Ninoy Aquino Day: Courage, medals of valor, a songBy Erika Sauler, Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The youngest of them spoke about courage, while another spoke about the need to continue fighting for freedom. A third speaker sang a song about sunshine.
The three of them—Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, former Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. and aspiring politician Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV—all spoke about an opposition leader whose martyrdom cleared the way for the return of democracy to the Philippines.
The occasion was the 29th anniversary of Benigno Aquino’s assassination at the then Manila International Airport, which led to the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos three years later. Aquino was gunned down on his return from a self-imposed US exile.
Speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony at the Aquino monument on Roxas Boulevard, Bam said that Aquino—his uncle—showed the kind of courage “that even if he was already safe and free, he still insisted on returning to commiserate with his countrymen.”
“We can be heroes by answering the call of the times, by being of service to our fellow people, whether it is in a corporation, a youth group or in your community,” said Bam, former chairman of the National Youth Commission and a son of Aquino’s youngest brother Paul.
Bam, 35, has announced his plans to run for the Senate under the Liberal Party headed by his cousin, President Benigno Aquino.
‘You are my sunshine’
“The Ninoy Aquino who entered jail in 1972 was different from the Ninoy Aquino who left it in 1980,” Bam said.
He said Aquino, by then, had become more humble, more prayerful and closer to his family.
Bam said Aquino’s life was a story of change, courage and heroism. “All of us can become heroes, all of us… are included in the process of change,” he said.
Lim, who led the wreath-laying ceremony, said the commemoration was important to keep Aquino’s memory alive by impressing upon the youth how his death led to the rebirth of democracy they now enjoy.
The mayor urged the students present at the gathering to study well for their future.
Pimentel, who served as Aquino’s lawyer when he was jailed by Marcos, asked the crowd to join him in a song he dedicated to Aquino and his wife and former President, Cory—“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray…”
Some of the students just smiled, others frowned and still others looked baffled. One student from Universidad de Manila said she didn’t know the song.
Referring to people who criticized the monument for depicting a frail Aquino, Lim said that Cory chose the picture on which the statue was based—it was how Aquino looked after a hunger strike in prison and she chose it to signify Ninoy’s sacrifice for the country.
At the international airport, a memorial Mass for Aquino was held along with the awarding of Medals for Valor to “freedom fighters” during the Marcos dictatorship. Yellow flowers were laid on a metal marker where Aquino’s body fell after he was shot.
The awardees were Steve Psinakis, Victor Lovely and Doris Nuval-Baffrey. The other awardees, Danilo Lamila and Philippine News publisher Alex Esclamado, were overseas and their medals were received by relatives.
Psinakis, Lovely and Nuval were members of the “Light-A-Fire” brigade and April 6 Liberation Movement who were blamed for bombings in Metro Manila aimed at embarrassing Marcos.
Fight for freedom
The Ninoy Aquino Movement founding chairman, Heherson Alvarez, underscored the need to continue remembering those who sacrificed their lives and who suffered in the struggle for freedom to restore Philippine democracy.
“A new generation of Filipinos has matured since 1983 and another generation is growing up. They have no memory of martial law, no experience of the terror and brutality by their own leaders, and no knowledge of what it is like to be oppressed as a people,” Alvarez said.
“We are here today to remind them that freedom is a constant struggle that must be waged and won by each generation. We must guard against the continuing attempts to reshape history, against the efforts to make the dictatorship palatable today, against the persistent plots to bury Marcos as a hero at Libingan ng mga Bayani.”
Held up in Naga
For the first time, President Aquino failed to visit his father’s tomb on his death anniversary. He prioritized overseeing the transport from Masbate province to Naga City of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s body. Aquino was to fly back to Manila Tuesday night.
“From the time he became President, he attended the commemorative Mass for his father. This time, he prioritized this (Robredo’s death),” said Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Television reports said the President’s sisters—Ballsy Aquino Cruz, Pinky Aquino Abellada, Viel Aquino Dee and Kris Aquino—visited their father’s tomb at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City on Tuesday morning, minus the President. With report by TJ Burgonio