That first night, I knew he was gone: Robredo's wife

Leni Robredo (above) says Naga City is her husband's "happy place."

Moments before his plane plunged into the sea off Masbate island on Saturday, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was telling his wife, Leni, on his cell phone: "Ma, just a moment, I am just attending to something. I will call you back."

Robredo's voice was calm.

Leni, in Naga City, was on her way to the airport to fetch him. She had no idea that the plane, a four-seater Piper Seneca, was about to crash.

He never called again.

When told by a Robredo aide that a plane had nosedived into the water, she thought: "Could it be their plane? Could it be him?"

That was how Robredo's wife, Maria Leonor Sto. Tomas Gerona Robredo, 47, recounted in a press interview in Naga on Thursday her last conversation with her husband. Before then, Robredo had talked about his wish to see his family one more time.

Here's that interview translated to English:

Question: What's the decision of the family about the offer to bury Jesse Robredo at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?

Leni: We feel very honoured with the offer but we are very sure that Jesse would prefer to be buried here. Naga has always been his home. He always tells me this is a happy place. That's why I think we will be doing him a great disservice if he is not buried here.

So painful

Q: How does his family feel now, the brothers and sisters of Robredo, his parents?

Leni: We are coping but it's very difficult. It's so painful to lose a husband, lose a father, lose a brother. But now we know that this is what God wants. There's nothing we can do but accept. All through his life Jess would always say, 'What is fated is what will happen.' I think the most that we can do to help him find rest is to show him that we are strong and we can take this.

Q: What were you and the Secretary talking about while he was on the flight?

Leni: Actually, we had quite a long talk. On a regular basis, we would talk 10, 20 times a day, but on that particular Saturday, our text exchanges and our conversation must have doubled. He was flying to Cebu while we had an occasion here. I would update him.

He would call and was so happy. He wanted to talk to our daughter, to congratulate her. All throughout the day that was the tenor of our talk. He wanted to be home. He had expected that the affair involving our daughter would be over by 5 p.m. But at 2 p.m. I texted him that it had ended. So he knew he would not make it.

Bent on going home

I thought he was not coming home anymore but a staff member of his told me he was bent on going home. It was not unusual for him and he was always very happy to surprise us. So I texted him at about 3:15 and said, "Pa, are you coming home?" He said, "Yes, we have boarded the plane."

I am the one who drives the car and fetches him at the aiport. He said, "Take your time because our ETA is still at 4:15."

I left the house about 3:40. I drove to the Naga airport in Pili. Just before I reached the airport, he texted me, "Our plane is going back to Cebu." I asked him, "Why?" He did not answer me. Then he replied again, "The plane is going to Cebu."

I was waiting for his instructions, if I would wait for him at the airport or if I would go home. But I could not contact him. So I decided to go home. I texted him, "I kept calling you but you do not answer." And he answered, "The signals are bad."

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