August - September 2008
Till debt do us part?
On the 25th year of the Aquino assassination

They all remember Ninoy, too

Interviews compiled by Tita C. Valderama

33, young professional

Ninoy Aquino was assassinated at a time when I was barely conscious of what was happening around me — unless it directly affected recess and play time. However, I do remember the consequence of his death and the revolution that ended a regime.

His bravery, selflessness and patriotism strike me when I hear his name. I agree with him that the Filipino is worth dying for, but nobody has filled his shoes since 1983.

Honestly, I cannot recall if his life was taught intensively like Rizal or Bonifacio, but I do know bits and pieces from what I hear from my parents and what I read from the papers every time we celebrate EDSA and observe his death anniversary.

I do know that he was a maverick of his time. He did not advocate violence and he was brilliant as he was dangerous to the Marcos regime. He did not advocate his interests but was a feisty defender for what he was not: poor, underprivileged, desperate, and oppressed.

He is a hero, no doubt about that. But I have serious apprehensions (over whether or not) the younger generations know enough of him. In my case, I would be oblivious were it not for the papers. I’m not an authority to label (anyone) a ‘hero.’ But maybe he really is; he had a choice, he knew what was coming, but he went ahead. Maybe, like all heroes, he (thought) beyond himself. And maybe, just maybe, he knew that his death meant the birth of a revolution. If that is not what makes a hero, then you tell me what does.

35, overseas Filipino worker (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Ninoy Aquino was a very intelligent person, a very popular statesman, a brave freedom-fighter during the Marcos years. He deserves to be considered a hero. Then again, the recognition accorded him should be given to many others. Why are those like Macario Sakay, Lapu-lapu, and Dagohoy not given a similar day of recognition? What is the difference between what they fought for with those of Ninoy?

August 21, 1983 was the first time I heard about Ninoy Aquino. The headline in all radio and television stations: “Ninoy Aquino assassinated.” But when he died, I felt nothing. I didn’t know who he was, but I had all kinds of questions: Why do people look like the world ended? Why was their sadness that deep?

At that time, I had no way of knowing what it was like without martial law. When I was born, there was already martial law. (Now I know) freedom is worth dying for. The Philippines is worth dying for. I think that was what Ninoy meant when he said the Filipino is worth dying for.

Hope blossomed after Ninoy’s death…hope for a new life, hope for good governance, hope for freedom from martial law, hope for a better Philippines. But hope remained just that — hope. Corruption, election cheating, and power-tripping are still there. Nothing has changed, just new faces and new names. Hunger for power, money, and fame…I lost hope in the Filipino (because of these). Ninoy fought against these, but things have just gotten much worse than if they were under martial law. At least under martial law, you expected them, but now, politicians are just blatantly greedy and selfish.

The present and future generations of Filipinos should continue to look up to Ninoy Aquino as a freedom fighter. He should be emulated because he did not care what he would lose once he took up the fight for freedom, for our rights, and for justice. We regained our freedom at the cost of his life. We were on the brink of real change, but the leaders we have had after we got our freedom back destroyed what Ninoy had fought for.

The Filipino is worth dying for? In these times perhaps we have to define first who the real Filipino is and what makes him or her one.

45, corporate executive

I was in college with a political science major when it happened in 1983. He did sacrifice himself for the country. He fought Marcos. But I was just curious. Did he fight Marcos for the sake of fighting Marcos, because he hated Marcos? Or did he really do it for the country?

Parang sa coin, Ninoy was just the other side of Marcos. They both belonged to privileged families. Was it just a competition between two influential leaders? Looking back, it appears that it was only toward the end that it became something for the country. It looked like a clash between two political families that until today persists. We still have the same old system, the same old faces, and it goes back to history from World War II.

To me, Ninoy’s greatest contribution is still to his family. He has left his family politically safe. Cory became president, his son Noynoy became senator.

Yes, we had democracy, but for whom? The years after Marcos brought us more hell. The rebels regained strength because of the peace talks. In political science, democracy means having a strong middle class, a strong check and balance, but do we have that?

I am not for Marcos, but in fairness, Marcos did a lot of good, but after he was ousted, everything identified with Marcos was dropped, no matter how good it was.

42, public school principal (Bulacan)

Ninoy was a disciplined public servant, a great Malay with dignity, compassion, integrity, and strong determination. He had an immeasurable love for freedom and democracy. He is a leader who stood for the truth no matter what is at stake, even his life, and his family. He is a man that any Filipino should emulate. He was imprisoned and yet he became like a Spartan. He was chained and yet he resisted. His sacrifices were incomparable. He tirelessly fought to free all Filipinos from the bondage of dictatorship of a stinking government. He did this for a worthy cause.

When he was killed, I felt I lost my own father. A great pillar had fallen. My heart mourned. I asked myself, “Is there any freedom left for the future?” The villain had snatched the life of the precious leading actor, the director had aborted a scene and the channel for great reform was buried six feet under the ground. And we Filipinos were in despair over his untimely death.

34, Filipino student at Harvard University (USA)

I was nine years old when Ninoy died and therefore was too young to be politically aware. Ninoy’s death was a relief to me because it became apparent that Marcos was not the be-all, end-all of the Philippines. You see, growing up I had this (convoluted) anxiety about what would happen to the Philippines once Marcos died. Like, I was so scared about Marcos (dropping) dead. But when Ninoy was assassinated, it made me realize that there could be a better leader.

I remember watching Ninoy’s video (taken) inside the airplane and (images of him) falling down at the tarmac. And I thought, how could someone kill someone in plain public view like that? Ninoy’s death made me realize how dangerous life was. It almost made me not want to grow up.

The Filipino is worth dying for? What Filipino? Who? Is that Filipino a corrupt public official? Is that Filipino a greedy, tax-evading businessman? Or is that Filipino a jobless married man who breeds more kids even though he knows he cannot give each and every one of his offspring a decent future? If yes, then he is not worth dying for.

More than looking at Ninoy as a hero, the next generation should be more aware about the sustainability of their actions.

When Ninoy died, the people woke up and came together with the common cause of ousting Marcos. Twenty-five years later, I think Ninoy’s death should remind everyone that the Filipino people could still come together to fight public corruption, to curb population explosion, and care about the environment. Simple, easy things like using birth control, not throwing trash on the street, and growing plants could make a difference if everyone is doing it.

19, college student, Miriam College

Hindi ba si Ninoy Aquino ‘yung pinatay sa airport? Isn’t it when he died, Cory continued his fight, and that’s why she became president?

Inaamin ko po, wala akong masyadong alam tungkol kay Ninoy Aquino kasi po I did not have much interest in history when we took it up in school. What I know is that the international airport is named after him, that he is considered a hero because he was brave, he fought Marcos who was the highest and most powerful person in the country that time. But honestly, I haven’t really looked at how Ninoy became a hero. Why he is adored as a hero?

I think I should learn more about Ninoy Aquino and find answers to my questions, and because he is an important part of our political history.

17, college student, De La Salle University

I think he should be a hero because he fought for what is right and just. He also made a lot of contributions to the country and influenced the EDSA revolution to take place.

(But) honestly, when I hear the name Ninoy, there are two things that come into my mind: father of Kris Aquino, and the 500-peso bill.

I was not born yet when Ninoy was killed, but we learn about him in school, during elementary and first year high school. But even though he was not taught in school, I… frequently ask questions from my relatives and family about things like Marcos and Ninoy. Plus, my favorite bill is the 500-peso. That is why I got to know him (first) as a picture on the money.

medical practitioner

I think Ninoy Aquino remains relevant today. I have known him from television and newspaper reports and he seems to be really good at moving people, especially their hearts, toward love for country, and I still believe in his legacy. The problem is, it has to be a collective effort. We have to realize it’s really up to us as Filipinos to take our part in rebuilding this nation.

I guess there is no quarrel about Ninoy’s love for his native land and I am sure he was really thinking then that the Filipinos would move on or get better. But…have we progressed since then?

Perhaps in the hearts and minds of many, Ninoy still lives on. It’s really a pity now that there are people who should be following his footsteps…but have (only gone) back to the old ways.

40, audio technician

Nasa Surigao pa ako noong pinatay si Ninoy, first-year college. Kilala na namin si Ninoy kasi matapang siya, lumaban siya.

Ang alam ko si Ninoy Aquino ay isang bayani dahil siya ang nagpabago ng administrasyon mula kay Marcos. Siya ang nagbigay ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas. Siguro ‘yung iba nakakalimutan na si Ninoy, pero hindi dapat. Ako, may anak na nag-aaral na, at siyempre ipinakikilala ko sa kanya si Ninoy bilang bayani. Naging bayani siya kasi may mga mabuti siyang nagawa para sa bansa.

(I was still in Surigao when Ninoy was killed, first year college. We knew Ninoy because he was brave, because he was a fighter.

What I know of him is that he was a hero because he was the reason why we were able to have a non-Marcos administration. He was the one who made democracy possible for the Philippines. Maybe there are those who have forgotten Ninoy, but this shouldn’t be. I have a child who is now going to school, and I make it a point to tell my child about Ninoy the hero. He became a hero because he did good things for our country.)

82, Sandiganbayan presiding justice who first handled the Aquino-Galman trial and acquitted all accused in December 1985

Para sa akin, I decided the case in accordance with the evidence presented. Because they were in power and everybody was acquitted, then they had to file a petition for re-trial in the Supreme Court, (which) was granted.

(This was) during the time when Cory was already in power. They changed the members of the court, the Supreme Court and the Sandiganbayan, and the prosecutors. Raul Gonzalez was the Tanodbayan, and then the defense counsels included Rodolfo Jimenez.

Despite the fact that my decision was set aside because of the retrial that was granted, I retired without impediment. That means I did nothing wrong. I believe that what I did was right. Right now, even the PAO (Public Attorney’s Office) is asking for pardon for humanitarian reasons, for compassion.

74, public relations practitioner

I never cared for Ninoy. I don’t like it that you build up a guy to become a hero. He was just an ordinary politician, just as loudmouth as any ordinary politician today. He has been in the media because many of the editors were his friends who made press releases about his ambitions.

I was growing up when I came to know about Ninoy. That time, he was idolized with the likes of Gerry Roxas and John Osmeña because they were good-looking. They were idolized like movie stars. There was too much hype. Imagine, you land inside Camp Crame, with all these editors and politicians along with you and the sentiments of the country were against Marcos. They were markedly media, always media. They were portrayed by media as downtrodden and persecuted because they (editors) were also persecuted.

We all have a place in history, but Ninoy is just like an ordinary citizen who became known because of a spin by those who were greedy to become the next politicians. Marcos seemed to be more benign than any of those who succeeded him.

I joined Edsa 1 because Cardinal Sin was calling on radio for the people to protect then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos so there was so much excitement. But when I was there, the people were trampling on photographs of Imelda and Marcos. People were having a picnic, and the place was stinking. They were doing their thing there.

I blame the big businessmen, the industrialists and the politicians for wreaking havoc in the country. Look at Edsa 2, because they didn’t like Joseph Estrada, they removed him, and what did we get? Because Estrada was elected to a term, they should have allowed him to finish that term and make the masa realize that they were wrong in putting him there. Now, we are in a far worse mess.

59, freelance writer

To be able to know that there was such a man who took such a risk makes sense and makes you strive harder, to stretch beyond your normal and comfortable zone. He really offered his life.

Not many youths today know him because they weren’t born yet 25 years ago. There’s a gap in you, unless you get information from your parents or you get information from media, or you read. But in the media, what kind of information do you get? Unless you go out of your way….

I was following up his trial, his refusal to be part of the kangaroo court. I was in my 30s. It was really shocking that a senator of the republic should die in the hands of a phalanx of soldiers who were supposed to guard him. It made me shake. If a man of that stature who comes in from abroad, protected and loved, falls once he gets into Philippine shores, what can make you feel safe?

He was strong enough to say ‘yes’ when it mattered and to say ‘no’ when it mattered, and to have the wisdom to know the difference and stand up. He wouldn’t have been impoverished because he was born with a comfortable level of income and standard of living, but he was ready to give up everything, (including) his own life.

Maybe we should do our part in keeping his memory alive, hold up his examples, and focus on his heroism, and not just on his being the father of Kris. My nephews and nieces know him because I tell them who he is. I have a niece who is 24, she never knew who Ninoy was. When she was in school, they had textbooks, but Ninoy was mentioned only in passing, and now she’s in a position to teach her kids. Maybe she should be told about Ninoy.