Remembering the Aquino legacy

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - November 25, 2015 - 9:00am

Tomorrow, Nov. 27, would have been the 83 birthday of Ninoy Aquino, a national hero. If he had not sacrificed his life for the Filipino people, he could still be alive today.

We honor him because he was an authentic hero. But what is a hero? Today, a hero is a person who possesses courage, nobility of spirit and extraordinary exploits. Oftentimes a hero attains that status also because of tremendous personal sacrifice.

Heroes emerge during the darkest days of a people’s history. Perhaps, because it is during those periods when courage is a scarce commodity and hope is the principal weapon of an oppressed people. There were three dark periods in Philippine history.

The first period was the struggle for independence against the Spanish colonizers, and then the American invaders. There were those who became martyrs like the three priests – Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. There were those who provided the intellectual leadership like Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Juan Luna and Apolinario Mabini. Then there were the warriors – Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Antonio Luna, Gregorio del Pilar and Miguel Malvar. And there was Jose Rizal who is now our national hero.

The struggle for independence against the Americans was fought also on the political front. It had its own heroes like Manuel Quezon, Sergio Osmeña  and Claro Recto.

The second dark period in our history was the Japanese occupation during the 2nd World War. There are countless tales of heroism from the lost battles of Bataan and Corregidor, and from the infamous Death March. But the guerrilla movement flourished during this period and produced heroes like Macario Peralta in Panay, Ramon Magsaysay in Zambales, and Jaime Ferrer and Terry Adevoso of the Hunters ROTC guerrillas. There were others who became martyrs like the brothers – Pedro and Jose Abad Santos.

The third dark period of Philippine history was the era of the Marcos martial law conjugal dictatorship. From 1972 when martial law was proclaimed to 1986 when democracy was restored because of People Power culminating in the EDSA revolution, the Philippines suffered under the yoke of a corrupt and oppressive Marcos rule.

During that period, thousands of leaders, activists and innocent victims were imprisoned and tortured. Many mysteriously disappeared. The list of names then imprisoned sounds like an honor roll – Jose W. Diokno, Chino Roces, Soc Rodrigo, Geny Lopez, Nene Pimentel, Jose Mari Velez, Lorenzo Tañada and thousands of farmers, laborers, students, tribal leaders, Muslims, journalists, artists and politicians.

Then there was Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who was arrested, exiled, and returned to a hero’s death because the “Filipino is Worth Dying For.”

There have been many articles and books written about Ninoy Aquino and his leadership qualities and acts of heroism. But it is said that the character of a person is formed during his childhood and the environment where he was raised.

He came from a prominent family. His grandfather, Servillano Aquino, enrolled in the military school founded by Luna and later became a General in the Revolutionary Army. He was jailed for three years by the Americans. His father, Benigno Aquino Sr. became a Senator and even the majority floor leader. He started as a Quezon ally but ended up accusing him of being a “tool of the Americans.”

Ninoy was born in a nipa thatched roof bungalow in Concepcion, Tarlac. In one story narrated to Nick Joaquin, Ninoy recalled that when he was eight, his family lived on Broadway St., New Manila where he had no playmates. At home, he had four sisters and at school he only had female classmates. He said: “What I did, I would take my bicycle and ride down to the end of Broadway and play with the shanty boys and farm boys there until seven in the evening. Then I would go home, take a shower, join the family rosary before dinner. Life was like that until 1941. Uneventful.”

In June 1942, he was studying in La Salle. Without a car and driver, he would wake up early, catch the bus to downtown Manila then transfer to the streetcar that ran to Vito Cruz. Classes in La Salle ended at 1 p.m. when he then would walk to a restaurant on Tennessee St. for his lunch and then walk to downtown Manila to watch a movie or stage show. Afterwards, he would walk all the way from Quiapo back to Broadway St. Perhaps his childhood experiences made him at ease with what sociologists call the “masses.”

Stories of heroes are kept alive because they give us hope. In the foreword she wrote for the book Tales From EDSA, Corazon Aquino said: 

“The first and last duty of a leader, it has been aptly said, is to keep hope alive. This has been the faith of Ninoy and this, too, has been the driving force of EDSA – the refusal to die of our people’s hope for freedom and fulfilment.”       

Aquino Legacy book launch

The Aquino Legacy: An Enduring Narrative by Elfren Sicangco Cruz and Neni Sta. Romana Cruz will be launched today, 4 P.m. - 8 p.m. at the Writers Bar, Raffles Hotel.

Intended for the millennials who may not be aware of the contributions of Ninoy and Cory Aquino in the nation’s struggle for democracy, it is a collection of historical accounts and commentaries and human interest essays, many of which were based on recent interviews including that of President Benigno Aquino III. The forewords were written by P-Noy and Pinky Aquino Abellada.

For more information, contact Imprint Publishing at 0917-6240196 or imprint@gmail.com.

Writing classes for kids & teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Dec. 5 (1:30-3 p.m.) at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street and Dec. 12 (1-2:30 p.m.) at the Prism Gallery Salcedo St., Legaspi Village Makati. For registration and fee details contact 0917-6240196/ writethingsph@gmail.com.

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 Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com


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