On Noynoy Aquino’s first death anniversary, opposition told not to lose heart

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
On Noynoy Aquino�s first death anniversary, opposition told not to lose heart
Family, friends, and supporters of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III attend a mass commemorating the first death anniversary of the former chief executive at the Church of the Gesu in Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City on Friday, June 25, 2022. Aquino, 15th president of the Philippines, was the son of democracy champions Ninoy, a martyred senator, and Corazon, who was installed president after the decades-long Marcos dictatorship was deposed in 1986. Noynoy Aquino died at age 61 in Quezon City, five years after his term ended. He is seen in this 2014 file photo.
The STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — After being handed a decisive defeat in the May polls, members and supporters of the opposition were urged to take heart that Filipinos are still worth fighting for, echoing the words of former President Benigno Aquino III who died exactly a year ago.

At the Mass for Aquino on the occasion of his first death anniversary at the Church of the Gesu on the Ateneo de Manila University campus, his older sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz borrowed the words of her brother to urge those in attendance — mostly friends, family and allies of the former president — to keep fighting.

“May I ask you to join me in considering what he said: And I quote, ‘May you always believe, just as I do, that the Filipino is really worth fighting for. That the Filipino will indeed rise up to the occasion, that God has a good plan for all of us and this will take place in his time. Keep the faith, know that this is just a phase,’” Aquino-Cruz said, quoting a letter from her brother.

It was inevitable for the quiet affair in remembrance of Aquino, who at 61 died from renal disease secondary to diabetes, to turn slightly political, as this was the first public gathering of key opposition figures like Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Kiko Pangilinan since their thanksgiving rally which was also held at Ateneo — the alma mater of the former president.

Radical love

Former Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin referenced one of Robredo’s key messages during her presidential campaign in his homily which reflected on the life of Aquino and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“Mahal ang tunay na pagmamahal. Lalo pa iyong radikal na pagmamahal. Hindi nabibili. Hindi nasisilaw. Dinidibdib ang minamahal. At ang dapat mahalin, ‘di naaabala sa lait o suklam. ‘Di alintana ang masuklian. Radikal dahil kusang loob sa pag-aalala at pagsabay sa nilimot ng lipunan,” Villarin said.

Outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo attends the Mass on the occasion of the death anniversary of former president Noynoy Aquino on the Ateneo de Manila University campus in Quezon City on Friday, June, 24, 2022.
The STAR/Jesse Bustos

(Truly loving is expensive. Especially radical love. It cannot be bought. It cannot be blinded. Loving is taken to heart. And those who should be loved are not bothered by insults or contempt. They do not care if they will be reciprocated. It is radical because they voluntarily remembered and went side-by-side with those forgotten by society.)

Radical love was among the key messages Robredo sought to spread among her supporters, or Kakampinks, in an effort to draw more people to their side which was then perceived by some to be too hostile to contrary views.

‘Do not lose heart’

The opposition was handily defeated in the May polls, with Robredo losing to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and her running mate Pangilinan losing to Vice President-elect Sara Duterte. Only Sen. Risa Hontiveros made it to the Senate.

Villarin also encouraged those in attendance not to lose the fire in their hearts despite defeat, again invoking the fiery image of the Sacred Heart which he said is never extinguished.

“Paalala rin na huwag tuluyang mawalan ng loob. Mula naman sa pag-ibig ng Diyos ang sindi ng ating puso at walang pananamlay ang liyab ng kanyang puso. May init ang pusong nagmamahal. May liwanag at linaw,” he said.

(It is a reminder not to lose heart. The light in our hearts comes from the love of God and his heart’s fire does not falter. There is warmth in the heart that loves. There is brightness and light.)

In reflecting on the Gospel, the former Ateneo president also said that the heart of God resides in the 1% who are “lost and lacking” and not the 99% who are “numb and cannot repent.”

Endowment fund

In his message after the Mass, Ateneo president Fr. Roberto Yap remembered how Aquino’s leadership was marked by “competence, conscience, compassion and commitment.”

“He will also be remembered for representing the Philippines with honor and dignity, elevating our country’s status on the world stage. President Noy’s love for our country and our people, especially the poor and the marginalized, is unquestionable,” Yap said.

Maria “Ballsy” Elena Aquino-Cruz, sister of the former president Noynoy Aquino, appears at the first death anniversary Mass for her late brother the Ateneo de Manila University campus in Quezon City on Friday, June, 24, 2022.
The STAR/Jesse Bustos

He also asked for Aquino’s prayers “in the face of a planet in emergency mode, a chaotic political environment, wars in different places, disinformation and misinformation and a heavily fractured society.”

Yap announced that an endowment fund named after Aquino established by his batchmates and friends at the Ateneo has raised P15 million which will allow scholars from outside of Metro Manila to study in the university.

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