Robredo's wife recalls Jesse's final words and wishes
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - The last conversation Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had with his wife Maria Leonor “Leni” felt like “I was calling him in the middle of a meeting,” she said.
Moments before the Piper Seneca plane crashed off Masbate City on August 18, Leni said the Secretary’s voice was calm as he told her: “Ma, sandali lang may inaasikaso ako, tawagan na lang kita (I’m busy with something, I’ll call you back).”
She thought Secretary Robredo had landed safely back at Cebu and was busy finding tickets for a commercial flight.
Earlier that Saturday, Leni was supposed to pick up her husband at the Naga Airport and was waiting for his instructions when she got a text from him that his plane was going back to Cebu without providing more details.
“I drove to the Naga airport in Pili. Just before I reached the airport, nagtext siya. Sabi niya, ‘Balik ang (he texted. He said, ‘Returning) plane sa Cebu.’ Sabi ko, ‘Bakit?’ (I asked, ‘Why?’) But he did not answer me. Instead he again said, ‘Balik ang plane sa Cebu (The plane would return to Cebu).’ I was waiting for his instructions if I would wait for him at the airport or I would go home muna then just come back. I was trying to call him up so instead I decided to go home. I texted him, ‘Tawag ako ng tawag sayo di ka sumasagot (I kept calling you, you were not responding) and he answered, ‘Mahirap kasi ang signal (The signal’s difficult).’”
So Leni tried to call her husband again and finally, Robredo answered with a calm voice telling her that he would call her back. That was their last conversation,
Minutes after, she received a call from Secretary Robredo’s aide in Manila.
“About 15 minutes after, mga 5 siguro or 4:45 to 5, his security in Manila called me up, si Paul. Sabi niya, ‘Mam nakausap niyo ba si (did you you talk to) sir?’ Medyo nalito pa nga ako kasi (I was a little confused because) I told him, ‘Oo (yes), 5 minutes ago…’ pero apparently it was 15-20 minutes na.”
“Sabi ko, ‘Bakit?’ Tapos sinabi na niya. Sabi niya (I asked ‘why?’ That’s when he said that) a few minutes ago he called me up asking for help na i-clear daw yung Masbate airport ‘cause they were going to make an emergency landing so I already did that. In fact I think the airport was cleared already for landing. Several officials were there pero may (but there were) sightings daw (allegedly) of a plane na nag-crash daw sa dagat (that crashed to the sea).”
Leni said that the thought that it was her husband’s plane that crashed into the sea did not sink in at first. But when she put down the phone, she immediately told her youngest daughter Jillian of the news.
“I told her let us pray because something might have happened to papa’s plane. She was already crying. I decided to call up Aika, she was in Araneta watching the UAAP…I told her what happened. She left the game, picked up her sister, and went to church,” Leni said.
She then informed her brothers- and sisters-in-law.
“My youngest daughter Jillian was already crying. She was asking me can we go to church and I told her in my condition I can’t drive because nag-jelly na yung aking legs. In a few minutes dumating si Mayor Bongat and City Council until andami ng tao sa bahay (there were so many people at home),” Leni continued.
Leni said that for the first few days that the authorities could not find the Secretary, they continued to hope he was alive.
But she said she knew on the first night that her husband was gone.
“And we all were hoping that he would be OK pero ako after the first night I knew that he was gone,” she said.
He wants to be home
Leni said the Secretary knew that he would not be able to make it to his daughter Jillian’s event and that it was just like her husband to go home and surprise them.
“He wants to be home. Ang akala niya matatapos yung okasyon ng anak ko (He thought he would be able to catch our daughter’s event) at 5 p.m. but at 2 p.m. I texted him tapos na. Wala ka nang maabutan (it’s over. You won’t catch anything anymore). So he knew na wala na siyang maabutan (he wasn’t going to make it to the event),” Leni said.
Initially, her daughter Jillian was devastated upon hearing of the accident but her mom assured her that she was not to blame.
“I explained to her that her papa already knows na tapos na yung okasyon. It was not really the main reason why he was hurrying home,” Leni said.
Leni said the family prefers that her husband be buried in his hometown in Naga City instead of at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“Naga has always been his home. He always tells me this is his happy place. Palagay ko (I think) we will be doing him a great disservice pag hindi siya dito nilibing (if we don’t bury him here),” Leni said.