As the gods would have it, the man was given a choice: a long but relatively uneventful life or a short one full of challenges to measure one's character and disposition.
And as all heroes are inclined to choose, the man opted for the short but meaningful life.
For indeed, it is not the number of years a man has lived that measures his greatness. It is what he has done and how he is remembered with the time loaned to him that his worthiness is weighed.
10:30 AM / 19 August 12
As I write this, there is no definite word about the fate of Jesse Robredo.
I was preparing to leave for an early Saturday night dinner with friends when news about his plane accident spread through the internet. In moments like these, you feel a chill up your spine while a thousand questions flash in your mind at a speed that you cannot decipher --- much less comprehend.
There is no doubt about it: Jesse Robredo is an exceptional man.
As a La Sallian, I take great pride in saying that this man who was voted as one of the youngest mayors and cited as one of the most important people to truly institute changes in Naga City is a co-alumnus. You feel that sense of pride when you know that somebody as important and significant as Jesse also walked the same corridors where I studied and eventually taught.
There were occasions in the past when I met Jesse.
Those were the times I still hobnobbed with politicos and the so-called social movers. That was when I caught a glimpse of how Philippine politics works ... how businessmen, educators, urban thinkers and philosophers, artists and men of letters gathered together to make plans, move events and somehow make decisions about the fate of the nation.
That was when I realized that there was more to all this than meets the eye ... or what you read in the papers ... or what you see or hear in television. That was when I realized that there was a world a difference between what they say we need ... and what they really want.
Jesse Robredo walked among them ... but he was different.
Jesse was simple and soft spoken but determined and always carried a vision not only in his mind but also his heart. He wanted to make a change ... and he did not by the power of speech alone ... or through grandstanding ... or a shameless enumeration of what he has done to gain political clout. He lived the principle he worked for and believed in. In other words, he was exceptional in a sense that his idealism moved way ahead of any semblance of mere ambition.
Even after I have moved away from the circle of such influential people --- perhaps wiser and bit more learned --- I never lost my faith in and admiration for Jesse Robredo. He was one of the few I will forever respect.
When President Aquino chose Jesse to be part of his cabinet as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, he could not have made a better choice. Although others have a right to disagree ... as all political decisions are bound to be subject to deliberation ... I always believed that Jesse's presence in this administration is one of the best things that has ever happened to our country.
Whether he was that mayor in Naga ... or a man who held such a vital position in national government, Jesse remained the same quiet, focused and hard working man that everybody knew. There was not a semblance of flash and grandstanding in his person. He just worked quietly. And he worked hard.
And now this.
I often find myself in situations such as these.
Why do bad things happen to the few good men? Why does God allow such things to happen? Is it not a greater need to have the Jesse Robredos among us in our near desperate hope to bring back greatness to this country?
Has it not been such a shining example to have Jesse Robredo among the throngs of politicians, filibusters and strategists who run our government ... if only to give us a sense of hope that ... yes, there can still be real and positive change?
In my Twitter account last night, one very hurt and disillusioned follower sent a message naming other politicos who he wished were on that plane instead of Jesse. But I said let us not go there. I understood where that fellow was coming from --- for I know there are others who feel or felt that way when they heard the news.
This accident did not make any sense. It is too unfair. There are others who we think may deserve this fate ... but not Jesse.
Why Jesse and why not Whoever?
Let us not even think that way. I do not believe the Powers Up There work that way.
There are a lot of things that happen in life that we do not and cannot explain or understand but we are in no position to bang the doors of heaven and demand an explanation from God as to why He does these things to us.
I would still like to think that there is a purpose behind all this. I greatly believe that He is teaching us a lesson the hard way ... the painful way ... again. And that lesson is we need men like Jesse.
We can only ease the pain by not only admiring the example Jesse sets ... but by doing the same in our own little and humble ways.
We should stop merely complaining about what we do not like around us. We must work to make those changes ... regardless of who we are and what station we hold in life.
We do not have to be in government or any position of great influence and power to make changes.
We only have to be examples by the way we think, the way we feel and the way we live.
Just like Jesse.
In the meantime, I am with so many Filipinos immersed in prayer. His will be done ... but Jesse, please come back to us.
If the good Lord has decided to take you back to His arms, we will accept that. We will miss you if such be the case ... but you ARE great by simply showing us how to live.
Come back to us, Jesse.
A little past eight in the morning on the 21st of August, three days after the plane carrying Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed a few kilometers away from the runway of the Masbate Airport, a team of divers recovered his body from the fuselage of the craft.
He was positively identified and immediately brought back to his home in Naga City.
Jesse was described was a man who always made it a point to come home. And he no terrain can stop him from returning to Naga to be with his family --- especially last weekend.
Now Jesse Robredo is finally home with the ones he truly loved.
His body is now home with wife and daughters and the citizens of Naga who hold him to the highest esteem.
And there is no doubt where his soul has returned --- to the arms of the Father who must be truly happy to hold this great man in His embrace, proud of everything Jesse did in the 54 years that was his life.
For it is not in the number of years spent on earth that really matters. It is what you leave behind. It is how you are remembered.
It is how your life has become a source of inspiration.
Farewell, Jesse. Farewell, our hero. And cheers ... to a life so well-lived.