Sec. Jesse returns home

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

“Salamat, Jesse Robredo” coverage log

Media setups at the Robredo residence in Naga City Shot August 20, 2012 By Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR—“Are you sure this is it?”

The Manila-based media came looking for a mansion inside a gated subdivision. What they found was an apartment compound just a few turns from one of Naga City’s main roads.

A vacant lot of trees and untouched greenery fronted the compound. The neighbors were gated houses you would find in middle-class areas.

There was no tell-tale marker. No posters, and aside from a Couples For Christ tile, no name-plates.

Beyond the police checkpoints (likely put up during the previous nights) and waiting tents nearby, no one would think it the residence of a VIP.

The attention around it still made clear this was indeed where Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, pride of Naga, lived.

A three-floor brick-and-granite building dominated the compound—the Robredos’ unit.

Police guards entance to Robredo apartment in Naga Shot August 21, 2012 By Anjo Bagaoisan

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Outside its door, bars enclosed a small receiving area where pictures of Sec. Jess hung. Here and there getting awards from four Philippine presidents, one a blessing from Pope John Paul II, and the biggest, a group pose with President Benigno Aquino.

Five adjacent flats faced the building–houses the family was renting out.

Our news team arrived there two days after Robredo’s plane crashed off the coast of Masbate City.

We were to keep tabs on the secretary’s family and the supporters that poured in as they waited for news.

Hope against hope

Every hour, a chorus of Hail Marys welcomed visitors. Novenas were prayed to the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, patron of this part of the country and of Robredo himself.

Supporters of Jesse Robredo pray to the Lady of Penafrancia for his recovery Shot August 20, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan

Cooks preparing food for visitors at the Robredo house in Naga Shot August 20, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan (Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The smell of garlic rice, meat, and eggs met TV news crews prepping reports for the morning shows. Each meal, the table was set and open for anyone. And in between, volunteers offered bread, snacks, coffee, or drinks.

One rarely saw Jesse Robredo’s immediate family go outside in the first few days since he went missing.

Except for day 3, when his eldest, Aika responded to a reporter’s request for an interview and faced the throng of waiting cameras.

Aika expressed the feelings of many whose thoughts were with them—hopeful for good news yet realistic about the worst.

Nearly forty-eight hours of no news from sea, and yet those there and throughout the nation hoped against nagging hope that all was not lost.

It came out in conversations, in wishful thoughts that borrowed from overused plot lines in TV dramas.

Editing news video for TV Patrol in Naga with reporter Ryan Chua Shot August 20, 2012 by Mel Estallo

Preparing for TV Patrol with Ryan Chua. Click the pic to watch our live report. (Shot by Mel Estallo)

Maybe Sec. Jesse escaped the crashed plane, washed off on an island, was struck with amnesia, or was harbored by locals who were cut off from civilization.

A number of us journalists still hoped to report a positive ending to this story–a hero’s welcome, maybe?

Anything, even the unreasonable, just to avoid the unthinkable.

The compound was packed during the final Mass that night. Speaking in Bicol, Robredo’s wife Leni thanked the nation for its prayers.

With no news, all the well-wishers could hope was for some quick development. No matter what kind, just to end the uncertain wait.

Finally found

Masbate City, the next day. Since 5 a.m., our news team there had been going live from the coast covering the search and rescue operation for Robredo and the two pilots on board.

The team had a camera trained on the ships the entire time, recording and sending it live to ANC.

ABS-CBN cameraman Val Cuenca monitoring the coast of Masbate for Jesse Robredo's search operation (Shot c/o Val Cuenca)

Body bag containing Sec. Jesse Robredo being recovered from sea of Masbate August 21, 2012, Shot by Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News Patrolling the sea of Masbate. (Shots courtesy of Val Cuenca & ABS-CBN News)

Past 8 o’clock, the telephoto lens caught a black body bag being brought up a rubber boat, and then carried onto a ship.

Those who saw the extreme close-ups first could not yet confirm what it was, but they became more observant at the command center.

Our other camera spotted Transportation and Communications Sec. Mar Roxas pick up his phone and leave the conference table, looking shocked. Later, he was with another Cabinet secretary and rubbing teary eyes.

The Masbate team tipped us in Naga that something was up.

At the Robredo residence, people huddled around video monitors to watch Roxas announce that that body bag indeed contained Sec. Jesse Robredo.

A subdued murmur followed. Senior ladies were shedding tears. Some reporters noticed and began asking them why.

Scenes at Robredo house in Naga after Jesse Robredo's body was recovered (Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan & Allan Zulueta, ABS-CBN News)

(Upper-right shot by Allan Zulueta, ABS-CBN; other shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The receiving area was already guarded by a police officer. Inside, Marikina Vice Mayor Jose Fabian Cadiz, a friend of Robredo, sat silent while fiddling with a red cap printed with “I ♥ Jesse Robredo.”

Aides and family members soon went out, but no one spoke. They boarded a crew of vans headed for the airport. Robredo’s remains would arrive that afternoon and go first to a funeral parlor.

A welcome back

Our TV technical crews left the house for the Good Shepherd Convent, known better here as the Archbishop’s Palace. Our Naga-based reporters first learned that a public viewing would happen there.

ABS-CBN's Jonathan Magistrado reports for TV Patrol outside Archbishop Palace in Naga, where Jesse Robredo's remains will be brought (Shot August 21, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ABS-CBN Bicol’s Jonathan Magistrado going live on TV Patrol. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

It took almost all night before the casket arrived. A crowd of Nagueños gathered outside the funeral home. Other eager locals already formed a line along a cordoned area leading to the gate of the Archbishop’s Palace, a number wearing yellow.

Naga City was already littered with yellow ribbons tied to posts or branches hours before Robredo’s body was found.

It reminded Manileños of the anticipation for Ninoy Aquino’s return, as well as the gratitude for Cory Aquino’s inspiration.

Naga City was set to welcome back its favorite son.

Naguenos Line up for Jesse Robredo outside Archbishop Palace in Naga before his casket arrives (Shot August 21, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Naguenos wait for Jesse Robredo. Shot August 21, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan (Shots by Anjo Bagaoisan)

To think he never entirely left his home town. When he answered the call to manage the affairs of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Robredo still made time to ride back to Naga on weekends for his family.

That fatal plane ride was no different.

Naga would no longer see him in his trademark shorts and slippers. They would not get to see what he looked like in death.

But for at least two weeks, his image has been on tarps and posters all over the city. An ironic tribute for a politician who steered away from marking his district with his face or name.

As the flag-draped casket entered the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace, Jesse Robredo had completed his final trip. He returned home.

Start of public viewing of Jesse Robredo's casket at Archbishop's Palace in Naga (Shot August 21, 2012 by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Click to watch Ryan Chua’s TV Patrol report on day 1 and 2 of the wake. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)


11 comments on “Sec. Jesse returns home

  1. “Maybe Sec. Jesse escaped the crashed plane, washed off on an island, was struck with amnesia, or was harbored by locals who were cut off from civilization.

    A number of us journalists still hoped to report a positive ending to this story–a hero’s welcome, maybe?

    Anything, even the unreasonable, just to avoid the unthinkable.”

    — Had similar thoughts! I was actually thinking about that scene in “Walang Hanggan” (yes, am Kapamilya when it comes to teleseryes *wink wink*) when they thought Jane (Rita Avila) had died in the plane crash but she didn’t and was “resurrected” as Jean (Eula Valdes).

    Anyhoo, nice entry, Anjo! 🙂

  2. Jess Robredo
    …to die a hero

    By Apolinario B. Villalobos

    At a young age –
    Showed the world
    He’s that strong;
    Used to the fullest
    What God gave him
    As the stairs of knowledge
    He took one rung at a time-
    Carefully, not to miss the steps…

    Strong leader as a student –
    Many tried to emulate his ways
    Some did try but failed
    To be Jess is not that easy
    His friends proudly said
    Simple ways he had
    But hard to be copied
    A really rare breed, that lad…

    His intellectual thirst was such
    That even three educational degrees
    Seemed not enough to accomplish;
    Took a wife, equally strong
    And like him is intelligent;
    The two built a home
    With a foundation of love
    And pillars of determination…

    Alas! Not long afterwards
    The couple thanked the Lord
    For the three beautiful girls He gave;
    Their joy was such that they did their best
    To mold the three into the same ways
    Into which they grew –
    Respect for others, and love, too
    Respect for time, and money, too…

    At the helm of Naga City, at twenty –nine
    Jess showed that when called to serve others
    Age is just a number, and skill matters;
    Unfazed by responsibilities, he did his best
    By just being him –
    As he checked busted city street lights every night
    As he scraped mud from streets after the floods
    As he helped garbage collectors fill their trucks
    A he patted the back of those who sought his counsel
    As he handed coins to the destitute he met
    As he smiled his way through days of problems
    As he wore the same office uniform just like others
    As he took the bus to Manila and tricycle to functions
    And many more Jess ways…
    Hence, the Magsaysay Award at so young an age!

    Though unfortunate to see high brows
    This was when chosen by P-Noy to head DILG
    Many, as usual tried to block his way
    But just as when he was in Naga,
    He was unfazed, and just worked his best;
    No meetings and official ceremonies
    Stopped Jess from skipping at least one meal –
    One meal with his family, his precious family
    Not even that distant meeting in Cebu one day
    That was the fateful 18th of August 2012
    When he took a Cessna flight for home
    But as nearing Masbate, was distressed…

    For three days, people cried and hoped
    That he was just carried by waves to nearby islets
    Or that a fisherman took him home to recuperate;
    Alarmed but praying to the Lord
    People patiently waited ….
    Until, finally on the 21st of August 2012
    Jess has been brought to shore…

    A hero?…more than a hero I say!
    Politicians who gave him a hard time
    In getting the more than deserved confirmation
    Are now cringing in guilt… suddenly silent
    Alibis are said, but no amount of such
    Could make a cover up for their misdeed;
    They refused to see what Jess had been doing
    For us, his countrymen who for long
    The dirty air of politics we were breathing;
    Politicians whose schedules are filled with investigations
    That did not give much result, but limelight grabbing
    They who played “intelligent”, “hero of the people”
    Are so eerily silent……………………………
    Yes… so silent………….!

    To be a hero is to die with a purpose
    It is only at death
    That others accept what he did for others
    It is a sacrifice for the man and his loved ones
    But what can he do?
    It is God’s will and plan –
    The only way to make others acknowledge him
    The only way to open their eyes to see him
    And open their mind to finally make them think
    That, indeed, he is unselfish, hardworking, etc…

    To die a hero should not be seen as late in coming
    God has a way as to when this should happen
    His acts are done at the right time
    And we, His creatures, His instruments
    Can just wait, most often caught unprepared
    But Jess was not –
    For even as a child, his ways
    Led to his being that –
    A hero, and he died for it….
    Though for others, hard to accept.

  3. Pingback: Meet the Robredos | PinoyJourn: Stories behind the Stories

  4. Pingback: Losses and look-backs—PinoyJourn’s 2012 top posts | PinoyJourn: Stories behind the Stories

  5. Pingback: A search ends, a search continues | PinoyJourn: Stories behind the Stories

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