Generous, caring Noynoy Aquino: ‘Minsan butas pa ang damit’ – former staff
MANILA, Philippines — A simple man who was never choosy about clothes to wear that he even at times would wear shirts with holes.
This was how former Malacañang Media Relations Office Assistant Secretary Paulo Espiritu remembered late President Benigno S. Aquino III, more popularly known as Noynoy or PNoy.
Espiritu cited for instance a briefing during the Zamboanga siege where Aquino faced them in his white t-shirt, shorts, and rubber slippers.
“Simple lang talaga siya. Hindi siya [maarte] sa damit. Siyempre matataas na tao sila pero minsan makikita mo ang presidente bakit ganto lang manamit? For example, may isang photo na lumabas sa Zamboanga siege na nagb-briefing siya naka-shorts at t-shirt lang,” Espiritu said in an interview with INQside Look.
“‘Yun siya eh. Kahit hindi na siya ‘yung presidente, pupunta kami sa Times, naka-pambahay lang–shorts na black, t-shirt na puti. Minsan butas pa nga. Yun siya… Simple lang talagang tao,” he added.
Despite holding the highest government post in the country, Espiritu said Aquino never boasted about it and followed rules such as his own no “wang-wang” policy.
Espiritu also said that even if Aquino had household staff, he would do things himself: “Hindi palautos.”
“Nasa bahay kami, ‘pag kumakain na, nagkukwentuhan sa Times. Magbubukas ‘yan ng ilaw or ‘yung TV. Pwede naman niyang sabihan ako eh na pakibuksan. Siya mismo ‘yung tumatayo, bubuksan ‘yung ilaw, pwede naman niya iutos ‘yun eh,” he recalled.
Since Espiritu was part of a Palace team tasked to conduct ocular inspections as well as coordination for Aquino’s official engagements here and abroad, he said the former president had only a few requirements: No flowers because of pollen, Coke regular, and chicharon (pork crackling).
“Coke at chicharon lang, laban na,” Espiritu said.
Aquino, he further remembered, was a generous and caring man who was always willing to share a meal or two with his staff. Opposite to what others claim that Aquino had no warmth, Espiritu said he would always look after people’s welfare.
Espiritu said Aquino consistently made sure everyone in his company was able to eat and finish their meal. It even became a golden rule, especially during events with members of the media, “na walang magugutom.”
“Sabi ko, ‘Sir gabi na po, pagod na kayo.’ Sabi nya, ‘Hindi kain tayo, anong gusto mong kainin?… Labas tayo, birthday mo eh’,” Espiritu said as he recalled the time when Aquino insisted that they celebrate the former’s birthday.
There was also a time, the former Palace official said, when Aquino and his team were at a mall window-shopping when he chanced upon Espiritu trying on a pair of shades.
“Nakita niya ako tinitingnan ‘yung shades, lumapit siya tapos sabi niya, ‘Gusto mo ba ‘yan?’ Sabi ko, ‘Sir hindi, mahal ito’. Sabi niya, ‘Maganda sa iyo, i-try mo’. Eh ‘di ayun, tinry ko, Tapos, tinawag niya ‘yung isang kasamahan namin para makita kung bagay nga sa akin. Nung sinabi nung kasamahan namin na bagay, ayun binayaran ni sir from his own pocket,” Espiritu narrated.
“Hindi siya madamot talaga. Hindi ka niya ita-trato na ordinaryo ka lang. Ganun siya sa tao na lahat ay welcome sa kanya, lalo na sa mga staff,” he added.
It is also a known fact among family and friends how Aquino loved music – as evident in the volume of different vinyl records he accumulated over the years, from standard, contemporary to pop, OPM, and even rock. Espiritu said they made sure to prepare a song or two because chances are one of them would be called to sing with the band.
“Nasa Baguio kami nun, sa Mansion. Dapat lagi ka handa kasi pagdating na ng gabi, after matapos na ang trabaho, to wind down kumabaga, automatic na maghahanda ka ng kanta mo kasi kakanta ka sa harap kasama ‘yung banda. Ganun siya kahilig sa music, nare-relax siya,” Espiritu said.
Life after presidency
Aquino lived a relatively quiet life after he stepped down from the presidency in June 2016.
In his homily during the funeral mass for Aquino, Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that the former president’s silence after his presidency was “a silence of dignity as he brought dignity and honesty to his service to the nation as our president, he preserved the dignity after his retirement.”
Espiritu said Aquino mostly enjoyed sports and music in his downtime and made them listen to the songs he liked whenever they would visit the former statesman.
“Hindi siya plastik,” said Espiritu, who did his job for the former president right to the very end when Aquino was laid to rest on Saturday, June 26.
Aquino died in his sleep on the morning of June 24. His death certificate indicates that the cause of his death was renal disease secondary to diabetes. He was 61.
Aquino’s cremated remains were buried next to his parents, democracy icons Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and former President Corazon Aquino at the Manila Memorial Park.
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