(In his eulogy on August 25 in Malacanang, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras said Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo's sense of leadership can be compared to the "tsinelas.")
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Atty. Leni, the whole Robredo family: Magandang gabi po. I think Jesse would have wanted also to acknowledge many people here tonight. They are the PSG, the Malacañang Engineering, PMS, pati ho ‘yung mga pulis, AFP personnel na tumulong sa lahat ng pagpapasok dito. Jesse always said we need to make sure that the ordinary person is acknowledged. So sa inyong lahat po na nakikinig, to my fellow workers in government: Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat.
Mr. President, magsusumbong lang po ako. Umiyak po si Ma’am Dinky ‘nung nagsi-speech siya. Alam ni Atty. Leni, from the Saturday afternoon, when it happened, the Cabinet made a decision, you will not be left alone without a Cabinet member by your side. But the President had very clear instructions: Walang iiyak sa harap ni Atty. Leni at sa mga bata. Kaya po ‘nung nasa Naga bigla na lang po nawawala ang mga Cabinet members dahil hindi po sila pwedeng magpakitang umiiyak sa inyo so nagtatago po sila.
We figured Sec. Jesse would have wanted tonight’s tribute to be as informal as casual because that was Sec. Jesse. So ang pamagat po ng kwento ko ngayong gabi ay: “Ang Tsinelas” (Bow). Sabi ni Sec. Lou, ‘pag si Jesse tinanong hindi tsinelas—‘sinelas’, ‘di ba Sec. Lou? OK.
Nasa NDRRMC po kami, on the first day of the floods, mga 9 o’clock in the morning. Karamihan po ng Gabinete nandoon na. ‘Yung ground floor po ng NDRRMC, nandoon lahat ng monitors, lahat ng—ang gulo-gulo po noon. Merong round table doon sa right side ng entrance. Pagpasok ko nakaupo si Sec. Jesse, naka-dekwatro. Lo and behold, naka-tsinelas—naka-sinelas si Sec. Jesse.
Sabi ko sa kanya: “Nakakainggit ka naman Sec, relax na relax.” Sabi niya sa akin: “Pare, ito ang tamang pambaha footwear. Karamihan sa mga kababayan nating nababaha naka-tsinelas.” Sabi ko: “Oo nga e. Sinabi nila magdala daw ng botas.” “Hindi, botas, mainit, mabigat. ‘Pag nabasa na ‘yung paa mo mas masarap naka-tsinelas. Huhubarin mo pa rin ‘yung botas mo.”
Scene 2: Nasa helicopter po kami, namamasyal kami sa Central Luzon. Kinabahan po ako ‘nung nakita ko ‘yung pilot ng chopper namin, ‘nung pakanan na kami nang paglampas ng Arayat, biglang bank to the left. Sabi ko: “Oops, may problema.” Kasi alam ko nandoon ang Paniqui ba’t kami papunta dito. Nakita ko rin ‘yung ulap. Tumutungo po si Sec. Joel dahil pati siya kinakabahan. ‘Yung piloto po namin biglang bank to the left, ‘nung naghanap ‘yung SCTEX bank to the right at sinundan na namin ‘yung SCTEX. Sabi ko: “OK, tagilid na ‘yung visibility.” Bigla pong nag-zero visibility that’s why we had to do an emergency landing. Lahat ‘nung five helicopters landed within less than five minutes, I think.
Paglapag na paglapag po namin, sabi ko—katabi ko po si Sec. Jesse—sabi ko: “Pare, kinabahan ako dun.” Hinawakan niya po ‘yung tuhod ko. “Pare, kung hindi pa natin panahon, hindi pa natin panahon. Hindi pa natin panahon.”
I spent the rest of that day beside Sec. Jesse. We traveled to four provinces at the back of the coaster na napakatagtag na hindi po kami makatulog. Ang sarap po ng tulog ni Sec. Mar at ni Sec. Babes Singson na nasa harap; kami po sa likod hindi makatulog. Pero kaming dalawa lang po ni Sec. Jesse ang nakapag-meryenda ng alas-kwatro ng hapon. Sabi ni Sec. Jesse: “Pare, gutom na ako.” “May pakain ba tayo diyan?” Sabi niya: “Sec., meron pero hindi pang-meryenda ito e.” “Ano ba ‘yan?” Chickenjoy with rice. Sabi ni Sec. Jesse: “Pwede na ‘yan.”
Alam niyo ba po kung bakit dalawa lang kami ni Sec. Jesse ang kumain? Hindi po sa dahil kami lang ang gutom, lahat po kami gutom. Ang problema po kasi walang pantulak, walang maiinom so lahat sila hindi na kumain. Kaming dalawa ni Sec. Jesse kumain po kami kasi gutom kami. May isang bote ng mineral water galing sa harap, inabot po ni Joel, so naghati po kami ni Sec. Jesse dun.
That day that I spent with Sec. Jess was a very fruitful day. We talked so many wonderful topics that day. We talked about leadership, we talked about governance. We said: when you go to a flooded area you will see the quality of leadership by the situation of the flooded people—and totoo po ‘yon. At a certain point, we talked and said some leaders pang-picture taking; some leaders tunay na leaders—willing to serve the people. And you will see them very clearly.
When we were going around dahil po sa panic at takot ko ‘nung aming exciting na landing, naiwan ko po ’yung boots ko sa helicopter. ‘Nung dumating po kami sa Valenzuela, ‘nung papasok na sa eskwelahan—‘yung labas po ng eskwelahan baha. Isang talampakan ‘yung tubig. Nakapasok po ‘yung sasakyan ng Pangulo pero ‘yung coaster na sinakyan namin hindi po magkasya sa gate. Napilitan po kaming bumaba. Lahat po kami si Ma’am Dinky naka-boots e, si Sec. Mar—basa po kaming lahat. ‘Nung nandoon na kami sa eskwela, tumutulo na po lahat ng mga pantalon at nanlalamig na po kami. Sabi ko kay Sec. Jesse: “Sana meron tayong tsinelas.” Sabay ngiti siya sa akin: “Sec., magpabili ka.” Sabi ko: “Sec., malaking problema ko. Mahirap maghanap ng tsinelas na size 12.”
‘Nung bumalik po sa coaster, hindi na sumabay si Sec. Jess sa amin. Nagtaka ako bakit. Pagdating namin sa Paombong, umakyat na po kami sa stage, magsisimula na po ang talumpati ng Pangulo, medyo na late si Sec. Jesse. ‘Nung paakyat po siya sa stage, nakatingin siya sa akin. ‘Nung pumatong po siya sa stage, kumakaway siya sa akin. So tumingin naman ako sa kanya. Sabi niya sa akin—pinakita niya po sa akin, naka-tsinelas na siya. Inggit na inggit po ako.
The real topic I want to share with you tonight is Sec. Jesse’s brand of “tsinelas leadership”. I have come to define tsinelas leadership as the pragmatic and more demonstrative version of servant leadership that Sec. Jess always talked about. I will tell you, I will explain to you four features of tsinelas leadership, Jesse Robredo version.
Tsinelas leadership is about the willingness na lumusob sa baha; to be willing to go where you normally do not go—to the most remote areas just to be with the most disadvantaged people. We all know Sec. Jesse rarely said “no.” That’s why he was one of the most well-traveled Cabinet members. He went to many places where some of us could not go to. Last night, I stood here for several hours. Ang dami pong taga-Mindanao na pumunta dito to honor Sec. Jesse. Lahat po sila pagdating sa amin, nakatayo kami doon: maraming salamat po. Sir, taga-Mindanao kami; Sir, taga-ano. It was just amazing that he has been to many places in the Philippines just to reach people.
A second characteristic of tsinelas leadership is breaking down the barriers between us and the people we serve. Many years ago, a young architect told me: “I will design it so nicely na mahihiya pumasok ang naka-tsinelas.” Nandito po tayo sa Malacañang, nandito po tayo sa Kalayaan Hall. Look around you. This place was not designed for tsinelas. And yet last night, and throughout most of today, how many thousands of slippers came into this room to pay tribute, to pay homage and honor to Sec. Jesse. Naiilang lumapit ang naka-tsinelas sa naka-barong. Leaders must be acceptable, accessible to those they serve. That was Sec. Jesse Robredo.
Third point about tsinelas leadership. Personally po, meron akong relaxation trigger. When I go home, I start relaxing when I take off my shoes and put on my slippers. Marami pong miyembro ng Gabinete ng Pangulong Aquino ang hindi nakakatulog na naka-sapatos. Tuwing bumabiyahe po kami, naghuhubaran po lahat ‘yan ng sapatos sa eroplano. Hindi ko po pinapatamaan si Sec. Cesar Purisima. Pero the minute pong maghubad ng sapatos si Secretary Cesar Purisima sa eroplano, within five minutes tulog na po ‘yan. Alam po ‘yan ng Pangulo kasi ‘yan ang sinasabi ng Pangulong “the concert starts.” But really wearing slippers is the most casual form. Being casual is being warm. Leaders must be casual with the people they serve so that they can listen, hear, and empathize with the people that they serve. That was Secretary Jesse Robredo in his truest form.
Tsinelas leadership is about back to basics—base-level transformation. Sec. Jesse and I share the same problems. He was pushing for good governance in local government. I am still trying to push good governance in electric cooperatives. In the last two weeks of Sec. Jesse’s life, I talked to him or texted with him everyday because of common problems that we shared. He believed and I shared in his belief that good leadership and governance structures in the barangays will naturally result in good leadership and governance structures in the whole republic. It’s about transforming the expectations of people from their leaders so that the next set of leaders will be better than the good ones we now have.
Tsinelas leadership is about working on the basics—no frills, no kaartehan; something as uncomplicated and casual as the tsinelas but with a very, very clear vision. That was Secretary Jesse Robredo.
My last conversation with Sec. Jesse was on Friday morning. He called me up at about 8 o’clock in the morning. Sabi niya: Sec. Ren—Rene po ako but tinanggal niya ‘yung “e.” So tawag ko rin sa kanya Sec. Jess. Binawian ko rin po siya e. Sabi niya: “Wala na ba talaga tayong pwedeng gawin tungkol sa baha sa Bulacan?” And the reason for that was Sec. Jess, Sec. Singson and myself at the back of that coaster kept on looking for ways and means to mitigate and bring down the water levels as fast as we can. We talked about Angat Dam, we talked about changing some protocols, and I said: “Sec. Jess, ako na bahala. Tatawagan ko si Sec. Babes mag-uusap kami then we’ll update you”. The very last line that Sec. Jess told me was: “Sige, Pare. Kawawa talaga ang taumbayan.” That is tsinelas leadership—a genuine concern and care for the people that we serve. That is Sec. Jess Robredo in its true context.
These five characteristics and many more is Sec. Jesse Robredo and his legacy to all of us. Many years ago po the tsinelas was fashionably unacceptable to high society. Sabi nga nila tsinelas crowd o bakya crowd. Then came flip-flops and Havaianas and the whole fashion trend ensued. Mas mahal yet basically tsinelas pa rin po.
My wish, my prayer: sana po maging uso din ang sinimulan ni Sec. Jess na tsinelas leadership. Atty. Len, fashion trend setter din po pala si pogi. Malamang po next year 2013 may mga kandidato na mangangampanyang naka-tsinelas. Sana naman po hindi lang pang-picture taking ang tsineals nilang suot. Sana po they will step up to the standards that have been set by Sec. Jess Robredo and sana po they will be worthy to wear the tsinelas. Maraming salamat po sa inyo.