MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) -- A light-hearted moment came during the last night of the wake of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in Malacañang Saturday when Cabinet officials sang and gave testimonials for a highly regarded colleague.
Memories of Cabinet secretaries with Robredo also came in videos and words.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje admired what he called as the purity of Robredo's character, supporting the DENR's programs to rein in erring personnel.
“We will miss you, your company. We will miss you, your friendship, laughter and armor. But we know you're happy where you are now, because of that, we are equally happy for you. Don’t worry for Naga. We promise we will always be there when they need us, not only your family but also for your beloved Nagueños and Bicoleños," said Paje.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman related how Robredo inspired young people to volunteer and serve.
She added that Robredo also wanted to replicate Naga City's success story throughout the country.
"Jesse, ito naman ang lagi mong sinasabi. Sige na, sige na, pahinga ka na. Sige na, sige na, itutuloy namin ang pagpapanday ng demokrasya. Sige na, sige na, tutulungan namin si Leni, ‘wag kang mag-alala. Itutuloy ang mahusay at matuwid na paglilingkod sa sambayanan. Paalam.”
Tsinelas style of leadership
Energy Secretary Rene Almendras spoke of how Robredo exhibited a "tsinelas" style of leadership, showing deep sense of empathy with the people he served.
“The real topic I want to share with you tonight is Sec. Jesse’s brand of 'tsinelas leadership'. I’ve come to define 'tsinelas leadership' as a pragmatic and more demonstrative version of servant leadership that Sec. Jess always talked about... 'Tsinelas leadership' is about the willingness na lumusob sa baha, willing to go where you normally do not go, the most remote areas, just to be with the most disadvantaged people,” said Almendras.
Almendras noted how the common folk came in droves and paid tribute to Robredo, showing how his casual leadership made him accessible to the people; and how his understanding of the people's needs were demonstrated in how he was very comfortable in wearing slippers.
"Look around you. This place was not designed for tsinelas, and yet last night, and all throughout most of today, how many thousands of slippers came to this room to pay tribute, to pay homage and honor to Sec. Jesse. Nahihiyang lumapit ang naka-tsinelas sa naka-barong. Leaders must be accessible to those they serve. That was Sec. Jesse Robredo," said Almendras.
He challenged politicians running in the elections to follow the example of Robredo who has raised the bar for genuine public service.
"Sa 2013, may mga kandidato, mga mangangampampanyang naka-tsinelas. Sana naman po, hindi lang pang-picture taking ang kanilang mga tsinelas. Sana po they will step up to the standards set by Sec. Robredo. Sana po they would be worthy to wear that tsinelas," said Almendras.
Welfare of others above self
National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said Robredo would be remembered as a man who put the welfare of others above himself.
“Sec. Robredo lived in the enduring belief that a good political leader is not to be corrupt… and not to be corrupt is to be selfless. Indeed the President made a right decision in appointing a selfless public servant in a highly sensitive position,” said Garcia.
Mindanao Development Authority chair Luwalhati Antonino shared how highly respected Robredo was among Mindanao’s leaders for selflessly sharing best practices in good governance and for his quick response to Mindanao issues.
“Ramdam ng lahat ng governors, especially sa ARMM. Mahal na mahal ‘yan ng mga governors ng Muslim Mindanao, lahat ng mayor, mga kapitan. Napakalaki po ng effect ni Sec. Jess sa Mindanao.
"In the words of Mayor Celso Lobregat ng Zamboanga, we lost a good friend of Zamboanga City. Let me paraphrase a little bit: we indeed lost a good and decent man. Not only a good friend but also a true champion of Mindanao. Kung hindi siya mayor ng Naga, masasabi na po namin na likas siyang taga Mindanao,” said Antonino.
Robredo, a tough act to follow
Budget Secretary Butch Abad noted the significance of the date of Robredo’s death, falling on the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, an event that triggered Robredo’s desire to serve the public.
“Judging from the grief that swept the nation, judging from the public clamor for a new hero like Jesse, his passing invoked in us a renewed sense of commitment. In much the same way as Ninoy’s death became Jesse’s impetus for public service,” said Abad.
Abad said Robredo was a tough act to follow both in life and in death.
“He managed to remain largely unscathed in a bureaucracy… showing his constituents what true leadership and public service is made of. He did all of this without engendering acrimonious relationships with colleagues,” he said.
“Cesar [Purisima] remarked, ‘pare, mahirap ‘tong nangyari kay Jesse. ‘Pag tayo namatay, at hindi ganito ang reaksyon ng taumbayan, baka sabihin wala tayong ginawa.’ Ang sagot ko yata sa kanya, magpa-cremate ka agad,” Abad quipped.
The Cabinet members—along with their spouses—then rendered the Robredo couple’s theme song, dedicating it to Robredo’s courageous wife Leni, and ending their tribute with a final photo opportunity with a well-loved colleague.