Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trying to Make Sense of the Senseless

This was supposed to be about roasting a chicken.  Teresa* had called and needed someone to talk to about work, life and the crossroads she had reached. "Come over," I said. "I'm roasting a chicken."

Earlier that morning, I heard the news that they had finally found the bodies of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and the other passengers on board the small plane that crashed in Masbate. Sad news, yes, but at least it offered some sense of closure. It had been three days since the crash, after all, and we all knew the inevitable result. But hope, however remote, is hard to kill and we all continued to hope for a miracle.

Sebastian*, a former colleague from government, posted on Facebook that the event had severely shaken his faith in a God who would allow such a senseless thing to happen.

Genevieve*, who had worked closely with Robredo on education-related initiatives, also grieved openly on Facebook, posting photos and anecdotes about the man's passion, simplicity and integrity.

And in a country so deeply polarized by politics, religion, showbiz and countless other issues, we all shared one common belief: that the country had suffered the loss of a great man. Amidst the collective outpour of grief, however, it was this essay, Aika Robredo's source of inspiration, written in 2003 by his then 15-year old daughter Aika, that most moved me.

Aika's essay briefly acknowledged the magnitude and breadth of her father's impressive accomplishments before focusing on the father she actually knew and loved.

She writes: "As he goes about serving others, I have never been left wanting for his time and attention. He eats lunch and dinner with us seven days a week. 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."

Only after reading this essay did I fully grasp the magnitude of our loss. And as much as I wanted to respond to Sebastian's Facebook update with platitudes on faith and God's plan, I had to admit--I was stumped. See, I don't know God's plan. And I don't know if the groundswell of good intentions Robredo's death inspired in "regular" folk like me could mitigate this great loss.

I do know this much, though, and thank Jesse Robredo for reminding me. Life is fleeting. We can all make a difference.  Maybe not a nationwide difference but that's okay. It still matters. Every little bit. I may not have solved the great mystery of why bad things happen to good people, but I"m trying to make sense of it all by celebrating life and resolving to at least try to make the world a better place.

So, I said a prayer for Sebastian, who is another one of government's unicorns: an honest and principled man with a warm, gooey marshmallow heart that he goes to great lengths to conceal.  I offered up another prayer for Genevieve, a former colleague and mentor in government whose integrity and passion had achieved Barney Stinson-like legendary status.

And in my whisper (okay, my whine) to the universe, I prayed that these people would find comfort in the fact that they too had made a huge difference in the lives of their fellow Filipinos and that they, in fact, honored Robredo's memory with their work and their very lives.  I also said a prayer for the Robredo family whose quiet grace and dignity only served to further underscore the greatness of the man the nation lost.

As for me, I roasted a chicken. I reminded Teresa of why she was so awesome. I took a long walk and savored the five minutes of perfectly sunny and breezy blue-skied weather the day accorded. I rubbed my cat's belly. I called my mom. And then I said one final prayer. Rest in peace, Jesse Robredo.

"His decision...imparted to me the life lessons that no deed is too small nor too big if it makes other people's burden lighter and their lives better; that greatness of spirit can be achieved not through wealth, power or popularity, but by living your life with quiet dignity and by becoming a man for others. " - Aika Robredo

*Names have been changed to protect the awesome.


  1. Hey Real girl that cooks in a Toy Kitchen -- love this! From one of your ghel friends

  2. Hey, shy ghel friend! Thanks for the support! Can't wait to see you back in the TK!