At Large

A ‘yellow’ tribute to Ninoy


Yellow balloons, yellow flowers, yellow ribbons and men and women in yellow were all over the departure/arrival hall of Naia Terminal 3, and for good reason. It was Aug. 21 after all, marking the 30th death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, who was shot and killed on the tarmac and thereby earned the honor of having the country’s main airport named after him.

The area is dominated by a bust of Ninoy, usually ignored on most days as passengers are either rushing to their gates or hurrying to get home, but on this morning Ninoy was receiving his due share of the limelight.

The day before, much of the metropolis and surrounding areas were rendered impassable by lashing rain, flash floods, and islands of garbage. But on that day, the streets were clear, if still littered with the detritus of the city’s waste, although some guests still had to muddle their way through remaining high water. But as latecomer Rene Saguisag remarked: “If Ninoy once said that the Filipino is worth dying for, then Ninoy is certainly worth braving the floods and the traffic for.”

No member of Ninoy’s immediate family was present, and for good reason. President Noynoy was visiting different evacuation centers, while his sisters were off on their own relief efforts. Representing the Aquino family were Ninoy’s youngest brother Paul, his senator-son Bam, and a delegation (his wife, daughter and granddaughters) representing Butz, who I understand is ailing.

But making up for the absence of Ninoy’s near-and-dear were friends and political allies, familiar faces who had taken part in the years of the pre-Ninoy and post-Ninoy protests, played important roles in the Cory government, and have become familiar figures in all the commemorations of Ninoy’s and Cory’s milestones. There was enough remembering to go around.

* * *

Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa was the first to indulge in the trip down recent history. His father who had been a local politician in Bulacan, he shared, had been a close associate of the late senator Ninoy. In fact, he said, in their trips across the country before the declaration of martial law, the older Ochoa and Ninoy were sometimes forced to share the same bed.

So when Ninoy was arrested and incarcerated, his father, said Ochoa, was downhearted and sunk into depression. He only brightened somewhat when he learned of Ninoy’s release into exile in Boston, and was heartened when he learned of the senator’s plans to return home. “He seemed to take the news of the assassination quite calmly,” Ochoa recalled, and his father’s only request was that they drive to Times Street to view Ninoy’s remains.

“But when we got to the street corner, we found a long queue of people waiting to get inside,” recalled Ochoa. “At this point, seeing all those people waiting to pay homage to Ninoy, my father broke down in tears, not just in tears but breaking out in sobs and wails.” The “little President” added, “I think it was only at that moment that the truth of Ninoy’s death had sunk in. So instead of stopping, I simply drove on and headed home.”

* * *

Delivering the response in behalf of the Aquinos was Bam, the senator, whose striking resemblance to Ninoy may have been his ticket to electoral victory.

But he opened his talk by sharing his feeling of dismay when a survey among young people showed how little they knew of the late senator and martyr. When asked what they knew about Ninoy, Bam said, most respondents said they knew him as “the father of Kris Aquino” (“not even of P-Noy,” Bam remarked), the man whose pensive face is shown in a P500 bill, and the man who lent his name to the country’s main airport.

Still, Senator Bam said, “this doesn’t mean that people power is dead,” it remains alive, but “only in different forms.” That so many young people have spent days and nights in evacuation centers helping flood victims, or helping put together relief packages, is a form of people power, he said. Even now citizens and netizens have called for another show of people power to denounce politicians who have abused the pork barrel and to demand for reforms of the system, while young people are organizing to help their communities and help build a more responsive society.

“So please, don’t talk about the ‘old guard’ and the ‘young turks’ of Edsa,” pleaded Bam. “We are all still in this, continuing Uncle Ninoy’s fight.”

* * *

Central to the morning’s ceremonies was the laying of wreaths before the bust of Ninoy by different groups, including the “veterans” of ATOM, the August 21 Movement that was formed immediately after the killing of Ninoy; the “Corvets” or Cory Veterans who served in the late president’s administration and worked for both her and P-Noy’s campaigns; the Estrada-Kalaw family led by former senator Eva Estrada Kalaw; and of course the Aquino family.

Bringing everyone back to those heady, stressful, suspenseful and yet hopeful years was singer Noel Cabangon, with the special participation of Ogie Alcasid who is a member of the Edsa People Power Commission. Of course, “Bayan Ko,” our second national anthem, was sung, although for me the more moving number was when Cabangon sang “My Personal Revenge,” a haunting hymn based on a poem by a Sandinista rebel that says, among its many beautiful lines, that “My personal revenge will be to show you/The kindness in the eyes of my people.”

Indeed, there was nostalgia, sadness, but also triumph in the air that morning. But anger? It seems to have dissipated in the typhoon’s departing winds, or to have been directed at new targets, as it should be.

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  • basilionisisa

    i hope PNoy wakes up one morning, hopefully tomorrow, and REALIZES his ‘mistake’ in perpetuating the Pork Barrel System, that it is the single most glaring SOURCE of GRAFT AND CORRUPTION in elected officials… and then SHOUTS to the world that he will SCRAP IT formally and finally!

    Then it would be his BIGGEST TRIUMPH in his crusade, the Daang Matuwid, of cleansing the government!

    (I also hope that the people closest to him would try to convince him.)

    • Eustaquio Joven

      (I also hope that the people closest to him would try to convince him.)

      Asa ka pa! Parang hindi mo kilala ang mga taong malalapit sa kanya.

  • jus_sayinagain

    Tribute…yellow balloons, yellow flowers, yellow celebrities. Yeah right, things have changed.

    I was there 30 years ago, that very same Sunday, it was raining. We were not very many who waited. Lupita’s daughters, Maur’s sons, some of the Lopa’s…mostly relatives, children then.

    The Filipino people was down there, the Aquinos were down there too in the mud, suffering together. Today, the big difference is that while the Filipino people are still down there in the mud, the Aquinos are SO UP THERE! Together with people who choose to take advantage and enjoy it. They have forgotten what Ninoy really died for, or did I just get it so wrong right from the start? Thirty years ago, on August 21.

  • ConnieLee90

    Should I tie a yellow ribbon round my tree in honor of the man considered the “national martyr?”

    Martyrdom indeed is intriguing. It brings luster to a dull shine and erases past faults. Ninoy was just like any politician who played the game dirty, if not dirtier. He was cunning and a man who would use any means to justify his ends. He was a man of little scruples, like FM, who he had been all his life trying to unseat.

    And he, too, was a shadowy character good at playing both ends against the middle. While in Indonesia, Ninoy did a project for the CIA, & had admitted to his role. He collaborated with the Communists & accorded them political accommodation. How could he not? Central Luzon was the hotbed of Communist insurgency and he had vast landholdings to protect.

    If is very unfair that Ninoy got all the spotlight, focus, and credit because of the manner of his death. There were people who worked just as hard to oppose the dictator and help bring back democracy. Why not bring honor to Senators Jose Diokno and Jovito Salonga, among others, whose political lives seem less questionable and more honorable than Ninoy’s?

  • acidicboy

    what’s there to celebrate? 30 years later and we’re in a deeper hole. we locked arms with the likes of Jovito Salonga, Doy Laurel, Lorenzo Tanada, etc.. to fight for the Filipinos who were wallowing in poverty… 30 years later the same Filipinos’ sons and daughters are wallowing in a deeper pit of poverty, propagated by different sets of cronies and thieves in government.

    in fact, the only people that should celebrate are the families that enriched themselves after using Ninoy’s death for their gain.

  • koneksyon_manila

    EEEEEEEEEEEEE – n.a.f.f………………!!!

  • Eustaquio Joven

    His gave us nothing but EDSA 1. So what’s there to celebrate? Did it bring relief, or more suffering?

    • basilionisisa

      nothing? listen to yourself, the mere fact that you are FREE to write such comment is something to celebrate!

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Yes, we are free to rant and rave, while a few privileged families gorge freely, leaving almost nothing for the poor. I miss the Marcos years where the government was functional, and the poor’s only complaint was having galonggong day in and day out. i saw development programs reaching even our remotest barrios. I had no reason to rant and rave.

      • basilionisisa

        har-har! now we know! lumubog na ti barco wag lang ti cuaco!

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Robredo’s my kababayan, not Marcos. I work with the poor, and live with them. Why? Meron pa bang hindi naghihirap sa atin? May nakita akong mag-iina, naghuhukay sa aking kamotehan. Pasensiya na raw: hindi pa sila kumakain. Binigyan ko ng pambili ng bigas; wala pang laman ang aking tanim. Maluha-luha ang babae sa pasasalamat. basilionisisa, sa maraming kagaya niya sabihin ang tungkol sa ipinagmamalaki mong freedom.

  • basilionisisa

    Isn’t it SWEET! the small Hope (and Prayer) I posted last night was answered this morning: PNoy is SCRAPPING the Pork Barrel System!
    Thank you, Mr President! at MABUHAY KA! (and thank you, Ms Rina for your column!)

    • kawawang_bansa

      it will not be scrapped…just renamed…as the “National Appropriation for Countrywide Assistance and Welfare,” or NACAW, according to mandyboi…and the president’s 1-T pork is of course still there

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Natumbok mo igan. Kung bakit naman kasi, ang iba sa atin… Maagang maaga nasa computer agad. Hindi muna gumising…

      • basilionisisa

        kung bakit kasi yung iba sa atin hindi MAGSUMIKAP, magbanat ng buto para umasenso, kesa MAINGGIT sa nakikita nila sa paligid na wala sa kanila. tsk tsk

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Wala nang puwang ang inggit sa mahihirap ngayon. Ang tanging nasa isip lang nila ay kung paano makakaraos sa araw-araw. Kaya naman marami ang naghihirap ngayon ay dahil sa katuwirang mong iyan – katuwiran ng oligarch. E, ano naman ngayon kung yumaman man ako? Magnakaw ka rin kung kaya mo!

    • Eustaquio Joven

      Sana nga scrapping, hindi overhauling lang.

  • Cabesang_Tales

    And 30 years after, what have we done for our Country? Except to complain.

  • albert13

    it seems that wittingly or unwittingly, the author’s article seems to sanitize or deodorized jojo ochoa’s office involvement in the prok barrel scam.

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