Something about August. Many of us who are August-born have not failed to notice that the many fateful and earthshaking events in this country’s historical timeline happened in this month. It is a month when we remember guns, bombs, blood, fire and water tearing through our nation’s life—the Plaza Miranda bombing, the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, etc. So life-changing were these August events that when we look back through the veil of mist we can’t help but be overcome by the memories.
Yesterday was Ninoy Aquino’s 30th death anniversary and I couldn’t help but remember where I was, what I was, and how I was at that time. I do remember being among the first few to go to his home on Times Street in Quezon City when there was yet no jostling throng and before Cory and the Aquino children arrived from the United States and his body was transferred to Santo Domingo Church where People Power would have its beginnings.
There he was, without a see-through glass over him. And there I was just staring down at him, at his bruised face and bloody shirt. I could have touched him. I had no inkling then that a ground swell of protest would soon be shaking the seat of power and roaring through the streets for three years until the evil regime crashed to the ground.
I have before me right now the Sept. 2, 1983, issue of Mr. and Ms. Magazine Special Edition on the Aquino funeral. It cost P2. On the cover is the photo of the millions that joined the funeral procession and a photo inset of the dead Ninoy. Also on the cover are Ninoy’s words: “The Filipino is worth dying for.”
I look at the photos, read the wire news dispatches, Jaime Cardinal Sin’s homily, Cory Aquino’s response and Kris’ goodbye to her dad, and I am there all over again.
Words from future President Cory after the funeral Mass: “If my children and I appear to be brave during this, the most difficult period yet of our lives, it is because we know that this is what Ninoy would have expected of us. It is also because of our faith in God, and the belief that he is now helping us in this, our greatest need.
“And so today, I wish to thank all the Filipino men and women, young and old, who have demonstrated to me, to my children, to Ninoy’s mother and to his family, that Ninoy did not die in vain. Ninoy who loved you, the Filipino people, is now loved in return.”
Noynoy Aquino—now President of the Republic—is shown among those carrying the coffin of his father.
Aug. 31, the day of the funeral, I joined the funeral procession from Santo Domingo Church to Roxas Boulevard. I walked with the throng. Rain poured when we were somewhere near Quiapo Bridge. We were all drenched. I went home in the afternoon. Radio and TV reports said the procession reached Manila Memorial Park at nightfall.
On Monday, Aug. 26, a million or more Filipinos (or so it is hoped) are expected to join simultaneous protest marches and rallies nationwide to register outrage at the misuse of public funds and call for the scrapping of the pork barrel system. Suddenly, the outcry 30 years ago—“Sobra na, tama na!”—is so new in my mind. It’s been 30 years from there to here.
With Ninoy’s own son now President, after his widow Cory became president three years after his death, and with everything else in between—a convicted plundering president and another one accused of the same, among them—where are we now?
Flood waters are still deep in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces and we are again playing catch-up with climate change.
Last night I watched on TV what has been done in Rotterdam to ease the flooding in this below-sea-level city. The government built some kind of underground lake or reservoir that would take in the excess rainwater, which can then be used for many other purposes.
In the live TV broadcast on the massive flooding in Metro Manila, Lagusnilad in front of Manila’s City Hall was shown filled with water. Oh, I thought, that’s very much like Rotterdam’s, only Lagusnilad is not an underground receptacle but an underpass for vehicles. More out-of-the-box thinking is needed to solve problems that perennially visit this country. What happened to the bright idea of making rainwater catchments in rural areas that can be sources of water for farmers during the dry season?
I couldn’t help thinking about the P10-billion pork barrel scam that is the reason for this Monday’s massive protest action. All, if not some, of that money, our money, that was stolen by the very greedy few could have been used to mitigate the worsening effects of climate change and to help victims rebuild their lives.
Let this August display of People Power ram through the hardened hearts of those who keep robbing us blind, those who keep stuffing themselves with what does not belong to them. The culture of corruption is alive and well that even nongovernment organizations have not been spared. It is bad enough that well-respected NGOs founded to serve the marginalized despite limited budgets have their share of sticky fingers. Now we are even more shocked that the term “NGO” has been tarnished because unscrupulous persons have created so-called NGOs into which they could funnel their loot. And the so-called watchdogs in government, if there are any, were caught napping. In journalistic parlance, natutulog sa pansitan. Or they weren’t napping, after all, they were busy counting money in their bathtubs at home.
We are just so fed up. Sobra na, tama na. Palitan na ang sistema! President Noynoy Aquino should heed the people’s cry roaring above the floods.
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