‘One heck of a rollercoaster ride’, says VP Leni, on ‘whirlwind romance’ with Jesse

Published March 1, 2021, 2:00 PM

by Raymund Antonio

Unlike the slow burn love stories of the Korean dramas she binges on, Vice President Leni Robredo’s love story with her late husband, former Interior Secretary and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, was a whirlwind romance. 

Describing their love story as “one heck of a rollercoaster ride,” Robredo shared that they had “25 blissful years together” until the plane crash that took Jesse away from her and their three daughters.

Vice President Leni Robredo
(Photo by Jansen Romero / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a post on Humans of Pinas (HoP), which is a Facebook page inspired by the popular Humans of New York initiative, Robredo recounted the story that led her to marry her husband only a year into their relationship. 

The vice president took part in the HoP’s series of “31 beautiful and inspiring love stories for the Month of Love.” Her story was the last one to be featured on the Facebook page. 

She recounted that she went home to Naga City and planned to work and stay there for a year before pursuing her law degree. This was shortly after the people power revolt in February 1986, so Robredo wanted “to be part of the change that was happening in the country.”

Little did she know, of course, that the change will also lead her to Jesse, who by then was seven years her senior and heads the Bicol River Basin Development Program Office. The vice president’s first encounter with her future husband was through a job interview.

Jesse asked her to write an essay right there and then on any topic she chooses. Robredo chose to discuss the role of the late President Corazon Aquino in the EDSA Revolution. It was this essay that eventually led Jesse to offer her a job. 

After barely a month of working there, the lady official started receiving flowers and telegram from an anonymous sender. She learned through investigating that the sender of the flowers was someone who worked for the Robredos. 

“I did not give any indication that I already knew nor did I tell anyone about it. I just kept it to myself,” she wrote. 

Then, Jesse asked permission from her parents to invite her to a UP Concert Chorus concert at the shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia in Naga City.  He also started visiting her every day. 

“He was very formal and very respectful of my parents. He was also very old school. I was surprised he knew so much about me already. He said he did his research.”

They became an official boyfriend and girlfriend in October 1986 and by December of that year, Jesse wanted to marry her already. The vice president’s father said they have to wait since she was young and he wanted her to become a lawyer. 

“But Jesse was determined,” she said, so in April 1987 on her birthday week, Jesse did the traditional pamamanhikan (a Filipino tradition wherein the groom’s family will ask the bride’s family for her hand). 

“My Dad told them I cannot get married yet because I will still go to law school. But Jesse promised him that even if we are married already, he will make sure I will still become a lawyer.”

Since Jesse has a Chinese lineage, their family follows Chinese traditions. One of those traditions is to choose an auspicious wedding date based on their birthdays. The elderly in Jesse’s side chose a date that was two months away.

“They said everything’s been taken care of already. I was so young and didn’t know anything. I only knew I wanted to be married to Jesse.”

“So, in two months, we were married. It was just a year after we first met for my first job interview. A few months after our wedding, he decided to run for Mayor of Naga. True to his promise to my Dad, he enrolled me in law school. And, as they all say, the rest is history.”