MANILA, Philippines – A grade school teacher of the late DILG chief Jesse Robredo could not hold back her tears upon finding out that one of her favorite students died tragically.
Goyena Viola Grajeda, grade 1 teacher of Robredo at the Naga Parochial School, said her former student showed traits of being a good leader at a very young age.
"He's a good leader, palagi siyang leader sa mga games, sa classroom naging presidente siya. Palaging litaw ang kanyang pangalan kapag may mga activities," Grajeda told radio dzMM.
Grajeda said Robredo, despite his hectic schedule as Naga mayor and eventually as Interior and Local Government secretary, never failed to greet her during her birthdays.
"[Simula pa lang ng maging] estudyante ko si Jess nung bata pa siya, hanggang sa lumaki na at makarating sa kanyang posiyon, hindi niya ako nakakalimutang i-greet ng happy birthday," said an emotional Grajeda.
The teacher also described the late Interior secretary as a picture of calm amid his rowdy classmates, a trait she believed Robredo exemplified while working as a public servant.
"Malinis na tao, hindi siya sumasali sa mga bugbugan. Alam mo naman ang mga grade 1 pupils, lalaki lahat iyun, madaling mag-init ang ulo at magsusuntukan. [Si Jesse] hindi ganyan. Makikita mo lang iyan sa isang tabi," she said.
Grajeda said she still has some of the messages Robredo sent to her. She said their exchanges were usually about the late official's achievements in public service.
"Kinukumusta ako. Kino-congratulate ko siya, halimbawa, may nagawa siyang maganda. [Sasagot siya ng] 'Salamat po, mabalos (salamat) po madam,'" she said.
Robredo's plane crashed in waters off Masbate last Saturday while en route to Naga City. His body was discovered Tuesday.
Robredo was elected mayor of Naga City in 1988 at the age of 29. When he took office, Naga was a poor third-class city with low revenues and a stagnant economy. By 1990, Naga had become a first-class city and Robredo was re-elected.
Robredo was a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000, Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Robredo was cited by the board of trustees as “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”
Robredo is survived by his wife, Atty. Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, and his three children, Aika, Patricia and Jillian Therese.