Farewell, Secretary Ninong Jess!

Last night, my husband and I were not able to visit the good secretary Jesse Robredo’s wake. It was raining, my husband was still working, and our toddler expected me to lie next to him whenever he had to go to sleep.

This morning, we decided to go very early. We arrived at Malacañang Palace at around 7:30 am, which is not really that big a feat considering that we live nearby. There were already two long queues waiting, but they were manageable compared to last night’s, which reached even Nagtahan Bridge.

The queues moved pretty quickly to our surprise, and although the public viewing was set to start at 8 am, there was marked movement before that said time. Before getting into the gates, the queues were separated into  two, by gender. I was both happy and nostalgic to hear a flurry of Bicolano voices in the queues. Some even talked to my husband and me, asking about surnames, and how we knew the secretary. “Mga inaanak kami sa kasal (we’re his godchildren by way of marriage),” my husband explained. It turned out that we were talking to men and women who knew Ninong Jess when he was still in Ateneo de Naga high school.

Inside, my husband and I had to wait a little bit as our bouquet of flowers was checked by a sniffing K9. I know that Atty. Leni requested people to send donations to Sec. Jesse’s favorite charities, instead, but I still felt like we should bring at least a bouquet and a mass card.

It was still early in the morning. The palace grounds felt solemn and peaceful.

We headed to the closed coffin to say our final goodbyes, placing the bouquet on the carpeted floor, the yellows, pale pinks, and browns contrasting with the pure white flowers that gathered below. It was all so quiet.

We left the place without taking a paperbag of snacks. We were not there for the food. We were just there to say goodbye. It would have been a more satisfying goodbye if we could go home to Naga City for the burial (I remember being part of the funeral parade-to-burial for the late Senator Roco when I was still student council president for Ateneo de Naga), but other responsibilities prevent us from doing so.