Cory Aquino would not have approved of all the fuss we make every time August comes around. As she has said often enough in gratitude to the crowd that faithfully attended the anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s Aug. 21 assassination, you have done more than your share, you no longer have to come when my turn comes.
This year the month drew even more attention beginning with an event she perhaps would never have dreamt of staging herself—an art exhibit of over 120 paintings and art works on wooden plates, fans, and tote bags, all bearing the artist Cory Aquino’s signature. “A Gift of Self,” mounted by her longtime friend and spokesperson Deedee M. Siytangco, brought together for public viewing for the first time these art pieces that Cory Aquino gave to family and friends as presents. It was amazing to see the number of pieces she had done, but it was even more impressive to hear that there are many more that either did not make the deadline or whose owners were not willing to part with even for just a few days.
But even before the month began was the ideal timing by the Edsa People Power Commission of the launch of a picture book, “EDSA,” by Russell Molina and Sergio Bumatay III. It is significant as a prelude to August because it is an appealing counting book using the images and symbols of the peaceful revolt in 1986. It is a beginning history lesson which will help parents and teachers explain to the young what the uprising was all about and how Cory Aquino became president. How often have we lamented that textbooks are not updated or accurate enough to include recent history and modern heroes like Ninoy and Cory Aquino? That there is this welcome edition from Adarna House Inc. is reason enough to celebrate its release. But reflecting my openly biased interests, what a triumph for the local book industry to have the book cover bannered in this paper, with an accompanying front-page story.
And how can this year’s Aug. 21 commemoration be scaled down when it is the 30th year of Ninoy Aquino’s slaying? How can we forget the day that changed our lives and accelerated our struggle to be rid of the dictatorship? On the evening of Aug. 21, “Pamana,” a docu-musical on Ninoy and Cory, opens at the Meralco Theater. It seeks to answer the question: What was the impact of these icons of democracy on the lives of ordinary Filipinos? Written by Rody Vera, with music composed by Ryan Cayabyab and Manoling V. Francisco, SJ, it promises to entertain as much as to instruct—another much needed history lesson for today’s youth and for many others who may no longer remember. “Pamana” is a collaboration of The Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation Inc., Indie.go Media and Philippine Educational Theater Association Inc.
One cannot help but think of the pamana (legacy) of Ninoy and Cory when one encounters youth like French-Filipino Henry Motte-Muñoz, newly graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Business, and Happy Feraren, who is in the field of advertising. Both are in their mid-twenties and so imbued with love of country that they formed the two-year-old Bantay.ph, a nonprofit organization that is determined to fight corruption in the country by educating Filipinos, especially ordinary citizens, on their right to the efficient delivery of government services. The centerpiece of its advocacy is the Anti-Red Tape Act, monitoring and tracking reports on compliance and violation, including instances of graft and corruption.
Childhood friends Motte-Muñoz and Feraren are no wide-eyed dreamers. They have done serious preparatory research and pencil-pushing to allow Bantay.ph to achieve legitimate status as to partner with the Civil Service Commission, the Makati Business Club, the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG), and schools from which its present roster of volunteers is drawn—Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle, and UP. Bantay.ph is supervised by the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC), a multisectoral alliance that is a program of the Makati Business Club.
Its board of advisers include Dr. Edna Co, dean of UP-NCPAG; David Balangue, CAC chair; and Geert van der Linden, Partnership for Transparency Fund Philippines country director and former vice president of the Asian Development Bank.
Both Motte-Muñoz and Feraren have received discouraging comments ranging from “Why in heaven’s name have you embarked on this impossible journey?” to “How do you change a culture of corruption?” (with the subtext that corruption has been there long before they were born). Despite all that, they are undeterred in pursuing their goal to shift mindsets from “It’s always been that way” to “It does not have to be that way.”
They and their student monitors and volunteers give much hope to this country, truly proving that youth is not wasted on the young, and that indeed, “the Filipino is worth dying for.” (For more information, visit www.bantay.ph or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Neni Sta. Romana Cruz (email@example.com) is chair of the National Book Development Board, a trustee of Teach for the Philippines and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.