch Alvarez wrote in a Facebook post.
There was a ceremony in Masbate to honor her late husband, with a marker to be laid down underwater at the crash site. Leni, Panch recalled, worked and answered messages all the way during the land and sea trip to the site. They were met by local officials in Masbate, where they attended Mass.
What they were there for was a wreath-laying ceremony on the actual crash site, which was marked by a buoy. “Understand, Tita Leni has never been to the area even when the accident happened. It was her first time experiencing the atmosphere where she lost her husband,” Panch continued.
“By the time we reached the yellow buoy, Tita Leni was silent. She wanted to be at the edge of the boat. Except for a few flimsy wires, the boat didn’t have any barriers to keep people from falling. The water that time wasn’t exactly calm. Did my best to gently keep her from taking another step forward.”
And amid the noise of the crowd and the media there to cover the event, Panch remembers what the bereaved wife said. “‘Ini daa ang lugar? (Is this where it happened?)’ she asked no one in particular, softly. Not sure if I was the only one who heard her. It was heartbreaking. To this day those words continue to resonate in me.”