The yellow ribbon

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The Yellow Ribbon has become the symbol of the Aquino legacy, an enduring narrative of the heroism of Ninoy Aquino and his faith in a people worth dying for. His act of martyrdom became a legacy when the Filipino people rallied to the leadership of his widow, Corazon Aquino and through massive non-violent protests restored democracy after 14 dark years of Marcos oppression and unparalleled corruption.

The yellow ribbon again regained prominence when Cory Aquino  rallied the people to demand the resignation of President Erap Estrada. In 2009, during the funeral procession of President Corazon Aquino from La Salle, Greenhills to Manila Cathedral and then finally to the Manila Memorial Park. In the 2010 presidential elections, the yellow ribbon was again the symbol of Noynoy Aquino’s candidacy.

The story of the yellow ribbon begun in August 1986 after Ninoy Aquino decided to return from exile in the United States. From day one of the Marcos martial law in September 1972, he was imprisoned and even placed in solitary confinement. He was tried by a military court and finally exiled on the assumption that he and his family would never dare return. He decided to come back and explained the reason in an undelivered speech intended for his return from the United States:

“ I have returned of my free will to join the ranks of those struggling to restore our rights and freedom through violence. I seek no confrontation. I only pray and will strive for a genuine national reconciliation founded on justice.

I am prepared for the worst, and have decided against the advice of my mother, my spiritual adviser, many of my tested friends, and a few of my most valued political mentors.

A death sentence awaits me. Two more subversion charges, both calling for death penalties, have been filed since I left three years ago and are now pending with the courts. I could have opted to seek political asylum in America, but I feel it is my duty, as it is the duty of every Filipino, to suffer with his people especially in time of crisis.

I never sought nor have I been given assurance or promise of lenience by the regime. I return voluntarily, armed only with a clear conscience and fortified in the faith that in the end, justice will emerge triumphant.”

Ninoy’s friends and supporter decided to tie yellow ribbons around trees and fences along his planned route from the airport to his home in Times Street, Quezon City. But he never saw the ribbons since he was assassinated even before he stepped on the airport tarmac.

The yellow ribbon was chosen to symbolize that he had people eagerly waiting to welcome him home. The symbol of the yellow ribbon had actually become widely known in the 1970s, It was the central theme of a popular song Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree, written by Irvine Levine and Russell Brown. The song told the story of released prisoner of war who asked his wife and family to indicate whether they would welcome him home. He would be able to see from the bus driving by their house, and would stay on the bus in the absence of the ribbon. He turned out to be very welcome.

Ninoy had been exiled for three years. Since media was the captive of the Marcos regime, there was no public way of publicly announcing any welcome. So the yellow ribbon  symbolism seemed so appropriate.Here are the lyrics:

I’m coming home, I’ve done my time, Now I’ve got to know what is and isn’t mine

If you’ve received my letter telling you I’d soon be free, Then you’ll know just what to do

If you still want me, if you still want me, Whoa tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree

It’s been three long years, do you still want me? If I don’t see a ribbon round the old oak tree

I’ll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me,

If I don’t see a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree

Now the whole damned bus is cheering, And I can’t believe I see

A hundred yellow ribbons round the old oak tree.

On Aug. 31, 1986, two million people defied martial law and lined the streets of Metro Manila to watch the funeral procession from Sto. Domingo Church to  Manila Memorial Park.  For the first time, the color yellow appeared  as a symbol of defiance. In the rallies that ensued people wore yellow shirts, waved yellow flags, tied yellow ribbons everywhere and yellow confetti cascaded down from office buildings every time rallies marched.

Yellow is also the color of sunshine, hope and happiness. That is the reason why yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their come home from war. As the color of the sun, yellow represents life support for our planet and  has also come to represent life, energy, happiness, hope and wisdom

The yellow ribbon will always be a reminder of those who sacrificed their lives during the Marcos martial law regime. It is also a reminder, in the words of Corazon Aquino: “...may their sacrifices ever nourish our idealism and commitment to our people and remind us of the painful lesson that a government that is evil has no room for good men and women except in its prisons.”

Personal essay writing class

Your Personal Journey: A Rich Source of Stories on Feb. 28, 2016 (1:30-5:30 pm) at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street with Neni Sta. Romana Cruz, book author and freelance journalist.  For registration and fee details, 0917-6240196/ [email protected].

?After the class, in commemoration of 30 years of the EDSA Revolution, there will be a book signing open to the public of The Aquino Legacy written by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz and myself.

Email: [email protected]


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