AS I SEE IT: The tsinelas or grass-root politics of Jess
Tsinelas (rubber slippers) or flip-flops (zori, thongs) is a simple type of open-toed footwear typically worn in casual situations, outside or at the beach. They consist of a flat sole held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap that passes between the first and second toes and around either side of the foot. Inevitably, there is a band between the big toe and the other toes.
The name “flip-flop” originated from the sound that is made by slapping between the sole of the foot and the ground when walking. They became popular in casual settings during the 1960s, 1990s, and 2000s, and some branded varieties like Sanuk®, Havaianas®, and Crocs® have even found their way among high-end users.
In Naga City, the Tsinelas or what I will refer to as the grassroots politics was effectively practiced by then mayor Jesse M. Robredo for almost two decades. It is not uncommon for Jess to visit the far-flung barangays, attend official functions, and hold office in tsinelas. He was not only comfortable with this footwear, but it also made the ordinary folks relate to him. His simple ways and being accessible to the masses endeared him to his constituents.
Let me characterize the tsinelas or grassroots politics by the following description of the tsinelas in the preceding paragraphs which are in bold letters: “simple” “open” “a band between” “slapping between the sole of the foot and the ground when walking.”
Jess mastered these basic principles on governance, and walk the talk while in public service. His treading the “Matuwid na Daan” of the PNoy government is exemplified with his simple lifestyle. He is honest, transparent, and prudent in spending public funds because of he is morally upright and has integrity.
He likes to wear tsinelas because there is a band between the big toe and the other toes, in the same manner that as the servant leader that he is, there is a band or teamwork in his organization and he cares for his people like a family. But I think, his tsinelas or grass-root governance was exemplified by being grounded to the people he was mandated to serve. His often conversations with the ordinary man in the streets, knowing their views, addressing their problems and concerns were made possible through this strategy. While walking in
his tsinelas, Jess experienced the “slapping” of his feet and the ground where his constituents are..
Let me quote the blog of TV5’s Lourd de Veyra published on Aug 27, 2012 morning: “The rubber slipper as metaphor for Robredo’s brand of public service—humble, comfortable but functional. You can’t get any more honest, unassuming, and sincere than the tsinelas.”
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Last August 23, 2012, I received an email from Atty Tessie Aquino who is now residing in the USA where she quoted a fitting paragraph for our friend Jesse Robredo from “Ode: an intimation of Immortality” by William Wordsworth:
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from our sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.”
“LET’S FIND JESSE IN ALL OF US.” would be a lasting tribute for his sterling public service. I hope and pray that many Jesse Robredos will rise not only in Bicol but also in the entire archipelago to face the challenge of nation-building.
Jesse reminded all public officials and government employees: “Hindi na sapat na tayo ay matino lamang. Hindi rin sapat na tayo ay mahusay lamang. Hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay, at lalo naming hindi lahat ng mahusay ay matino. Ang dapat ay matino at mahusay upang karapat-dapat tayong pagkatiwalaan ng pera ng bayan.”
Jess also said, “Later in life, you will realize that it is neither your successes nor your conquests that will give you satisfaction. It is your contribution that really matters-paying back what you owe the community that nurtured you.” On Facebook and social media I got many messages extolling not only his many accomplishments but also his character, virtues, and how he has touched lives of people. Here are some of them:
Gwen Cu of Avenue Plaza Hotel: “We measure life not in how much money one has or what possessions one have, but rather through the lives we’ve touched and the sorrow we leave behind.”
Rey Gonzales from New Zealand: “A true public servant, a true father and most of all a true person…. we will miss you Sec. Jesse.”
Hamodyong: “Farewell Jess, you are truly an inspiration. You were well-loved and popular while alive, but in death your goodness and exemplary acts will continuously live on the people’s hearts.’
Anonymous: “When heroes fall from the sky, many more will learn to fly. Let’s not ask why bad things happen to good people – just be inspired by them to do more good to others so their life will not be in vain. Do not grieve for great men – they live forever. Grieve for those who live for self – they are soon forgotten.”
People from Naga Cty fondly calls Jesse Robredo as “’POGI” when he was its mayor for 18 years. When Jess was appointed as DILG Secretary, he simply expanded his territory and institutionalized grass-root governance by making the LGUs and their officials efficient, transparent, and accountable to the people. I hope all the reforms in the DILG, the PNP, and its attached agencies be taken seriously and continued. We will honor Jess by remembering his ideals summarized with an acronym POGI which refers to Poon o Panginoon (una sa lahat ang Dios), Obligasyon (sa pamilya at sa Bayan), Gawa (mabubuting gawa o kawang gawa), and Integredad.