It was my first impression of Mar Roxas as he gave a firm handshake. I had the privilege to meet Mar Roxas a few months ago over dinner with a few friends. Mar Roxas arrived without fanfare. He walked into the room. We all stood up, one by one, as we recognized the person who just arrived. Mr. Roxas went around the room, and we each waited for our turn. He shook every hand before finally heading to the buffet line to get his own food.
We meet celebrities, and we think they are larger than life. Mar Roxas struck me as profoundly, a representative of decent Filipinos everywhere, even though Mar Roxas and his family enjoy a worry free life.
Mar Roxas spoke of course. That’s when you really see him shine as a leader of men. You could see the thoughtfulness in his character, and how Roxas worries about the Filipino’s future. Precisely the kind of leadership one expects– putting the troops before his own wants and desires.
Why should Mar Roxas be President then?
I had never worked for Mar Roxas. I saw only Mar Roxas the person through the prism of those who do know him best. Those who see him behind the the veil of public perception.
Secretary Edwin Lacierda talked about Mar Roxas. He worked with him for years, but not prior to Aquino’s Administration. And whenever he would tell stories about what he and Mar Roxas were up to, it was always a story about two brothers.
My favourite was something Secretary Lacierda shared on his Facebook wall. Every week, both Mar Roxas, and Edwin Lacierda have a ritual. They would run together in Camp Crame.
Running is Mar Roxas’ way of reenergising.
Both Secretary Lacierda and Mar Roxas were running. Mar Roxas said, “Edwin, lets finish this course together.”
“Let us do one minute of run, then one minute of walk, then one minute of run and a minute of walk until we get over this difficult portion,” Mar Roxas added.
“Mar could have continued on to run this difficult phase, and push himself to steel his resistance,” Secretary Lacierda narrated.
“Mar could have left me to walk the remainder of the exercise, and I would have happy indusged myself with a leisurely stride.”
That’s not what Mar Roxas did.
Mar Roxas kept pace with Edwin Lacierda instead. Mar Roxas ran with Edwin Lacierda all throughout the difficult phase of the run. Mar Roxas made sure Edwin Lacierda was right there with him. That’s who he is. A friend. And like the true leader of men that he was, Roxas made sure his buddy Edwin would finish the course.
Secretary Lacierda’s Mar Roxas story is one about character. It showed who Mar Roxas really is at his core. A friend. A brother. He wouldn’t leave you behind. He is the kind of leader that puts the interest of others before his own. He is the kind of leader who would carry you to victory.
“Twenty-two years in politics,” Undersecretary Abi Valte began her Mar story. “Mar Roxas has seen it all. It is really difficult to be in government because temptation is all around you.”
Atty. Abi is a relative newbie to government service. She joined government service as a member of the Aquino administration. Undersecretary Valte narrated some of clever temptation that she experienced in the short time of her government service, and the difficulty in overcoming those challenges. “It’s very easy to give in to the temptation.”
“Mar Roxas has been in government for twenty-two years, and hasn’t a shade of corruption attached to his name. That’s a difficult thing to accomplish,” Atty Abi concluded.
My favourite story from Atty Abi would be early on in the Aquino administration. They were in Capiz with PNoy. It was a Friday, and the season was Lent. The President is known to abstain from meat during Fridays of Lent. Of course, nobody ate meat. It was all fish. There wasn’t a drop of meat served. At that point, Atty Abi’s never been to Capiz. Now, Capiz is famous for its Bachoy. And Atty Abi really wanted to try it out.
The President finished his meal, and left.
“Wag ka na malungkot,” Mar Roxas said. “Alam ko naman eto ang gusto mo.” And when the President left, true enough, the Bachoy was served.
Mar Roxas understands people profoundly. Behind the nice guy, he is observant and introspective. Roxas recognises what drives people, and where they come from that only a real leader of men could comprehend.