The greatness of a man often finds its roots in his early years.
Over the last few days I had been wondering what kind of family Sec. Jesse Robredo grew up in and what his siblings were like. I had heard a smattering of stories from here and there and all of them were good. Tonight, I received a copy of this email which was written by Dr. Pipo Bundoc to his classmates at the UP College of Medicine. Dr. Bundoc is a professor of Anatomy at the UPCM. He wrote this while waiting for the eldest Robredo sister to arrive from the United States after Sec. Jesse’s passing —
Dear Brods & Sisses,
As I wait at NAIA for the arrival of my sister-in-law, the eldest of the siblings, I thought of introducing my Brothers and Sisters-in-law . . . because I feel that with all your prayers they are Brods and Sisses to you as well:
Jocelyn Robredo-Austria (Jo)–a practicing neonatologist in Philadelphia. Supreme Ate par excellence–has nothing in her mind but the welfare of her siblings and pamangkins (aside of course her own family). Graduated top of UERM Med Class 1981. On top of a stress-ridden private practice, she holds a bi-weekly general pediatric free clinic in a ghetto-community in Philly for the last 20 years.
Her home in Pennsylvania is the embassy/consulate of many many Pinoys in need. Her punch line on every regular long distance call to the Philippines “ Hoy, Ano ba ang kailangan ninyo dyan. . . paki sabi naman at para mapadala ko agad . . .”
Jose Manalastas Robredo Jr. (Butch)–his rival basketball team at UP Diliman hated him for his 3 point shots–they were even more baffled when they found out that he was shooting with barely 30% remaining vision from his Retinosa Pigmentosa.
He finished his pre-law at UP Diliman with friends reading books for him. He would come very early in class for an exam to find the brightest spot in the room-usually beside a door and take the exam with his foot pushing the door ajar to allow natural light to illuminate his blue book.
One professor suspected him of cheating and stood by the door, he said- “Mam, huwag naman po ninyo haranging yun liwanag.” The teacher did not flinch- it was the only exam he failed in college. I felt jealous when my small kids before found Tito Butch much a “cooler dude” than their dad.
JESSE MANALASTAS ROBREDO (Jesse)–the crybaby of the family. As a kid he would cry if he lost in a chess game. His siblings hated him for being a “squealer.” He felt bad when his mother transferred him to La Salle from UP Los Baños. His Mama felt eerie with the latter’s campus–nobody argued with her mother’s instinct. He was designated as guardian to his two younger sisters when they were all studying in Manila already.
When my girlfriend introduced me to him, I eagerly extended my hands for a friendly shake donning the best-practiced smile I ever had. He menacingly looked at my hands, and then my eyes then arrogantly turned his back on me. One time while visiting my girlfriend and stretching my stay not just a bit too late in the evening- he came down from his room, rolled out a sleeping bag on the floor and declared that he was going to sleep already.
Jeanne Robredo-Tang (Jean)–people would be surprised when they find out that Jean is legally blind. She would be the second to fall prey to the autosomal-dominant gene. She moves around as if she is not visually impaired. I will never comprehend how she knows whether you are smiling or frowning. Once at the Universal Studios, I rode with Jo, Jean and my wife in the “Men in Black” ride where you have to shoot alien with laser guns. We were devastated when she got the highest point of aliens zapped and killed. She set up the first ever provincial “Library for the Blind” in Naga City which is a project being emulated now in many other areas in the country. She is the only one who can stand against the member of the siblings who suffers from a “middle-child syndrome.” The latter does not stand a chance against with the wit of Jean.
Josephine Robredo-Bundoc (Penny)–she is the only sibling that her father never had any glimpse of. Her father was completely blind when she was born. Probably the reason why she is “Papa’s girl.” I met her in Physics-31 in Diliman.
When I was courting her, I would accompany her to the bookstore where she would buy a pocket book and a box of cassette-tapes. In between studying, she would tape-record the pocketbook cover to cover and mail it to Naga. Her father would listen to the most beautiful voice for his ears. Her father would receive a new tape-recorded fiction book almost on a weekly basis.
Some 7 years ago, Penny asked me if I do not mind being the sole breadwinner for the family–she argued that private practice is hampering her from reaching out to many Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) that she wanted to help. She is a Physiatrists. She goes on monthly amputee missions all over the islands to measure, fabricate and fit amputees with artificial limbs. The PMA awarded her the coveted Jose Rizal Awards for community service early this year.
Papa and Mama, their parents, suffered from stroke 7 hours a part last October. Mama was critically in need of decompression surgery. Jesse requested a C-130 bringing wounded soldiers from Zamboanga to Manila to pick up my in laws. They stayed in PGH for 4 months. Mama had four cranial surgeries and is now well but still recovering. Papa never recovered from a vegetative stage. All televisions and radios were removed from the house. The family deemed that the parents be spared from the agony.
My wife visited Mama yesterday, she said “Penny . . .halina anak tulungan mo nga ako. . . mag-ayos tayo at baka dumating na si Jesse. . .”
In behalf of the Robredo Family . . . thank you Brods and Sisses for all your prayers and well wishes.
Maraming Salamat sa inyo!