Remember Ninoy Aquino, Jr. on his 78th birth anniversary

The nation will celebrate on Saturday, Nov. 27, the 78 birth anniversary of the late Sen. Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. whose martyrdom had changed the course of Philippine  history from dictatorship to freedom and democracy.

Many have been written about his life and times by people who were either close to him or had followed closely his colourful political career that ended by the assassin’s bullets on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport on Aug. 21, 1983.

Perhaps we were among the few who had the privilege of covering the late senator in the Senate for five years interviewing him almost daily about the news of the day and watching him in action on the floor of the Senate. A former newsman, Ninoy as he was fondly called by both friends and political foes, was always a good copy. His choice of words and subjects always provoked one to think and ponder. This sold the papers and thus he easily became the darling of the press.

We have always wanted to write about him in order to put in print for posterity certain incidents and statements he made to us that may give insights into his humanity, patriotism, idealism.

Looking back, we are more than convinced today that Ninoy never wanted to be President of our country and this can be proven by various incidents and utterances he made to us all throughout the course of our long association with him. Allow us then to tell his story as we saw it.

One afternoon, we sought Ninoy’s reaction to a Daily Mirror (now defunct) report quoting the then Labor minister  Blas Ople as having said that the senator from Tarlac had a “Messiahnic conflict.” We thought Ninoy would hit back but to our surprise he laughed it off and said, “He is right! Ka Blas knows me very well for we have been long together in the Times-Mirror publications. He knows my obsession to be a

“But, Ninoy get elected President first,” we told him. His reply was very quick and revealing: “Bakit si Rizal ba ay naging Presidente? Saka si Mabini at Bonifacio? Iyang si  itim (referring to the late President Carlos P. Garcia who was then still alive) lalakad-lakad sa Escolta na walang pumapansin.

At saka si Macapagal (the former President who was the father of former president Arroyo, now Pampanga representative) kung pumapasyal sa bookstore wala ring pumupuna.”

Ninoy was a born fatalist. He was always talking about death. There is nothing permanent in this world, he used to intone and everybody and everything has to pass the inevitable five stages of life and development: birth, ascendancy, peak, and death.

He said that an Indian sage whom he accidentally met in Malacañang when he was serving as an aide to the late President Ramon Magsaysay made a prediction that he would rise to national prominence and will become the most controversial figure in Philippine political history. “But then he told me I would die young,” Ninoy added. He said the same sage foresaw the death in office of Magsaysay.

In another instance, one Sunday afternoon at his house at Time Street and shortly after the Plaza bombing, we had a long chat with Ninoy who talked about the political crisis that the bombing created. He was telling us that he was preparing another tirade on the floor of the Senate against President Ferdinand E. Marcos, his political opponent.

To this we asked him “Ninoy talaga ka bang matapang? Binomba na kayong mga Liberal at muntik nang naubos sa Plaza Miranda pero bumibira ka pa. Hindi ka ba marunong matakot?”.

His reply was another revelation. He said: “You know I’m not really that brave. I am also like you. But I have a duty to perform to our people. I see them today massing and wanting to cross a river thick with crocodiles. They all hesitate, but unless one like me will dare to cross that dangerous river nobody will do it.”

Then he continued to say that “I always imagine myself being brought home in a box through that door” pointing to the main entrance of his house.

The rest of the story is now history. He crossed that dangerous river and died a martyr. But millions followed him to safety and to freedom and democracy brought about by the Edsa  People Power Revolution.

Our conversation shifted to his wife “Cory”. I was curious why Ninoy, unlike Marcos and the “politicos” of his time and even today, shared the limelight with their wives. I asked him point blank why he was always relegating Cory to the backseat and not use her as his secret political weapon, like Imelda to Marcos. His reply was again prophetic: “Hindi pa panahon, padre (he called us that way because my youngest daughter Cecile, now a practicing dentist, is the baptismal goddaughter of Cory). Pagdating ng tamang panahon millions will listen to her.” We almost forgot this statement of Ninoy until its realization during the Edsa Revolution when the whole world listened to the voice of Cory as Ninoy had predicted.  (To be concluded) Cornelio de Guzman

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