What is it about August?
Is it just coincidence that so many major historical events in this nation happened in August?
Still fresh in memory is Aug. 21, 1983, when Ninoy Aquino, “the best President the Philippines never had,” was assassinated. Trailing this memory is the bombing of Plaza Miranda that Ninoy managed to escape on the very same day 11 years back.
Like the symbolic serpent Ouroboros biting its own tail, linking every beginning to its end, Aug. 21, 1971, foreshadowed Marcos’ martial law a year later. Ninoy Aquino’s assassination on Aug. 21, 1983, began the end of that dictatorship.
Two more deaths in August deepened the pattern—Ninoy’s widow Cory, whose presidency succeeded Marcos’ fall, died from colon cancer on Aug. 2, 2009. Three years later, the well-loved servant leader Jesse Robredo died in a plane crash on Aug. 18, 2012, raising his own widow to the vice presidency just four years later.
With such notable interlocking patterns in Philippine history, the mind reels back to August 1572—the death of Miguel López de Legazpi, the first governor-general of the Spanish East Indies that ruled over the Philippines, Guam and the Marianas. Legazpi is now interred in Manila’s oldest church.
Three centuries later, the Philippine Revolution began with Katipuneros led by Andres Bonifacio tearing their cedulas in open defiance of Spanish rule in the hills of Balintawak on Aug. 23, 1896. Two years later, in August 1898, as the tide of battle turned in the Katipunan’s favor, Emilio Aguinaldo wrote a revealing letter to the US Consul Oscar Williams. Aguinaldo’s army, now suspicious of the Americans’ real intentions, asked for assurance that Washington, D.C. would “recognize the revolutionary government of the Filipinos.”
Instead of reassurance, the Battle of Manila exploded on Aug. 13, 1898. In a moment of truth, our forebears knew that America had decided to take over their victory—a trauma Filipinos never forgot.
This August, energy came strangely alive on the 35th anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. It’s been unique this year, with so many people conjuring him to life again. Then, I remembered. It’s the Chinese folk’s month of hungry ghosts all over Asia, centered around the 15th night of the 7th lunar year, when they believe the gates of the next world open, permitting all ghosts to receive food and drink.
So, did Ninoy Aquino actually visit the nation on Aug. 21, 2018, the way he did as Cory lay dying, to help the nation get past the present obstruction to its destiny?
Sylvia L. Mayuga is an essayist, sometime columnist, poet, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist. She has three National Book Awards to her name.
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