Robredo and why I have high hopes about Bicolanos
I was in Donsol, Sorsogon when I first learned that a private plane carrying DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed off the coast of Masbate City. We were two hours from where his plane crashed and for the next two days, I found myself walking by the beach, hoping to see Secretary Robredo awash somewhere near.
I constantly checked my Twitter feeds expecting to hear some good news, but every time I would learn that the search and rescue operations had no positive development, my heart sank in sadness.
On Sunday, as I made my first walk along the beach, I made a small bargain with the universe. If Secretary Robredo shows up, I will prepare him the best Bicol express and we will talk about how it is to serve his fellow Bicolanos.
Before I left for Manila Monday afternoon (August 20), I took one long walk along the beach fervently wishing I could see Secretary Robredo this time. The sky was dark and I couldn’t see the islands of Burias and Ticao from afar. With the waves getting rougher and the wind a little stronger, I thought it would be hard to expect for a miracle at this time but I remained hopeful that Secretary Robredo would be saved alive.
I had not really met him, but I have heard of so many good things about the man. When I was still teaching in one of the universities in Legazpi City in 2004, I made sure I kept track of his engagements in Naga City where he was its mayor. I was in need of a Bicolano role model then, having just gone home to Bicol to teach after graduating from the University of the Philippines in 2003.
Not a lot of people understood my decision to come home at such a young age. When I learned that Bicol was one of the poorest regions in the country at the time, I wanted to help in my own little way. Teaching university students, some of whom could barely afford to photocopy the class readings, became my shot at giving back to my community.
And Secretary Robredo became my poster boy. After all, he was 29 when he became mayor of Naga, the youngest elected to such post during his time. His sense of idealism struck me and his unwavering faith on his kababayans was inspiring. Secretary Robredo was an antidote to the phrase “the youth is wasted on the young,” showing how dynamism, integrity, and true leadership can save a dying city.
What we would talk about
Because of the man, I had developed a high regard for promising young Bicolanos who chose to serve their people even when their dreams could take them around the world.
I understand it takes great sacrifice to abandon the wild calling and promises of young age. For some, when a young man chooses to stay and serve the underdeveloped Bicol, that is suicide. This is why I had so much respect for the man. Secretary Robredo stayed at such a young age while most of us decided to leave.
Up until today when news about his death came out, I was hoping I could meet him one day and we would talk about how we could help alleviate the poverty in Bicol when I decide to finally come home one day.
We will talk about how he transformed the city of Naga when he became its mayor at a young age and how he had remained so simple and down-to-earth in spite of the many awards he had received through the years.
I would want him to tell me how it is to shun dirty politics and that good, genuine leadership is what a young public servant needs to endear him to his people. More so, I want him to assure me that it is possible for a young man to be elected into office even when he lacks the gigantic political machinery, even when all that he has is idealism.
Bicol has produced too many public servants, some of whom we've lost to political grandstanding and cruel intentions. Secretary Robredo was not just one of the few good men; he was one of the greatest Bicolano leaders our generation has ever witnessed.
No, I would like to believe we have never lost Secretary Robredo. His true statesmanship will live on forever. – Rappler.com
Amer R. Amor is a college instructor, freelance writer, and a whale shark conservation advocate, among others. On his travel blog www.ameramor.com, he is Juanderkid.