'Son of Pasig' Jovito Salonga laid to rest in his hometown

MANILA, Philippines – Jovito Salonga, considered one of the Philippines' most esteemed statesmen, was laid to rest beside the grave of his late wife in his hometown, Pasig City.

Students and well-wishers, waving little Philippine flags, lined the street leading up to the Pasig public cemetery before noon on Wednesday, March 16, to pay their respects to the former Senate president. Family members, friends, and colleagues from Salonga's years in public service also attended the funeral rites for the elder statesman.

Salonga died on Thursday, March 10. He was 95.

While his wake was held in Makati City, Salonga's daughter, Victoria, said her father had wanted to be buried in the city where he grew up with fond memories of his childhood.

Born in Pasig City on June 22, 1920, Salonga is the youngest of 5 sons of pastor Esteban Salonga and vendor Bernardina Reyes. (READ: FAST FACTS: Jovito Salonga)

"He wanted to be buried in Pasig because this is where it all started for him. He had wonderful memories of childhood. Even though he was born into a simple family, he never felt poor because he was rich in spirit," she said in a short message during the funeral rites.

"Pasig was always his home no matter where he traveled in the world or lived in the world," she added.

True son of Pasig

Local city officials paid tribute to Salonga, whom they hailed as an inspiration to Pasigueños and a staunch nationalist who led the fight to protect the country's interests. (READ: PH mourns death of 'great Filipino' Jovy Salonga)

Speaking before Salonga's flag-draped casket, Pasig City Mayor Maribel Eusebio mourned the passing of a "great man" who made the city proud.

"We shall hold his incomparable achievements as a man of law, statesman, and staunch nationalist close to our hearts as he, in his lifetime, made sure that our humble city was put in the country's political map," she said.

"We pray that even in death, his memories will continue to inspire us all as a city of good governance, and a country in pursuit of all the lofty ideals of democracy that this true Anak ng Pasig courageously fought for in his lifetime," she added.

A 21-gun salute was given in honor of Salonga. A Pasig City council resolution was also read out, declaring March 10 as "Ka Jovito Salonga Day", a tribute to remember his achievements in public service. (READ: The life, love and struggles of Jovito Salonga)

TRIBUTE. Family and friends pay their last respects to the elder statesman, who died on March 10, 2016.

Photo by Katerina Francisco/Rappler

Salonga's first foray into politics was as representative of Rizal province from 1961 to 1965. He was elected to the Senate under the Liberal Party banner in the 1965 polls, topping the senatorial race and repeating the same feat in the 1971 and 1987 polls.

Throughout his political career, Salonga was known for being a staunch defender of the country's national interests. Lauded by his colleagues for his brilliant oratory, Salonga is one of the key personalities who fought against the Marcos regime during the martial law years. He was also the tie-breaking vote in 1991, when the Senate decided to vote against the RP-US Bases Treaty.

In 1986, he was tapped to head the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which was tasked to go after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

In 1992, Salonga ran for president as the LP's standard-bearer, but won only 2.3 million votes, placing 6th in the presidential race eventually won by Fidel V. Ramos.

Salonga retired from politics shortly after his loss at the presidential polls, but he continued his public service through various people's organizations, including Kilosbayan (People Action), the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) Foundation, and the Bantay Katarungan (Sentinel of Justice).

Salonga's daughter recalled how her father had never lost faith in Filipinos' ability to create a "just, lawful, and progressive society."

"We will always remember him as that bright light in that long struggle to build a better society," she said.

"He had the genius of a great mind, the passion of a freedom fighter, and the faith of a true believer. And now we give him over to angels in heaven." – with reports from Michael Bueza/Rappler.com