Saturday night at Ateneo de Manila's Church of the Gesù turned into a reunion of sorts for the cabinet secretaries and staff who served under the administration of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. The last to give his eulogy was former Interior and Local Government secretary Mar Roxas whose bid for the presidency in 2016 PNoy endorsed.
Roxas began by expressing his pakikiramay with PNoy’s sisters, and saying he remains dumbfounded by the news of his friend and former boss’s passing. He admitted he almost decided not to attend the evening’s memorial service, “feeling drained and very saddened.” In the end, he showed up and spoke about PNoy’s brand of leadership, while also giving audiences glimpses of his relationship with the late leader. The end of Roxas’ eulogy was met with warm applause.
Below is Roxas’ eulogy in full, transcribed from a recording:
Over the course of tonight and the last day or so, so much has been said about our boss, our friend, our leader, PNoy. And yet I still cannot wrap my head around [the fact] that PNoy is gone. It’s shocking. It’s numbing.
Una, pakikiramay po, taos pusong pakikiramay kay Ate, kay Viel, kay Pinky, kay Kris, sa mga bayaw ni PNoy, sa kanyang pamilya na naandito, at sa inyong lahat na nagmamahal kay PNoy.
Feeling drained and very saddened, and with Covid still very much a danger, I was hesitant to come here tonight. But in the end I came, as I’m sure all of you did, because that was what PNoy would have wanted. PNoy liked so much to see his cabinet together, sharing stories in fellowship just like it was in those days. That’s what PNoy would have wanted.
I am wearing barong because I felt that, too, was what PNoy would have wanted. I recall he admonished me during Sec. Jesse’s [Robredo] wake—I was not properly dressed. And, you know, he said, “huling pagpaalam.” As you can see the cabinet has differing views, but that was PNoy’s cabinet as well.
What would PNoy have wanted?
He had such a presence. Not loud, but deep, insistent. And pretty much this ethos—What would PNoy have wanted?—reverberated all throughout his government. Not in a petty or selfish way, but in a common good sort of way. In a para-sa-mga-Boss-ko way. In a flag-waving, hand-over-your-heart, bayan-bago-ang-sarili way. That always, I felt, and you all felt, was what PNoy wanted. And that kept us on the straight and true under his leadership.
What would PNoy have wanted? Small things. No wang-wang. No epal billboards. No aggrandizement, especially if it was for him.
Work things. Regular things. CSW [Completed Staff Work], as Sec. Julia [Abad, who spoke before Roxas] had so described, and Brother Armin [Luistro, former Education Secretary]. Dotting your i’s, crossing your t’s. What today is known as fact-based research.
And also big and important things. Don’t steal. Give the people, our bosses, their due. And always, preserve and protect the national interest.
In the process, many became disappointed, and even angered. “We are breaking many rice bowls,” he told me in one of our candid chats.
And so he persevered, trusting his values as his compass. Always, the national interest and the people’s welfare prevailed. That’s what Pnoy would have wanted. That was his brand of leadership. By example. By high moral standards. By adherence to his values. By appealing to the best in us. By aspiring for what can be. By trusting that in the end, good will prevail over evil.
I often wondered what drew me and countless others—like the munchkins in the back, all the young people who worked and made us, the Cabinet secretaries, look good because it was their work that gave us the data and the research—what drew all of us to PNoy’s leadership?
I realized these were not just what PNoy wanted. These were also what Tita Cory and Senator Ninoy wanted, and nurtured in him. And upon deeper reflection, these too were what our own parents wanted. These were the very same values and dreams that our parents taught us, and which, in our true, deep, uncynical self we know we treasure.
So really it wasn’t just what PNoy wanted. It is, in fact, what we all wanted for our country, our people, our families. These are our values. These are our dreams. They are alive. Present tense. They are in each and everyone of you here.
Pnoy was a comet with a single purpose. Like those very highly engineered, special precision stereo systems that he loved, or target pistols, or super roadsters. They were all highly engineered instruments. They were impractical for everyday life but when given time and space and need, wow, they perform magnificently. Pnoy was like that.
He was a unique, high precision instrument. His purpose was to lead us and our nation during a difficult time, and he served so well the whole world noticed. We were respected. He left things so much better than how he found them. He didn’t kick problems down the road for somebody else to solve. He preserved and protected the nation.
Having served his purpose, God has taken him back.
Sir, it is my honor, as I’m sure for everyone else here, to have been in the foxhole with you. Thank you very much for the opportunity to serve. Thank you for your leadership and your example. Thank you for the memories.
In the end, Rene having broken the ice, with a paraphrase with a line from a song that is often heard in these grounds: win or lose, it’s the Philippines we choose.