Yet there are people who, even in their death, manage fight back against that void – and with a preciously small fragment of a memory, turn around the gloom by reminding us not of what we had lost, but what every person leaves behind – a legacy, a memory of some distant yet perceivable hope, a reason to smile.
I have no love for politics. My own uncle was a victim of its filth; he was a vice mayor of a small municipality in San Jose, Partido District in Camarines Sur. We helped him in his campaign for reelection, and saw how dirty a small town election campaign can become. He lost.
I grew up in Naga City. From childhood to teenage, I have found lots of happy memories in that place. Not that my own family was always happy. But it was a peaceful city. It was a simple city. It was a happy city.
I always took that for granted.
I only took notice of Mr Robredo when I was already in high school. I’ve already heard of him before; I always overhear his name from the adults, some critical while others approved of him. But it was during an ordinary day when we were cleaning up the mud from Igualdad Street that I really understood what he is. We were horsing around the muddy sidewalks, as teenagers naturally do. We were having fun. We bumped into a very ordinary looking plump guy who was quietly removing some trash that was blocking the estero. We mumbled an apology, and he just smiled without reprimanding us. We just hurried away.
We later found out it was him.
Why would a city mayor bother to wade into the mud and help clean up the streets? Doesn’t he have enough staff to do it for him? What was the point in being a mayor if you need to part of the cleaning team?
Why didn’t he scold us, like most adults do, when we disturbed him – or get annoyed at our rowdiness?
There was something enigmatic about that encounter, something so humbling, that I started paying more attention to what this city mayor was all about. I started noticing and hearing more similar stories, stories of a humble leader who wasn’t acting like the typical leaders out there. Sure, he had critics. Everyone has one. But he never let that interfere with doing his job.
I remember an infrastructure project in City Hall, where it emblazoned the names of the donors – foreign countries who helped finance the project. And in a small corner, just a simple name and signature of him, almost unnoticeable. A stark contrast to the politicians of today – always begging for credit and attention.
But what I will be most grateful to him was how I believed in politics again, that given the right attitude and people – it can work. After Senator Raul Roco died, my dream of seeing a good Bicolano bear the President’s seal somehow died. I hated it when Robredo had to ally himself with the likes of Noynoy Aquino – why didn’t you team up with Dick Gordon instead?! But oh well, somehow I just hope, “Nah, this will be good exposure for Robredo to be known by more people – and someday, have a fighting chance to become the first Bicolano President.”
And so I wake again from another dream – a dream where we could have finally had a real leader. But alas, fate do snatch the good men too early.
I miss Naga City, the maogmang lugar.
And I’m going to miss dreaming of and hoping for a maogmang bansa.
Farewell, Mr. Jesse Robredo. Thanks for sharing not just your dream, but your life. May you truly find rest in His happy presence.