An Unforgettable Gesture Of Concern

22 August 2012

MANILA, Philippines --- On August 7, torrents of monsoon rain unleashed floods that began to flood our house in Santa Mesa Heights, Quezon City.

As the floodwaters rose, so did my family's anxiety.

I called our barangay officials, telling them of our situation. They said they did not have a rubber boat and could not send anyone to help.

I called the Philippine Red Cross. They said all of their volunteers were already deployed.

Desperate, I sent a text message to Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. I cover his department for the Manila Bulletin and had on many occasions interviewed the secretary.

At first, I did not want to contact him, knowing how busy he was - he was meeting with the President and other government officials that day to discuss ways of rescuing stranded families.

I told Robredo about our situation and texted him our address. He said he had directed my plea to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). I thanked him then waited for help to come.

When the water reached the second floor of our house, we could not wait any longer, and decided it was time to leave.

Neighbors swam to our house with a tiny rubber boat in tow. We got in and reached safer ground.

I did not give much thought to my request to Robredo after that; that is, until the following morning.

When the water receded my father went to check on our house. He saw a man tapping on our door.

The man introduced himself as a member of the BFP's La Loma station. He said he came to our house yesterday afternoon bringing him a rubber boat for us. "Utos mula sa taas (Orders from above)," he told my father.

Because nobody was home, the man had left. He came back early next morning to check again, on Robredo's orders. After talking to my father, getting his name and confirming our safety, he said he can finally leave and report to his boss that my family was safe.

Despite having thousands of families to worry about, Robredo did not forget a single person's call for help, and this touched my heart.

He had a genuine concern for people. His acts of kindness did not make it to the news often. But everybody whose life Robredo had touched knows that he had never turned his back on anyone in need.

There are politicians who treat reporters with disdain, while try to cultivate a friendship thinking of the "good" media buzz they can get.

Robredo is an exception. He treats all reporters - from big publications to small ones - with respect. If you ask him a question, he will answer honestly, never once nudging you to be partial to him or his activities.

Those who have an axe to grind against Robredo needled him for not doing his job effectively. Some joked about his being so busy he is always late for events.

Nobody ever questioned his character and integrity. And that speaks volumes about the man.