I found myself thinking about Sec. Jesse a lot today. I didn’t expect that a death of someone that never even met in person, a politician at that would have this profound affect on me.
I was sitting with my dad when I found out that his plane had crashed. My dad was catching up with the news on his iPad. He let out a quiet “Oh no” and proceeded to tell us that the plane carrying the DILG Secretary had crashed 500 meters short of the Masbate airport.
I first heard of Sec. Jesse years ago. My dad was helping campaign for former Sen. Raul Roco during his bid for the Presidency. My dad told me about the Mayor of Naga who has done so much for the city. Naga is close to my dad’s heart because it is the city where he grew up. I’ve never been to Naga myself but I’ve often heard my dad and his siblings tell stories about their childhood.
From my dad’s stories I’ve always known and had the impression that Sec. Jesse was a good man. Decent, honest and sincerely loved to serve the public. He was a public servant and not a politician.
So when I heard the news of his crash I had hoped that somehow he survived it. In fact my heart leapt a little when I read a tweet saying that some fishermen found him and brought him back to safety. It later turned out to be false.
I was glued to social media. Twitter and Facebook were my companions for the next few hours. Hoping and praying that somehow a miracle would happen. I was amazed by how many tweets and status updates I’ve seen praying and hoping for his safe return.
On Facebook I even posted my observation – “It’s a true testament to what kind of a person Sec. Robredo is. The whole Philippines is praying for his safe return. Amazing! Can we say the same for other gov’t officials?”
I’ve never seen that much people want a government official back safely. People from all over the Philippines, not just from Naga wanted, willing him to come back safely. That shows you how great and good a man he is. When you’re a public servant/politician and people want you back alive that says a lot.
I started reading more about him. I read past articles and watched videos about Sec. Jesse. I wanted to know more about the man whom some say was the President the Philippines should have had. He was the modern day equivalent of a Ramon Magsaysay, a man who is close to the masses and in touch with reality.
I read about how he became the youngest Mayor of Naga at 29. How he served three terms but graciously stepped down when his term limit was reached. He did not ask his wife or any relative to run in his place. He would later on go back to becoming Mayor after a 3-year break. He studied at Harvard during that time. He took Naga from a 3rd class city to a 1st class city. He eliminated corruption, opened up the local government and instituted reforms. He swept the streets and walked it in sandals sans bodyguards. Any Nagueño could come up to him and talk to him about their problems or just to say hello. He was a true public servant.
Sec. Jesse was bestowed in 2000 the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the first for a Mayor in the Philippines.
As I got to read the stories, watched the videos, see the tweets and Facebook posts of people, it really dawned on me that the Philippines lost a great man.
After 24 hours of being lost at sea, my heart sank. Chances are he was dead. They crashed so close to the shore. They should have found him by now. Still with all the people praying for him, a miracle might happen.
On the morning of the 21st I awoke to the sad news that his body had been found. It became real. We had really lost one of the best modern day public servants of our country.
I pondered why God could take such a good man from us so soon. I could name a lot of people I’d rather have on that plane. It’s not very Christian of me but I am only saying what I really felt. We needed him to serve our country. We had so very few people like him around. The loss of one was a big blow.
As I was thinking about that, another wise and great man came into mind. I had read a quote from Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga a day or so before. I’m not sure if he wrote it for Sec. Jesse or it was something from way before. It went “When heroes fall from the sky, many more will learn to fly”.
It is difficult to understand why God takes away good men so soon. When I read the words of Tony Meloto, I understood that sometimes God needs to take away our crutches so we can stand on our own.
In Sec. Jesse’s death God might be telling us that it is time for us to be heroes in our capacity. That in order for Sec. Jesse’s memory to live on and his life to mean more that what it already does, we should follow his example and take up his cause.
Let his life be an example for all of us. That a boy from Naga, who came from humble beginnings can affect such a profound change in his community and eventually the entire country. I know that we all can’t be Mayors and public servants like him but we can all strive to be a little like him.
Sec. Jesse showed us that we can be walk the straight path and be successful. That no matter how busy life gets family always matters. That being a public servant truly means serving others. That in wielding power one must use it for good and not flaunt it.
I used to only ask this question when faced with tough decisions, “What Would Jesus Do?” Now I also need to ask myself “What Would Jesse Do?”
As a I mourn for someone whom I’ve never met and yet feel a great attachment to, I have to ask how can I best keep his memory alive. The only answer I can think of is to try to live my life as he did. I know I won’t be a Mayor, I don’t even think I can be a public servant but in whatever I do or wherever life takes me I can always try to live with honesty, integrity and decency like Sec. Jesse did. I can serve my country in my own way by working hard, being productive, picking up after myself. Trying to avoid perpetuating what is wrong in our society today. Follow rules. Treat everyone with respect. I know in doing those things I can honor the memory of Sec. Jesse.
I’ve always wanted to visit Naga. It is after all the place where my father grew up. That will be always be the first reason why I would like to go. Now I’ve added another reason. I want to see the city that gave birth to such a great man. I want to see what Naga is now because of him. Hopefully one day I will make that trip.
To Sec. Jesse’s family, thank you for sharing him with the entire nation. I can’t begin to understand what you’re feeling now, I can only send my sympathies, condolences and prayers. For what it’s worth please know that I have a deep admiration for him and I think the whole country does too. He will be missed.
To the others like me who admire the late secretary, let us honor him not only during this time of loss but also during the years ahead. In our own small way follow his example. We can always try to ask ourselves “What Would Jesse Do?” If we all can be a little like him I’m sure the Philippines will be in a much better shape.
Sec. Jesse, may you rest in peace. The whole nation mourns for you. You are deeply loved not only by your family but the Filipino people. Look upon us and guide our country towards greatness. Godspeed. Dios Mabalos.