Red, the Mighty Rescue Dog

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Red, before and after his rescue

Red, before and after his rescue

It was during my usual morning rush to work when I came across the pleading eyes of a puppy as I stepped out of our condominium elevator to the basement. I thought that the puppy must belong to one of our neighbors as it had a red collar. The puppy and I made brief eye contact. He had the sweetest, pebble eyes. I stepped out of the elevator, while the puppy stepped inside and the elevator door closed. I rushed to my parked car but then I thought, wait a minute, dogs cannot press lift buttons! So despite running late for work, I went back to the elevator, pressed the door open button, and was not surprised to see the helpless puppy staring back at me inside, standing there motionless, and not knowing what to do. I had a closer look at the poor creature, which I then realized was a stray dog. Its fur was dirty and had bald patches. I thought fast and pressed the elevator button to our floor, saw my mom on the landing and just very quickly told her that the poor dog was homeless and if she could take care of it first. I then left for the office and went through a hectic day full of back to back meetings and calls.

Lost for good?

It was not until late that afternoon when I had a break from my busy work day to check on the stray puppy with the red collar. I called my mom and asked her how the dog was. She said she had to surrender the puppy to our condo guard as one of our dogs Yodie (we already have three dogs, you see – Bubbles, Blu and Yodie) thought the puppy was a cat and started barking and chasing after it. I said exasperatingly, “Where did the guard bring the dog? You have to find it!” I felt I let the puppy down. If we did not help the puppy, then it would not have a chance of surviving.

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Homeless Red when we found him outside our building. His body was covered with wounds and his skin had all sorts of diseases.

It was not until the next day when my brother found the puppy at the back of our condominium building. It was as if the little creature knew that we were coming back for him. It turns out he was the only one in a brood of stray puppies that survived, while its siblings had died of hunger. The next day, we brought the puppy to Animal House veterinary clinic at SM Megamall for a much-needed bath and medical attention. The veterinarian, Dr. Eva Averion, said that the dog, whom we named “Red” (from his distinguishing red collar), had a variety of health problems resulting from all some sorts of ectoparasites and endoparasites, blood parasite, anemia, thrombocytopenia and poor liver condition. Red’s stool examination revealed that he had some tapeworms and roundworms. Red’s skin was apparently unhealthy due to some tick and flea infestation, yeast infection and sarcoptic mange commonly known as scabies. In addition, Red’s blood test indicated low RBC with extremely low platelet counts. Red was skeleton thin, frail and weak, but he had soulful eyes – the same eyes that pleaded for help when I first encountered him by the elevator. Dr. Eva also said that Red had a determined spirit. He was a fighter determined to survive.

The scrawny being treated for his multiple ailments by Dra. Eva Averion of Animal House veterinary clinic in Megamall.

The scrawny being treated for his multiple ailments by Dra. Eva Averion of Animal House veterinary clinic in Megamall.

We brought Red home and put him in a cage until our older grandpa dog Yodie (also a rescue dog, by the way) got used to him. Now, the old dog and the young pup have become playmates. We call them the “brownies” because they both have brown fur. Old and a little overweight Yodie, a Mini Pinscher, now gets exercise because of the very playful Red, who always coaxes grandpa Yodie dog to play. Red is now too big for his tiny cage and he enjoys his newfound freedom frolicking around our home.

Our angels. Red (right) with his housemates Bubbles (left) and Yodie (bottom). Not in photo: Blu

Our angels. Red (right) with his housemates Bubbles (left) and Yodie (bottom). Not in photo: Blu

After several visits to the vet and religiously following his medicine protocol (this includes Vibravet for blood parasites) , we gradually saw the transformation in Red. Today, he is no longer skin and bones but is getting fleshier. He used to limp because of a hip dislocation, but now he stands perfectly tall. Having been deprived of food, he has a huge appetite and we always find him munching on his puppy food. His dry and infested skin has been replaced by a healthy and shiny brown mane. He has been cured from his liver deficiency and from being weak and lanky, he is now full of life and even mischievous, biting our slippers and running away for us to chase after him before it gets chewed to pieces. Red is forever in a playful mode and when he runs around, it is always with that happy gait, a bounce that declares how joyful he is not just to have a chance to live, but to have a home where he is loved as part of the family.

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Red always expresses his affection with a leg hug.

Red is a mighty rescue dog. He sought for a family to save him and even waited for us to come back and look for him when we were still not sure if we could take him in. Taking care of four dogs is not easy but we would not have it any other way. These dogs are part of our family. We are also fortunate that we live in a pet loving community. It isn’t only Red who is happy to have found a family. We are all the more happy because he brings sunshine into our life. It is a privilege to be chosen to take care of one of God’s precious creations. The reward for us is priceless. It is joy that money can’t buy.

Healthy and happy Red, five months after his rescue.

Healthy and happy Red witnessing the sun rise to usher a new day, five months after his rescue.

Red enjoys his first visit to the beach at Anda, Pangasinan.

Red enjoys his first summer escapade at the crystal clear beach of Anda, Pangasinan.

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Red’s metamorphosis: A living testimony to the transformative power of human love for abandoned and neglected animals.

My Top 20 for 2014

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A late post on my blog. I want to record this here for posterity — all the wonderful things I was blessed with in 2014. Genuine gratitude is magnet of blessings!

2014 has been a great year filled with memorable experiences. Here is a list I made just a few minutes before the clock struck midnight, signaling the start of a brand new year. I know that for as long as I cherish the past with gratitude and open myself up to God’s surprises this 2015, it will be yet another year filled with His graces. I bow down to the Source of All with a humble heart and a grateful and hopeful spirit for His bountiful blessings. Thank You, Lord, for making 2014 another fulfilling year!

Here’s my 2014 Top 20:

1. Welcoming the sun rise at the Burj Khalifa with my best friend since grade school, Lur! 👭
2. Dubai Desert Safari with some crazy dune bashing (scream!), camel ride, belly dancing show and the most juicy and tasty kebabs (even better than my fave Persia Grill!) 🐪
3. Birthday surprise from office colleagues, complete with poster of my face morphed to the svelte body of D&G Blue model David Gandy’s muse and as the leading lady of Lee Min Ho (haba ng hair 💁)
4. Snorkelling all around the Apo Reef with its rich marine life. 🐢🐌 Scuba diving side by side the endangered Pawikan (green sea turtle) 🐢. Yoga posing atop the light house overlooking the entire Apo Island. 🌳🌿
5. Catching and releasing exotic birds, swimming in a rock islet full of baby sharks and measuring mangrove trees together with the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation team 🐤
6. Schools of spinner dolphins surrounding our speed boat, our send off parade from Apo Island. Jumping off the boat to get a glimpse of these playful creatures under water (and hearing their chirpy dolphin calls). 🏊
7. Exploring Hanoi via motorbike and swanboat ride around the lake with my Vietnamese friend Manh
8. Sleeping overnight in a tourist ‘junk’ ship anchored in Halong Bay, UNESCO World Heritage Site (with cave exploration, hill trekking with new friend Mr Kudo, morning tai-chi and spring roll-making)
9. Cuchi tunnel adventure and Mekong River cruise with Faye & her mom 🚣. Night market shopping for North Face jackets at Ben Thanh market and eating authentic Vietnamese street food by the sidewalk
10. Standing Bow posing on the Athabasca glacier in Canada with photo c/o my fellow explorer Vans
11. Experiencing a true-blue western style state fair at the Calgary Stampede
12. Visiting KJ in the US and our uber jam-packed, OC-level hectic itinerary in four states (California, Nevada, NY and Massachusetts). Our road trips and walkathons.
13. Niagara Falls. Feeling the mist surround me and watching the seagulls glide everywhere.
14. Getting lost in Cologne, Germany together with Bestie E. Hearing High Mass for the installation of Cologne’s new bishop. Discovering our art-themed hostel. Shopping too long at Primark that we ended up traveling back on the road up to 2am!
15. Cow cuddling in Voorst with the 900-kg sweet Doerak. Biking around The Hague’s narrow streets. Morning tour of Delft.
16. Crossing paths with Red (Chinese name: Ngiao-Ngi), our rescue dog, as I stepped out of the elevator.
17. My 1st and 2nd visit to the Malampaya platform. First with guests from Moody’s and BSP. Second with Asian print journalists.
18. Crossing a river 11x (up to chest deep at some crossings) to get to our IP community for our rural electrification project
19. Earning my SP technical authority and passing the SP Professionals Programme.
20. Winning major prizes in two Christmas raffles!!! Yey

My favorite things (the song “Falling Slowly”)

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One of my favorite songs is “Falling Slowly” from the 2007 Irish film “Once”, which is now a Broadway and West End musical. “Falling Slowly” won an Oscar in 2008 for Best Original Song. I’ve seen the film but have yet to see the musical, which has had great reviews from music lovers (and hopeless romantics :)). I missed seeing it when I was in London last year and in New York this year. But I hope to be able to watch it at the next opportunity! 

Once movie and play poster

Poster from the film (left) and musical (right) “Once”

Recently, I had the privilege of being serenaded with this beautiful song by a young and talented guitar-player, Peter Bateson, who interned with us for two weeks this August, together with his equally smart and promising classmate Matthew Turgo.

Seventeen year-old Peter has been playing the guitar since he was about six years old and guess what, he can also sing! Peter is graduating from high school and plans to pursue a degree in Chemistry in university. Who says science and art can’t mix?   

On his last day of internship, we asked Peter to bring his guitar and perform for us. Of course, I didn’t pass up the chance to make a special request for him to sing “Falling Slowly”. I tried to blend in but was more content in just hearing him sing and play the guitar. We didn’t get to practice so excuse our off-blending parts (quite a lot, hehe). The video below is an impromptu jamming session (well, more of a mini concert with my colleagues at the office chiming in) of Peter and I singing.

We wish both Peter and Matt a promising career in their chosen scientific fields while continuing to express themselves through their artistic talents!

BSM Interns 2014

Some fun photos with our two boys during their internship with the Shell team

 

Thank You note from Peter and Matt

This Thank You note from our two boys/kiddos/interns even came with a present — a selfie stick, because they know we love to take group selfies :)

Read the rest of this entry

My 2013 Top 20

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Thank you, Lord, for 2013. It has been another great year full of blessings. I wish I could have blogged about all my fascinating experiences, places I’ve seen, people I’ve met. But I don’t even get to meet my target of blogging at least once a month because of the many other things I do. To make up for it, praising you with heartfelt gratitude for these wonderful memories of 2013 (blog to follow :)).

HERE’S MY TOP 20!

1. Sitting on the Great Wall of China
2. Close encounter with the cuddly pandas of Chengdu!
3. Learning how to dive: check na check!
4. Swimming with sharks and majestic pawikans at the UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and Philippines’ only national marine park, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, and getting to see the bird islet with the Red-Footed Boobies flying overhead
5. TV interviews for our advocacy to protect the Tubbataha (*Shell winning a 2013 Quill Award of Excellence for “Beauty, Bounty and a Shared Heritage: 25 Years of Protecting Tubbataha”)
6. Earning my BOSIET certificate (and passing the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training — thank goodness this certificate is good for four years!)
7. Biking through Belgium (embarrassing that our German biker companion had to help push my bike and I through the uphill cobble stone streets, since I haven’t biked in years and was so out of shape! Nyehe =})
8. Taking an über pleasant boat ride in the picture perfect city of Brugge, UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its graceful
swans and interesting architectural structures alongside, and buying yummy artisan Belgian chocolates at Miss Chocolates!
9. Witnessing the Shell Powering Progress Together conference on energy, water and food in Ahoy, Rotterdam with Ms Toni Loyzaga of the Manila Observatory (and the dynamic duo Suiee and Badz)
10. Walking through the famous Zaanse Schans Windmill Park in Amsterdam with a cup of fresh strawberries in cream on hand
11. Road trip to Wiltshire, England (straight from airport!) to see the historic and mysterious Stonehenge
12. Visiting my friend Tin and her lovely family in London and doing all the touristy things (riding the London Eye, gawking at the royal treasures and Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, having Afternoon Tea at Fortnum and Mason’s, dinner at a traditional British pub for fish & chips, and shopping gabi-gabi sa Primark!)
13. Being adopted by the Escobar family as we toured Windsor Castle :)
14. Walking through Notting Hill’s Portobello Road Market with all its interesting abubuts (and finding the famous Blue Door apartment of Hugh Grant in the movie :))
15. Taking part in my first Social Performance Review in Sabah, Malaysia (and enjoying being the only girl in the team)
16. Seeing the Rafflesia, the world’d biggest flower (better known as the flower in Plants Vs. Zombies!) at Mt Kinabalu Park
17. Seeing the Puerto Princesa Underground River, New 7 Wonder of the World, on Valentine’s Day :)
18. Enchanting firefly watching at Iwahig River in Puerto Princesa
19. Crossing five rivers to visit the indigenous Batac tribe for Malaria Awareness Day
20. Helping out in whatever little way I can through my work or personal capacity in the relief operations for those affected by natural calamities throughout the year.

Thank you, Father, I am truly blessed, for another year well-lived. May 2014 be as wonderful and even more. May I live more, give more, serve more, smile more! May I be your instrument to inspire others to live a full life. Amen.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Rediscovering Malaysia

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Rediscovering Malaysia

I’ve been to Malaysia many times but always just in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Grateful for the chance to see more of Malaysia this year. Was able to see Miri, Kota Belud and Kota Kinabalu just before 2013 ends. Here’s my workcation video blog below. Hope you enjoy!

Travel highlights:
1. Visit to Mantanani Island community – 2 hours boat ride from Kota Belud!
2. Trekking at Kinabalu Park, UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site. The canopy walk through the rainforest was so cool and refreshing!
3. Tour of the Upside Down House of Borneo
4. Sighting of the “Rafflesia”, the world’s largest flower! It takes about 1 to 4 years to grow the flower in special climate conditions, and it lives for only 5 to 7 days before it turns into charcoal black. Lucky we at least saw one that was about 3 to 4 days old, near wilting already but still amazing.
5. Bargain shopping for Sabah snack delicacies, fashionable Malaysian shoes, and seawater pearls!

*Music credits: “Good Life”, performed by OneRepublic

Special thanks to our tour guide Sharif (Amazing Borneo tours) for the very professional and informative tour of Kinabalu Park, and especially to Mr and Mrs Helmi for being such wonderful travel and shopping companions! Mr Helmi is with the Malaysian tourism department and he says that next year, Malaysia will embark on its tourism campaign, “Visit Malaysia 2014”, where they have lined up many tourist activities. This video blog is just a sneak peek of the many interesting places to see and things to do in Malaysia.

Rediscovering Malaysia, photo collage

Our Little Piece of “Survivor Philippines”

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I have been putting off taking the Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training (BOSIET) because of pure fear, since it includes the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), which basically means simulating how to escape from a helicopter that has crashed into the sea and capsized under water. I have heard stories from my colleagues who have taken the BOSIET and received mixed reviews – from those who say it was terrifying to those who say it’s pretty easy. Last week, I experienced it for myself.

Taking the BOSIET is required before I can go to the Malampaya offshore gas platform, since the primary mode of transporting people to the platform is via helicopter. Safety training such as the BOSIET is important to prepare people like me who work in the Upstream Oil and Gas industry on the proper response in the event of an emergency. Such preparation can save one’s life.

Our three-day BOSIET training had modules on:

1. Basic Firefighting — this included going through a pitch black confined space with artificial smoke while wearing a full-face mask and blindfolded, as well as handling different types of fire extinguishers – containing water, foam or chemical extinguishers;

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2. HUET — this included learning how to use a rebreather apparatus, where your only source of emergency oxygen while submerged under water is the 30-seconds worth you breathe out into an air bag, while you are turned upside down and try to push your way out of the capsized helicopter’s window, struggling out of your seat belt, and swimming out for dear life to the surface for an unlimited breath of air (the fear of being trapped in a sinking chopper, losing my breath and dying was very real to me at that moment when I was doing the exercise);

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3. Sea Survival – We learned techniques to conserve body heat while floating out on sea and waiting for rescue; we also learned the unique features of a marine life raft (both the inflatable one and the fully enclosed hard shell life boat) – it was all very “Life of Pi” for us, learning how to use personal locator devices, signal flares, sea biscuits as food provision, rain water collector pouches, etc. etc.

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4. Basic First Aid (particularly CPR) – From watching all those Baywatch episodes (yes, shows my age!) of mouth-to-mouth resuscitations of unconscious victims, I’ve always thought CPR was a complicated procedure. It is a bit detailed counting the number of chest compressions that need to be done in a minute, but knowing what to do to help a person in a life and death situation is a kind of priceless knowledge.

I consider my BOSIET batchmates my blood siblings, as what we went through was no easy thing. It’s like being on the reality adventure series “Survivor” Philippines, minus the television cameras. I thank our trainers at IDESS Maritime Center not only for demonstrating their adept knowledge on the course modules but most of all for the extra care they gave each of us to ensure that we felt safe and secure throughout the exercises.

While I initially planned to join a training group where I knew no one (I felt it was less pressure that way!), my boss told me it would still be better to take the BOSIET with a friend to build that feeling of security and boost my morale. Well, I chose no better person to take the BOSIET with than my best friend at the office, Bestie Elaine (!!!), who never failed to chant, “You can do it, Bestie!”, “Great job, Bestie!”, and even “Think Lara Croft, Bestie!”, the entire time. We were both inwardly terrified, but we tried to stay as cheerful as we could and have fun, drawing strength from each other’s cowardliness (haha!). Our other batchmates were men, who were very helpful and nice, and probably found our unintended helplessness at times amusing.

It was also a bonus that we found a nice place to stay in during our three-day “Survival” adventure, the Kamana Sanctuary Resort and Spa. It was right beside our training center in Subic, which was located in the middle of the forest and beside the sea front. It was pleasant to be surrounded by the sounds of leaves rustling in the wind and the calm rolling of waves lulling us to sleep. Our BOSIET experience was definitely an adrenalin rushing adventure at daytime and a serene nature escape at night. Definitely one of my 2013 highlights!

My next adventure will be setting  foot for the very first time on the Malampaya offshore gas platform in Palawan. Definitely looking forward to that one!

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*Music credits: “Elesi” by Rivermaya, “Feel This Moment” by Pitbull Ft. Christina Aguilera and “Raise Your Glass” by Michelle Chamuel

Jesse Robredo, a man who truly lived a full life

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Five years ago, as a freelance writer, I had the rare privilege of being asked to help write a script for a film documentary that would pay tribute to the “Ramon Magsaysay Laureates for Democracy and Good Governance”. I was given several mini biographies to read and among these was of a respected public servant from Bicol, a province in Southern Luzon — no other than the late Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo, who was then making a difference in the lives of his constituents in a profound way, as the Mayor of Naga City.

There was little the general public knew about the late Secretary Robredo at that time, but today, the Philippines gives this exceptional Filipino funeral honors fit for a president. A little over a week ago, Robredo and two others perished in a plane crash in the island of Masbate, as he fulfilled both his role as public servant and dedicated father, rushing home from a public speaking engagement to attend the awarding ceremony of his youngest daughter Jillian, who won in a swimming contest of the Palarong Panglungsod (Naga City Games).

“The man felt most comfortable in shorts and rubber slippers. But the funeral rites in his honor were fit for a head of state and would certainly discomfit him,” wrote TJ Burgonio of the Inquirer, on the day Robredo’s body was brought to Malacanang Palace.

During the eulogy at Malacanang, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras called Robredo’s brand of leadership “Tsinelas Leadership”. The tsinelas (slippers), t-shirt and shorts were Robredo’s signature attire. A getup of someone who had no qualms about getting his hands and feet dirty to fulfill his duties and responsibilities, and who did not set himself apart from the people he served just because he held an office, but always made himself available to lend an ear or a helping hand.

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I met the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo in 2010 in his hometown in Naga. We were in a mall where our Shell Active Chess competition for the youth was being held. I spotted Sec Jesse donning his signature shirt, shorts and tsinelas. We were having merienda in one of the local fast food chains, where he was waiting for his takeout food for his family. I approached him and told him how I admired him for his great work. He offered a smile and had no hint of pride at all in his demeanor, oblivious to his own his greatness of spirit. He was just a simple man doing his job, and on that weekend, he was an ordinary family man who was enjoying a leisurely weekend, just like everyone else.

He did not seek greatness but greatness sought him

A very simple and unassuming man, Robredo wasn’t one to hog the limelight, but was known to be a quiet and conscientious worker who earned the respect of those around him through the honorable life he lived.

I learned from the people behind the Ramon Magsasay Awards Foundation (RMAF) that it is not like the usual awards where aspiring awardees nominate themselves for the recognition. The Ramon Magsasaysay Awards, often considered as Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, particularly gives honor to men and women who have achieved distinction in their respective fields and have helped others generously without anticipating public recognition. The RMAF keeps their eyes and ears open, following the trail of greatness left by people who follow the example of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, a man who exemplified integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society. Without their knowing, the candidates for the Ramon Magsaysay awards are carefully studied and observed by the RMAF through a rigorous research and verifying process on the candidates’ quality of character and their genuine transformational contributions to society. To be a laureate of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards is even a higher distinction, and Jesse Robredo was among those whose lives stood out among the rest, and this we recognize today.

HIGHEST HONOR. On behalf of her late husband, Leni Robredo receives from President Aquino the Philippine Legion of Honor, the highest award that can be given by the President without Congressional approval (Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau). In his eulogy, President Aquino paid tribute to his Cabinet member, comrade in advocacy and good friend. Aquino said, “Jesse was truly a model public servant: focused on others and ready to sacrifice. Among the many I have talked to, he is the person who hates flattery. In Jesse, what you see is what you get.” … “He was not content with the status quo; he showed in Naga that change is possible. He showed that the prevailing system can be overcome, that we can defeat politicians who have long ruled and used their position for their personal interest.” … “He showed you can succeed in politics without being a traditional politician.” … “He has accomplished his mission in this world.” … “So let’s not cry. Instead, let us be grateful. In the short time he was here in this world, we were blessed with the opportunity to be with Jesse Manalastas Robredo.” (Excerpts from President Aquino’s eulogy delivered after the State Funeral Mass for Robredo)

Everyone a Robredo

Indeed, when you are confronted by such magnanimity of spirit, you cannot help but be uplifted and edified. I remember that as I immersed myself in Jesse Robredo’s life story to be able to write the script I was assigned to do, it was as if my own spirit rose, inspired to follow his example and be a better Filipino, a better human being. I guess you can say that of people like Robredo, who, despite their attempts to remain low key and unnoticed, cannot let their greatness of spirit be contained for very long. Like a sweet perfume, a pure soul’s essence will escape and pretty soon, its pleasant smell is bound to be noticed. As we, and even people from other parts of the world, watch the nation’s tribute to the late Jesse Robredo and listen to the countless anecdotes of the many ways he has touched people lives, we feel a sense of loss but also a sense of continuance for the good work he has sown.

As Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Vina put it in his column in Manila Standard, “Everyone a Robredo”:

“The Persian poet Rumi wrote, ‘Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.’ In losing Jesse Robredo we have lost friend and champion, but we should not lose faith, hope, and love in our country and our fellow human being that he had. As many testimonials have offered, the best way to celebrate his life is to emulate his life, and share it with others. To become like him, not just in demanding good governance, but in working towards it: every man and woman a Robredo, whatever our station in life. In memory of a good friend, perhaps it’s important to remind ourselves that we are not powerless, that we have the resources to make good governance possible. Robredo has done so for Naga and the DILG—why can’t others both in and out of government do so for our own cities, for our country? Why can’t Naga’s and Robredo’s DILG story, and his story, be our country’s story as well?

Far better than to mourn death is to celebrate life that was lived. This should now be the rallying cry we offer to the memory of such an amazing life.”

A life that did not fear hardships, inconvenience and even death

Atty. Leni Robredo’s quiet dignity at this time of mourning for the death of her beloved husband is something admirable. Her grace in embracing her husband’s fate with peaceful joy is imminent in her words, when she said that Jesse lived a full live and she knew in her heart that he was more than ready to reunite with his Creator.

Only an equally honorable woman could help a man like Jesse Robredo come to full bloom. She is, in every way, a match for this great man. As they say, behind every great man is a great woman (and in Secretary Robredo’s case, four women). We thank Atty. Lenny and their three daughters for generously sharing their family’s treasure with the Filipino people.

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The Robredo family. The late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, his wife Atty. Leni and their three daughters Patricia, Aika and Jillian.  Robredo’s wife says her husband always made time for family. Aika’s description of her dad when he was still Mayor of Naga aptly describes his dedication as a husband and father: “He eats lunch and dinner with us seven days a week, even if it means he has to take two or three more meals because he has to attend a constituent’s wedding or birthday reception. No occasion is too trivial for him. He is there for us not only during PTA meetings or piano or ballet recitals, but even when my math homework gets a little too difficult.”

Jesse Robredo’s life was utterly spent in public service. He was an epitome of the Lord’s servant-leadership. Below are just some of the kind words of remembrance I have heard these past days recounting the life of the well-loved Jesse Robredo:

  • His staff at the DILG would always come to the office finding Secretary Robredo had already an earlier start at work
  • Despite his position, he would stand in line at the elevator, and even let others go ahead or take the stairs if the elevator was already full
  • He was one to always volunteer to do the most difficult and daunting tasks in government, and his fellow Cabinet Secretaries would often hear Jesse utter the words, “Sige na, sige na, ako na” (Let it be me). He would also say to his staff and co-workers, “I will not ask of you what I am not willing to do myself”
  • Jesse would rather bite his tongue rather than uncharitably lash out when he was angry
  • He was always cheerful, never hot-headed, a simple and unassuming man. He was more concerned with authenticity – with being true to himself, than winning the praise of others
  • He was always the first to clear the mud after a flood, and the first to champion the battle cry of a worthy cause

One of the best descriptions of Jesse Robredo was written by his own daughter Aika, who won the grand prize some years back as a 15-year old high school student for the 2003 Ramon Magsaysay Student Essay Competition, where she wrote about her father (excerpt of the winning essay from the RMAF):

“Now that I am a little older, sometimes people would come up to me to tell me what great things my father has done for them. I feel proud. But what puts a smile in my heart is knowing that he also did small things for some people – things like bringing back a wayward son to his distraught mother, helping a male employee patch things up with his wife, or playing basketball on a street corner with the neighborhood kids. Such things may appear inconsequential, but they have brought great joy to others and made them feel important.” (Words from Aika Robredo, eldest daughter of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo)

“The immensity of the public response to his death and the collective grief being displayed give us comfort that his efforts have made their mark. We did not expect this kind of reaction. I am sure Jess did not expect this either,” said Leni Robredo, wife of the late Jesse Robredo. She said that her husband felt that the greatest gift he could give his children was a good name. “In death, he gave my children that gift and the best way we can all honor him is to guard that name and make him proud,” she said (Left photo by Philippine Star, Right photo by Malacanang Photo Bureau).

As my own gesture of gratitude to this wonderful soul, I hope to add to the online tribute to Jesse Robredo by sharing excerpts from the script I drafted in 2007 in honor of the Ramon Magsaysay Laureates for Democracy and Good Governance:

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SCRIPT EXCERPTS

Guardians of Democracy … Models of Good Governance … Great Men and Women of Asia.

“LEGACY OF GREATNESS: The Ramon Magsaysay Laureates for Democracy and Good Governance”

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In the Philippines, a young, non-traditional politician was creating an impact with his progressive, innovative, clean and efficient mode of governance …   

In a country where democracy was constantly being undermined by the corruption and incompetence of its leaders, Jesse Manalastas Robredo, Mayor of the City of Naga, demonstrated that democratic government can be good government …

Robredo abandoned a lucrative corporate career to heed the call of public service at the age of twenty-nine …

As Mayor, he was faced with a formidable task … assuming the burdens of a third-class city with a huge budget deficit …  

Robredo was determined to bring progress to Naga and enlivened everyone with his vision for the City…

More a manager than a politician, Robredo ran his city as if it were a corporation … And his decisive management style proved effective …

Armed with an MBA and strong corporate background, Robredo applied business techniques to raise performance, productivity and morale among city employees …

He introduced a merit-based system of hiring and promotion and reorganized city employees on the basis of aptitude and competence …

He freed the City from the grip of vices and fostered a culture of excellence among his constituents …

The young mayor gained the respect of his people for his moral authority and leadership by example …

Robredo spent the City’s funds wisely, prioritizing the provision of basic services, employing creative yet practical solutions to the City’s nagging problems such as traffic and squatting, minimizing graft and corruption and enlisting the partnership of NGOs and the urban poor to reach the goals of progress …

Robredo’s enduring legacy to the cause of local autonomy is his “empowerment ordinance of Naga City”, which institutionalized the participation of NGOs and People’s Organizations in the act of governance …

JESSE ROBREDO: “Our people have proven that given the opportunity, we can rise above our parochial interests in the pursuit of a common good. Given a choice, we will opt for good government despite the attendant obligation it requires.”

Under Mayor Robredo’s leadership, Naga experienced nothing less than a renaissance in ten years, catapulting it from a third-class city to a first-class, model city, with its people enjoying the fruits of prosperity …

JESSE ROBREDO: “Indeed, yielding power to the people is perhaps my greatest achievement as City Mayor.  And the greatest lesson I have learned is that public servants should feel obliged to heed the people’s will always.  Public servants are servant leaders. Their mission is ‘to serve and not to be served’.”

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The Ramon Magsaysay Laureates have created a blueprint of best practices in democracy and governance for people all over the world …

They are living examples of exceptional service …

Outstanding individuals who manifested magnanimity of spirit, in keeping with the ideals of the late, great Asian leader Ramon Magsaysay …

May their legacy of greatness live on. ~ [End of script excerpt] ~

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Once again, Maraming Salamat, Secretary Jesse Robredo, for inspiring us with the story of your life.  Thank you for showing us how to live a life of purpose and meaning.

Congratulations for a life well-lived. You have earned our applause and the applause of heaven.

You have fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. We bid you farewell as you enter the joy of your Creator in heaven.

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The Shell Communications Team with the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo. Photo taken in Naga City, Robredo’s hometown, in 2010.