What did Ninoy give the Filipino people?

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

Thirty-eight years ago, we lost a Filipino martyr and now a modern day hero, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. After his death, the Filipinos finally united in spirit, went out of their comfort zones and marched in the streets. His message was to fight using non-violence, the only weapon he believed can work in the struggle for justice and human rights.

But after his death, something went wrong. Massive demonstrations and bloody clashes happened in the streets of Mendiola. Students and the militia started to kill each other. Both were angry with steaming emotions, forgetting Ninoy’s call for peace. Yes, something went wrong. Professional agitators just like the so-called trolls we have today in social media invoking the name of Ninoy messed up everything.

But Ninoy Aquino was very clear with his ideas and his objectives. He was very candid and outspoken. He was not fickle-minded at all and always gained the respect of the people. He was charming, pleasant and intelligent. He did not mince his words. He was an honorable man.

After his death, Cory confirmed that Ninoy’s intentions was not to run for any office but to help the Opposition organize. He also wanted to tell the president to make sure that we will have free elections. On his way home on the China Airlines flight, Ninoy told a reporter who asked: What do you expect to happen when we get to Manila? I don’t know. I have been reading the press reports that they will put me back in this same plane and send me back to the port of embarkation. But I don’t know how they can do that, because I’m a Filipino, and I’ve lost my passport, and I have no visa to Taipei, so I don’t know how they can send me back. I really hope that they let me stay in my country. It’s my homeland. I don’t mind if they put me back in jail, but the fact alone that I’m in the Philippines means a lot psychologically and morally for our followers. I don’t think a general can be 10,000 miles from a battle. He should be leading his troops even if he has to lead from prison.

Upon returning to the Philippines after Ninoy’s death, Cory gently challenged the press: My husband always believed that courage, like cowardice, is contagious. It is easy to be infected by courage as by cowardice. And I hope that my husband has shown you and the rest of the world that he was courageous. I know things are difficult here. But maybe, if one, two, three or more of you will be strong enough to... at least try to inform our people of the truth, then, maybe. As I said, my husband hasn’t died in vain. This I address to the members of the local press who, of course, are under more pressure. I understand that, but if no one will make sacrifices, then our poor country will never get going.

Ninoy had a simple plan. He told the press when asked about what Marcos should do: I feel he should now prepare the country for the time he will pass away. Therefore, I would like to see the beginning of freedom of the press. Then, after that, we should have free and clean honest elections. And then we can go into restructuring the economy to help the poor because the final bottom line here is how well is the government is helping the majority of the impoverished Filipinos. We have to address ourselves to the problem of the worker – the rural worker, the industrial worker, the very poor... I do believe that there’s tremendous room for improvement and I think, if the president will give the opposition a chance to contribute its effort, then the Philippines can move forward.

When will we learn to work together in harmony? Only when our leaders stop thinking of themselves and start to think COUNTRY. Once we become selfless and start acting like human beings as opposed to monkeys or crocodiles, maybe only then can we see the light.

What did Ninoy give the Filipino people? Three decades have passed and he continues to be our inspiration. Whenever we are sad and frustrated with government, we think of him and hope and wish that God give us another Ninoy.

My late father, Max V. Soliven, was Ninoy’s cellmate during the martial law years. He said that Ninoy did something very simple. He came home to Manila from a safe, happy and secure life in Boston to face an assassin’s gun. The choice was his. The choice was free. Knowingly, he gave his life for his country and his countrymen. Now, students and young people who never really knew Ninoy wear yellow T-shirts proclaiming “Ninoy is My Hero,” yell themselves hoarse invoking and chanting his name, weep over him and his brave sacrifice. What’s more, he has inspired them to weep, too, over their country’s fate.

My father was always sentimental of the heroism of Ninoy. He continued by proudly saying: What greater deed can a patriot do for his motherland? He transformed the nation of “sheep,” of timid compromisers, into a nation at the barricades, demanding justice. Ninoy has given us back our pride!

In the end, the memory of Ninoy is in our keeping. The responsibility of Ninoy belongs exclusively to us. Only our Filipino tears can give his death any meaning. Only what we do today and tomorrow as Filipinos can justify his sacrifice. Only the Filipino people can prove that he did not die in vain.


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