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FATHER AND DAUGHTER. Aika Robredo thought highly of her father even as a 15-year-old. Photo from Aika's Facebook page
Secretary Jesse Robredo's eldest daughter, Jessica Marie 'Aika' Robredo, then a 15-year-old high school student at the Universidad de Sta Isabel in Naga City, won the grand prize for the high school category of the Ramon Magsaysay Student Essay Competition in 2003. We are republishing this essay with the permission of the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation. I was only 12 years old in August 2000 when Jesse Manalastas Robredo was proclaimed as the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service. I was a witness to how honored the man felt with the recognition given to him. But it was not until I was asked by my English teacher to go over the list of past and present Ramon Magsaysay awardees and write an essay on one of them that I was able to fully understand the great significance of the award. The awardees, I quickly learned, were exceptional men and women who bravely dared to make a difference in making Asia, and maybe the world, a better place. It was easy for me to pick Jesse Robredo from the list of 229 awardees because he was one person who truly inspired me, and who continues to inspire me to make a difference. To write about his life and his work, however, is a very daunting task, because he is very close to my heart. Much has been written about his outstanding work as mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 and how he bravely fought corruption, vice, poverty, economic stagnation and dramatically transformed Naga from an inefficient and dispirited city into one of the most progressive in the country. When the euphoria brought about by the Edsa People Power Revolution started to wane and people were starting to doubt if a more authoritarian leadership would work better for the Filipino people, Robredo showed us all that the people are still the most important resource and restored our faith in democracy. He not only worked for the poor but worked with them and involved them every step of the way. He has always pushed for growth with equity, transparency, integrity and he brought honor to his office. But the most essential part of his accomplishments are those that are invisible to the naked eye. I am 15, but I must admit that to this day, the lessons of democracy, of fiscal management, of people empowerment, are still quite difficult for me to comprehend. What I do understand is that the people of Naga look up to him because he succeeded in making them feel he is just like any one of them. He is simple and humble in his ways. He wears the city government uniform to work. He is in his office before eight o’clock in the morning. He goes around without bodyguards, and he does not believe he is entitled to special perks just because of his office. He lives very modestly as his house and office would reveal.He is a very dedicated public servant and practices what he preaches. No task is ever too menial for him, whether it is driving around the city at night to check busted lampposts or joining street cleaners and garbage collectors in performing their regular chores.People see the best in him during the worst of times. He is always the last man on the street during typhoons, making sure that people are safe, and the first one to shovel the mud out of the city after the floods. In 1998, after serving his third consecutive term as mayor of the city, he stepped down quietly, ignoring suggestions for him to seek higher office or perpetuate himself in power by asking a family member to run in his stead.Now that I know what the Ramon Magsaysay Award is all about, I feel truly blessed that I happen to be his daughter. I was born exactly six days before he was first elected mayor and I spent the first 10 years of my life with him at City Hall.If there was one thing that convinced me that he is truly deserving of the award, it is this: He has never made me feel I was different from others just because he is my father. As he goes about serving others, I have never been left wanting for his time and attention. He eats lunch and dinner with us seven days a week, even if it means he has to take two or three more meals because he has to attend a constituent’s wedding or birthday reception. No occasion is too trivial for him. He is there for us not only during PTA meetings or piano or ballet recitals, but even when my math homework gets a little too difficult. Now that I am a little older, sometimes people would come up to me to tell me what great things my father has done for them. I feel proud. But what puts a smile in my heart is knowing that he also did small things for some people – things like bringing back a wayward son to his distraught mother, helping a male employee patch things up with his wife, or playing basketball on a street corner with the neighborhood kids. Such things may appear inconsequential, but they have brought great joy to others and made them feel important. His decision to continue serving his native city and resist the lure of national prominence, which a higher elective post could have brought him, had the deepest impact on me and imparted to me life-long lessons: that no deed is too small nor too big if it makes other people’s burden lighter and their lives better; that greatness of spirit can be achieved not through wealth, power or popularity, but by living your life with quiet dignity and by becoming a man for others. By his example, I have been truly inspired to dare to make a difference, break ground, stand up for my own convictions and serve others selflessly and with integrity in whatever field I will find myself in
It comes as no surprise then. the youngest at the time. During the four days the Secretary was missing. according to RMAF. however. Maria Leonor "Leni" Gerona-Robredo. and Marcelina Manalastas. the RMAF biography said. he said his father valued academic performance and promoted a competitive spirit among his children. supported his work as a politician and also served as his adviser while raising their growing household. Both Magsaysay and Robredo were in Cebu before their fatal accidents. was that. Robredo continued to make Naga City grow into one of the most progressive cities in the Bicol region. who also died in a plane crash in 1957. and 13-year old Jillian Therese. where his family is based. at least they will inherit a good name. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 18-year old Janine Patricia." Multi-awarded mayor His three daughters will certainly have a tough act to follow. he was recognized for “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people. Robredo was born on May 27. Robredo was an Edward Mason Fellow in 2000 and a graduate of Masters in Public Administration at the John F.” Robredo quotes his father telling them as children. a lawyer. Robredo was also a Dangal ng Bayan awardee. The third of five children of Jose Chan Robredo Sr. Robredo met his wife. Family values Robredo was on his way home to Naga City. the highest government award given to government officials or employees for exemplary public service. he had just relinquished his post as mayor of Naga City due to term limits. “There is no place for second honor. One of the couple’s stated principles. he made it a point to go home for lunch and dinner at his wife’s insistence. Robredo grew up comfortably in the family compound. Most of the proficiencies can be learned. when he interviewed her for a job while he was working at the Bicol River Basin Development Program. 1958 in Naga City. but he also credits the family patriarch for his hardworking streak.” At the time. serving three more terms before accepting the position of Interior and Local Governments Secretary under President Benigno Aquino III. His wife Leni.” Robredo once said in a television documentary. When he became mayor of his city in 1988 at the age of 29. Leni said she drew strength from their three daughters – 24-year old Jessica Marie or Aika. after graduating with an Engineering degree from the De La Salle University.When Jesse Robredo was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award for Good Governance in 2000. However. In the biography of Robredo prepared by the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF). Robredo reported to work promptly at eight in the morning. "If our children cannot inherit anything material. that when his body was recovered Tuesday from the wreckage of the plane he boarded last August 18 that crashed off the shore of Masbate province. according to the DILG website. but not before transforming his sleepy hometown into one of the models of good governance in the Philippines. he took up further education in governance during a three-year hiatus from public service. following a speaking engagement in Cebu City when his plane crashed last Saturday. but what's inside you is something that's difficult to change. Even after reaping one of the highest accolades for a public servant in Asia. There were also comparisons to another man whose life in public service was cut short: the award Robredo got was named after former President Ramon Magsaysay. A second-generation Chinese. tributes poured infor the 54-year old Robredo. Thus. and both were well-loved leaders. after their father made good on his vision to . only first honor. “The most important ingredient of leadership is character.
Hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay. “Pinapangako ko po na marami pa tayong pakikinabangan sa mga repormang pinalakas natin sa DILG. But he was also known for being frugal and having a disdain for cosmetic projects. One of his supporters. it will now be up to his DILG colleagues to make Robredo's dream for local governance come true. posted on her Facebook account: "Sec. actress Mae Paner. Despite the personal setbacks. gagawin ko ang lahat ng aking makakaya para maabot natin ang pangarap ng isang bansang matuwid at maayos ang daan. however. who revealed to the media that he had disagreements with Robredo during the 2010 campaign. preferring instead to spend funds on vital infrastructure projects for the greater public good.” he is fond of telling colleagues. This would require local government units to disclose in public places the 12 key financial documents that show how their funds are spent. Robredo was appointed in July 2010. but he was one of the five Cabinet secretaries whose confirmation was bypassed after Congress adjourned its session last June 6.” Under Robredo’s term. among the last to be named to Aquino’s Cabinet. Robredo was also proud of the kilometers of roads built during his term." Advocacy groups have nicknamed it the "Anti-Epal" campaign. Sadly. projects and properties. at the time of his death and after a long wait of more than two years. according to the DILG website. the DILG has initiated the investigation and filing of charges against individuals involved in spurious procurement contracts. Robredo remained steadfast in his vision for the DILG and the country. “Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang karapat-dapat tayong pagkatiwalaan ng pera ng bayan. Robredo brought the same values to the agency. at lalo namang hindi lahat ng mahusay ay matino.” he once told an interviewer. better known as Juana Change. Robredo had yet to get confirmation as DILG Secretary from the Commission on Appointments (CA). Paiigtingin pa natin ang pagbabago sa lokal na pamahalaan at sa Interior sector upang suportahan ang ginagawa nyo sa national.make Naga City "a happy place" by getting rid of illegal gambling and inefficient bureaucracy in his hometown. Robredo’s name was submitted to the CA. Awaiting confirmation For all his accomplishments. The agency said Robredo had also been "tirelessly improving" the disaster risk reduction and mitigation capabilities of LGUs by introducing the Seal of Disaster Preparedness. focusing on drumming up public support for the Full Disclosure Policy. Robredo also had an occasionally testy relationship with the President. especially when it came to scheduling. 2010 Manila hostage-taking crisis. . may karapatan kaming sumingil ng buwis dito at hindi namin inaaksaya ang pera. the bridges and drainage systems repaired.” reads his prepared statement for his scheduled Commission on Appointments hearing. DILG stint When he was appointed as DILG secretary in 2010. He professionalized the operations of city hall. "Hindi rin sapat na tayo ay mahusay lamang. Eventually. and the other public works projects that have made Naga one of the most business-friendly and livable cities in the country. an incentive mechanism. “Sa tulong ng opisyal at kawani ng DILG. and encouraged the participation of the youth in local governance. Robredo was named acting Secretary instead of being issued an “ad interim" appointment for transmittal to the CA. Jesse rest in peace! Our prayers for you and your family! And our deepest gratitude for your GOOD WORK! Ipagpapatuloy namin ang iyong sinimulan!" Paner was referring to the DILG's ordinance "banning names or initials and/or images or pictures of government officials in billboards and signages of government programs. After the government’s inept handling of the August 23.” he vowed. “At least.
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