Thank you, P-Noy
I did not know P-Noy, and I did not have as many interactions with him as I did with his mother, President Cory, whom I had the privilege of interviewing immediately upon her return from Boston. The interview was arranged by the feisty editor-publisher Eugenia Duran Apostol. I was then contributing to Mr. & Ms. magazine.
Fast forward decades later: It was my known involvement in P-Noy’s presidential campaign that led political activist Maribel Ongpin to call to ask me to join a government agency involved in children’s television programming. She urged me to join as she, along with Karina Constantino David, was then recruiting qualified people to work for the Benigno Aquino III presidency. I was highly complimented because she said she knew I would not commit any act of corruption. But I remained unconvinced about joining government. She said, “Are you not willing to help this administration?” I continued to hem and haw and honestly told her that while I earnestly wanted to help P-Noy, joining that children’s TV agency would be too much of a sacrifice on my part as I did not watch television at all.
I was scheduled for an oathtaking that I did not show up for. It was then that I thought of joining the National Book Development Board (NBDB), which was more in line with my personal and professional interests.
It was routinary and perhaps a form of drudgery for P-Noy, but having my oathtaking with him was a major highlight for my family and me. It was sentimental for my husband Elfren, who had worked in Malacañang during the Cory years. He remarked to P-Noy that the scene had reminded him of those years.
How proudly I produced my appointment papers signed by P-Noy for any documentation purposes, and today, they’re as valued as my vaccination information passport.
I remember the times we would meet in Manila Memorial Park, especially post-Malacañang, on Jan. 25, Feb. 25, Aug. 1, Aug. 21, Nov. 27—dates of commemoration for the Aquino family and their extended circle where I would awkwardly attempt a selfie with my phone. P-Noy would salvage the situation by asking his official photographer to take the photo instead. And these were immediately sent to me as promised.
The last times I saw him were at a Jose W. Diokno Awards ceremony in La Salle in February 2019, and at a post-Memorial Park lunch at the Cojuangco home where P-Noy was in a bantering mood. His last official public speech was as an awardee at this year’s Diokno Awards on Feb. 26; his speech was read for him by DLSU Law Dean Gil de los Reyes. The award was in recognition of his efforts to defend the Philippines’ interests in the West Philippine Sea. His simple words rang with pride: “We stood up to China because it was the right thing to do.”
I am especially appreciative of his cooperation as Elfren and I released “The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative” in November 2015. He granted me a two-hour interview in Malacañang, and guested at the book launch with Cabinet members Bro. Armin Luistro and Sonny Coloma.
When asked then how he would like to be remembered as president, P-Noy said: “I would like to think I was part of a movement that changed the people’s attitude from one of cynicism and defeat to one of… unbounded optimism — that the Filipino is really capable and special and we can achieve all our dreams.”
It must have been the spirit of his strong anticorruption stance that goaded me to pursue what I perceived to be a whiff of irregularity and malfeasance in a transaction of the NBDB. Not a pleasant way to end an eight-year tenure, but an exit I could not have scripted better.
Thank you, P-Noy, for your years of selfless service and good governance, which made us proud to be Filipinos. Your family has sacrificed so much for love of country, but to whom much is given, much is expected.
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Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is founding director of the creative writing center Write Things, and was former chair of the National Book Development Board.
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