HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 3, 2016 – 12:00am
I woke up at 5:15 on Thursday morning, took a shower and put on a Barong, white undershirt and black slacks, up and ready for the inauguration of the 14 th Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. I was to go first to 36 Valencia Street in New Manila where shuttle buses would bring guests to the VP’s office located at the former Boracay mansion.
I felt honored to have been on the guest list for this occasion. I was one of the early birds who got to Valencia practically an hour before the buses left to take guests to the venue. I was too excited. I wanted to see friends whom I worked with to convince Leni, the reluctant candidate, to run for Vice President of the Filipino people, and campaign for her.
It was at a Kaya Natin party two years ago when some of us gathered for dinner to celebrate board member Marissa Leynes’ birthday. Leni and I were there as members of the Kaya Natin board. It was also an occasion to discuss politics. Towards the end of the evening, I casually asked Leni Roberedo who was seated on my left, a question that many members of the board hadreally wanted to ask her. I asked if she was interested in the VP position. She smiled, showing
disinterest. When more people at the party pursued the question, she gave us a look that said her life was fine the way it was. She was a congresswoman who served district well, and a widow who was taking care of her three daughters and she wanted nothing more. She doubted that anyone would even vote for her. Then she turned to us and asked if we were really her friends.
The rest of what happened is, of course, history.
I got to the venue, sat with friends and since we were early, we looked around the mansion that now houses Leni’s office and took a few pictures there before the ceremony was to start. I also got to chat with outgoing cabinet members about their stint in government.
The VP’s arrival was announced, and every one of the more than 600 guests stood up to welcome Leni Robredo, radiant in a re-cycled, re-styled dress she once wore as a wedding sponsor. We cheered as she entered the huge tent where the ceremony was held. A children’s choir sang the National Anthem followed by invocations by four religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, a holy man from the Cordillera, and a Franciscan nun). Then, Leni went up the stage to be sworn in by her chosen barangay captains. She raised her right hand and solemnly swore in Pilipino that she would follow the Constitution and carry out her duties as best she can.
Her speech was truly inspiring, rallying everyone to help her continue pursuing her vow to serve the poor and dispossessed (‘ang laylayan ng lipunan’). It was such a privilege being witness to history being made. VP Leni made her way through the crowd slowly, greeting everyone
individually, posing for selfies, and hugging and throwing kisses athose who were beyond reach if a handshake.
Meanwhile, snacks were served inside the Vice President’s official home. When she finally came in, she tirelessly and gamely posed for even more photos.
After Noel Cabangon and I had our turn having our pictures taken with the VP, we rushed to Times Street where we joined the neighborhood association and two priests welcome Citizen Noynoy Aquino back to his old neighborhood. After singing a few songs, we ended up having lunch at the Aquino residence where we saw Pnoy, members of his cabinet and friends, watching the last few minutes of incoming President Duterte 's inaugural speech. The room was silent.
Then Pnoy called everyone to eat.The mood was light. There seemed to be a feeling of relief. The president was in a joking mood, relaxed and smiling, lying on a butaca. It was quite a sight seeing him, and his cabinet laughing along.
I left Times Street at about 2 pm and tried calling for an Uber car. The signal was bad. Luckily, former DAR Secretary Gil de los Reyes offered me a ride home, saying he was free and had nnothing better to do. We talked about his boss Noynoy for whom had the highest praises, and the often tireless and thankless job of working in government. He felt he made a difference. He served the people to the best of his ability and he was happy to be going back to private life.
I got home, took a nap and by 5 pm, I was on my way to the Quezon City Memorial Circle with my sisters Lory and Paulynn for the inaugural party for VP Leni organized by her Facebook followers. It was great to be with so many people who were in a celebratory mood. There was a
concert going on with some of the best Filipino performers giving their all.
Leni arrived at around 7 pm. As she spoke, the crowd hung on to her every word. She thanked us for making her VP, reminded us that her long journey has just started and asked for our continuing support. She called on those who experienced the ugliness, hate and ill-will
which pervaded social media during the elections. She acknowledged the hurt of those who fought and defended their candidates. She asked us to let go of all the negativity. The pain,bitterness, suffering, hate will soon go away, she said, and what will remain is the good.
Her message was simple but profound, a healing call for unity and cooperation that brought a lot of people to tears, including myself.
When my sisters and I congratulated her after her talk, she
apologized that she made us cry, but she added, there was just too much hate last elections that has to dissipate. My sisters and I went home aglow from the experience of Leni and her message of peace.
Finally on my bed, I felt exhaustion overcome me but, it was a satisfying kind of tiredness. I had done my share supporting Leni and witnessed her inauguration that sealed the whole deal. With a small sense of fulfillment, I said a short prayer of thanks and whispered ‘Mabuhay ang Pilipinas’ in my mind before I drifted to a deep satisfied sleep.
The author Jim Paredes with Vice President Leni Robredo