Last Monday, Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo formally accepted the Liberal Party’s offer to be running mate of Mar Roxas. The widow of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo declared, ''Ibinibigay ko po ang aking sarili ng buong-buo sa ating mga kababayan, lalung-lalo na sa inyong mga naka-tsinelas na nasa labas, nasa ibaba, at laylayan ng lipunan." All of us are familiar with the story of Jose Rizal about his slipper that slipped down to the river. During Rizal’s time, only well-to-do families wear slippers. Children mostly are barefooted. Not anymore. Tsinelas or slippers, is the present-day symbol of the Filipino masses, whether coming from the urban or rural areas. Only Filipinos, say some basketball enthusiasts, wear slippers when they play basketball. The Tsinelas during our time is a tool for disciplining children, a symbol of parental guidance. It’s no longer the bakya (wooden clogs) but the rubber tsinelas that gradually gaining prominence as sort of a national symbol.
Our first personal encounter with Leni Robredo was when she was invited by my principal, Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, to grace and be the keynote speaker at the culmination night of the 114th anniversary celebration of the Civil Service Month last year. Robredo also visited two newly-constructed school buildings in Ligaya and a Mangyan School in San Agustin which were named after her late husband. In her Facebook page then Robredo posted, “[I am] very much impressed with what I witnessed in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro when I visited. Local government has been investing a lot of money in education, building many school buildings to complement Dep-Ed and provide for the classroom needs of the municipality..” No prominent local political personalities wearing yellow polo-shirt were around that day. She embraced the Mangyan leaders and she talks with direct simplicity and full sincerity. And that became my first taste of Robredo’s brand of tsinelas political leadership. Non-trapo, no pretensions and what you see is what you get. No stunts, no antics whatsoever. Of all the prospective candidates for 2016 from the presidentiables down to the senatoriables, Leni Robredo has the finest character of them all. Character is important in choosing a candidate. Our character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right. Character is about honesty and honesty must remain as the best policy even in politics.
Yesterday, I posted at Facebook this status: “Ang dalawang pinakamalapit na babae ngayon kay Mar Roxas, parehong may konek sa tsinelas.” Of course, I am referring to Leni Robredo, his running mate, and his wife Korina Sanchez. The latter, a broadcast journalist by profession, has an advocacy aimed at changing the lives of Filipino children by giving them slippers at a time. According to Korina then, “ It is our dream that every child in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will be empowered with a decent pair of slippers which they can use every day as they attend school and play with each other.” Korina Sanchez-Roxas hosts the top-rating News Magazine Sunday show Rated K which is aired every Sunday night over ABS-CBN Channel 2. For Leni, tsinelas is a symbol of her campaign platform while for Korina, it might be plain and simple charity. Wearing slippers connotes being alive and active. In fact, one of our superstitions has it that before a dead person is laid to rest his/her slippers (or shoes) must be removed and placed beside her/his legs to be accepted to Heaven.
Going back to Roxas and Robredo, Prof. Ramon Casiple, Executive Director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), said that, “Robredo has a good chance of winning the vice presidential contest but her magic will not rub off on Roxas.” What will happen if one of the tsinelas fellows, I mean in the Ro-Ro (Roxas-Robredo) tandem, is dumped by the electorates? I suddenly remember what a Hanunuo Mangyan elder told me many years ago, “Kahit sa tsinelas na saliwa, makararating din tayo sa ninanasa." Indeed, we can still walk through the straight path even with different pair of tsinelas….