Leni to Jess: Rest well

Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Lawyer Leonor "Leni" Robredo, wife of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, only has good words about her husband.

"Jesse, thank you for the gift of your life. How lucky we are that you shared your life with us," the calm and composed widow said before Robredo's casket during the Requiem mass in Naga City.

"We are devastated by your loss but even in our grief, we live continue to live because your spirit lives in us," she added.

Mrs. Robredo refused to say goodbye, however, adding that she believes her husband will always be in her and their daughters' midst.

"You are home now. You are back where you truly belong. Rest well, we will always love you," Mrs. Robredo said.
'He would not have wanted this'

Amid elaborate funeral and burial rites, Mrs. Robredo said her husband would not have wanted the limelight he now enjoys.

"If we could hear Jess speak, I know he would be saying, 'Sobra-sobra na ito,'" she said, in her response to the conferment of the Legion of Honor on her late husband.

She added however: "Jess, just this one time, allow us to celebrate your life in a way we think you deserved to be honored."

Apart from thanking President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III for the posthumous award, Mrs. Robredo also expressed his appreciation for the President's efforts during the search and rescue operations following her husband's plane crash.

She also thank the president for "making sure that we can grieve and that we don't have to worry about anything."

Mrs. Robredo likewise thanked other members of the Cabinet, local officials in Masbate and Naga, the rescue teams and the volunteer divers who helped retrieve his husband's body.

Speaking in Bicolano, she also addressed the people of Naga City where Robredo served as long-time mayor: "Ipunuli mi po siya digdi, sa saiyang padabang lugar, ta panatag po siya sa saindong pagpadangat (We brought him home, in a place he held dearly, because he is confident in your love)."

The Cabinet official's family had earlier refused a burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, noting that Robredo "belonged to Naga."

"His death was unexpected and we have to deal with the searing death of losing him," she said.

Mrs. Robredo noted, however, that her husband was "was never fearful of his life; he was always ready to face his creator."

"Maybe for him, it was a perfect end to a life well-lived," she added.

Of plane trips and family

Robredo's widow also recalled how her husband sheltered her from fear of taking a private plane or a helicopter, which eventually led to his death.

"We argued about the necessity of it... He promised me that he will take commercial flights whenever possible," Mrs. Robredo said.

She added that she had told her husband "not to hurry home" on the day of the plane crash, as their daughter's competition which he was trying to catch had ended early.

"In true fashion, he still decided to fly home,  he just wanted to surprise us and make us happy," Mrs. Robredo said.

Robredo died wearing his uniform as the Department of Interior and Local Government, her widow said.

"That was Jesse to the very core: He was always working so hard yet always hurrying home," she said, adding that coming home to Naga kept the Cabinet official "grounded."

Mrs. Robredo said her husband was "always cautious not to enjoy the perks of his profession."

"Mahirap nang masanay at baka hanap-hanapin ko," she quoted him as saying.

Despite his ranking position in the national government, Robredo always had time for his family, Mrs. Robredo said.

"He constantly showered us with I love you's. He constantly told me that he was lucky he married me. He constantly told our children that he was proud of them," she noted.

Mrs. Robredo also recalled how the late Secretary arrived home for their wedding anniversary about two months ago carrying a "hodge-podge of flowers he found along the way."

The simple gesture, she said, would be enough to make the last anniversary memorable.

But Robredo also exuded simplicity even in his "brand of leadership," his wife said.

"He found fulfillment when he was mayor of Naga City," Mrs. Robredo said, noting that being close to the people made her husband feel the fruit of his labor.

Robredo found things "more difficult" at the national level, his widow said, quoting him as saying: "Di ko alam kung may patutunguhan ang lahat ng ito (I don't know if all this will lead somewhere.)"

Seeing the public reaction on her husband's passing, however, Mrs. Robredo said she thinks the Cabinet official's efforts had  "made their mark."

"We did not expect this kind of reaction... When the funeral cotege passed by the streets of Naga, there were as much cheers as there were tears... It seems everyone had a personal encounter with him and had a story to tell," Mrs. Robredo said.

Recalling one of their private chats, she again quoted Robredo as saying: "Quotang-quota na ako. Sobra-sobra na ang binigay saakin ng Diyos (I have exceeded my share. God has given me so much)."