By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
“Salamat, Jesse Robredo” coverage log 2
NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR– For a week, this city became, in the words of Sec. Manuel Quezon III, the capital of the country.
The top stories centered here, just after Manila and its neighbors closed their ordeal with the Habagat floods.
While the stories focused on the man, the late Sec. Jesse Robredo, the spotlight also turned to the city and to the lives most connected to him.
They long lived in Robredo’s shadow. But the secretary’s life and death bagged Naga and his family a greater appreciation from many who met them by this tragedy.
The casket was no longer opened. Still, hundreds continued to come.
The casket soon had to be moved from a cramped corner of the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace to the wider covered driveway outside.
There and later at the Basilica Minore, many noticed how orderly the Nagueños lined up and occupied the place.
Local businesses kept sending in food and drinks, to the point that organizers asked them to stop for the meantime.
Even for packed meals the locals quietly lined up for their share.
Reporters and anchors repeatedly hailed Naga’s rise from municipality to first-class city as a legacy of its former mayor.
More remarkable than that though is the discipline of the Nagueños formed not from fear or force, but from example.
Like his stint as mayor, Jesse Robredo worked below the radar as DILG secretary. He didn’t even bring his family to Manila.
Only during Robredo’s search and wake did the public and the media begin to get acquainted with his wife and three daughters.
Our news teams were assigned to get and prepare for a guest on the night Sec Jesse’s casket arrived at Naga.
Jessica Marie “Aika” Robredo, Jesse’s eldest, agreed to our requests for a live interview which we coursed through officials.
We had to wait for the first Mass at the Archbishop’s Palace to end before Aika could go out to our setup.
We were even anxious she might not come out in time for our Bandila newscast.
By 11:30 p.m. she came. We quickly put on Aika’s mic and override and advised the studio in Manila that they could patch us live any time.
Despite her grief, Aika carried herself strongly as she answered the questions from Bandila anchors Ces Drilon, Julius Babao, and Karen Davila.
For a newbie to live TV, the 24-year-old was an articulate interviewee.
Aika kept on a smile and even chuckled at times, especially when she was asked if she or her siblings planned to follow their father into politics. Fat chance.
She knew what she wanted to say and what she did not need to.
The anchors wondered if Sec. Jesse gave any last wishes when they last talked. There were, Aika said, but it was normal conversation for them.
She recalled that last phone call between her father and mother. And the family’s appreciation for Sec. Jesse’s aide who solely survived the plane crash.
There were no regrets for a life lost too soon. Instead, a fond reminiscence of what Aika’s mother would later call “a life well-lived”.
The love he received from the nation was more than Jesse Robredo could ask for, Aika said. It was a “perfect ending” for him.
Sec. Ricky Carandang, who was with her, was concerned that the interview was taking too long—already at 12 minutes.
After that, Aika also agreed to briefly face the other media people who waited nearby.
She had a long day, yet she remained composed until the reporters gave way.
Many news groups, especially TV, aimed to be the first to interview Jesse’s widow Atty. Leni Robredo. No one got to.
Instead, on the third day of the wake, word spread that Atty. Leni would give a press conference after the morning Mass.
As the cameras left their posts facing the casket, technical crews scrambled to haul audio and video cables to a nearby gazebo where officials decided to have the press con.
The strain of the past few days was clear on Atty. Leni, but the pooled interview was no holds barred.
She spoke confidently, believing that her husband’s death was God’s will.
The questions began about the state funeral the government had offered. Then they touched on the controversies–the crash survivor, investigations at the DILG, and Jesse’s pending appointment with Congress.
The reporters later became curious about the personal, and Mrs. Robredo soon talked fondly about their 25th wedding anniversary earlier this year.
Someone asked about mementos Jesse had left. Atty. Leni said she got back his wallet and bag from the fuselage, while her younger daughters now wore the necklace and watch recovered from Jesse’s body.
During that, one of our cameramen turned his lens to where the daughters, Patricia and Jillian, sat.
They and their cousin Gail were studying the Timex watch Jillian wore. It still worked after being submerged 180 feet deep for three days.
Jillian, the youngest, was also fondling the pendant on Patricia’s neck.
Tricia and Jillian
Despite their grief, which showed at emotional times during the funeral Masses, the two sisters also managed to stay strong in the public eye.
Their mother had said that her family could only help give Jesse peace by doing just that.
And while the teary-eyed moments abounded, more touching were those like that light one behind the scenes of Atty. Leni’s press con.
Another unguarded moment was close to midnight of August 26 during the city government’s tribute to its Mayor Jesse.
Tricia Robredo went up to the podium. She spoke entirely in Bicol and with the response felt right at home.
Reporter Ryan Chua and the team transmitting the live feed of the service at City Hall took notes. Ryan’s Bicolano cameraman Allan Zulueta translated.
To laughs, Tricia divulged Jillian’s dream to become a celebrity like Kris Aquino, who lost her father at nearly the same age.
Tricia then promised her father that she and her sisters won’t have boyfriends who were not as “pogi” or as kind as he was.
After Jesse was cremated and laid to rest, our producer and cameraman spotted Aika and Jillian playing hand games as they took a final gaze at their father’s urn.
Knowing the family gave Filipinos another glimpse of Jesse, who Atty. Leni said “wanted to feel important” to his wife and daughters.
It wasn’t limited to them. Our reporters learned how Jesse valued his public post that his relatives were barred from dropping his name even casually.
He wanted no special treatment for him or for them. One of the reasons his constituents loved him and his family.
Claps, cheers, and confetti greeted Jesse’s casket everywhere it was conveyed through the city. And soon as the cortege passed, the litter was quickly cleared.
Bits and pieces of a man’s legacy.
One Nagueño later wrote, “Naga City hasn’t been accorded this much honor, this much publicity, this much praise, as it has been given now.”
“In (Mayor Jesse’s) death, he brought the country’s – and the world’s – eyes to our doorsteps.”
ALSO: Read about the wait and wake in “Sec. Jesse returns home”