Extraordinary lives: Ninoy and Cory Aquino lived and died for the country. It would be the greatest tragedy to let their legacy go to waste and not do what needs to be done.
It’s been 26 years since Ninoy Aquino was treacherously assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport. Just a while ago, I joined a short, solemn march from the Makati fire station to his statue on Ayala Avenue to honor this man who made the supreme sacrifice of offering his life for his country.
I’ve always wondered what thought processes he might have gone through in turning his back on the idyllic life that he, Cory and their kids had in Boston and returning to certain imprisonment, if not death in the Philippines. As everyone knows, prior to their life in the US, Ninoy was in jail for seven years and seven months, and was released from prison only because he needed a heart bypass operation, which he refused to have done at Imelda Marcos’s Heart Center. There was also, of course, much pressure from the US government to have him released from prison and the emergency surgery was a convenient excuse that the dictator used to force him into exile. Thus was Ninoy given a chance to live something closer to a normal, easier life for three whole years.
To be sure, no one asked him to return home. He had done enough for the cause and no one would have faulted him if he chose to remain in the US with his family. But Ninoy, who was then in his 50s, was looking at a bigger destiny than what was readily available.
Prior to Cory’s death, I was starting to believe that Ninoy’s legacy was in peril. The youth did not know his story, except that he was the father of Kris Aquino. Those who believed in him, or were touched by his death and campaigned for Cory in ’86, had become cynical and had joined the rest of our countrymen in their indifference to the scandals that surrounded succeeding administrations.
Many thought that the Filipino whom Ninoy believed was worth dying for, had forgotten why he died in the first place. Or so it seemed until Cory passed away. When she died, people awakened to the realization that we did have a moment in history when our president was not corrupt. We actually had a leader who selflessly dedicated her life to our country, even after she left office and until the day she died. And they showed their appreciation by giving her a great sendoff: Cory’s funeral procession will be remembered as one of the greatest outpourings of love and appreciation in our history.
Inside the Manila Cathedral during the funeral Mass, I looked at every politician in the room and I imagined how they must have been sighing in envy at the adulation Cory was getting, and wondering how many would actually go to their own funerals when they die.
To commemorate Ninoy’s death and Cory’s life, I have listed 26 things I commit to on Ninoy Aquino’s 26th death anniversary. Some of these have to do with the coming elections while others are things that I think all Filipinos should be doing in our daily lives.
1) I will register and vote in the 2010 elections.
2) I will actively review all the platforms and background of the candidates and choose with my conscience who to vote for.
3) I will actively support the candidates I vote for.
4) I will actively engage my preferred candidates in discussions in support of their good programs and to influence them to support other programs that I believe to be positive.
5) Despite automation, I will support citizens’ efforts to safeguard the ballot.
6) I will think through all issues clearly and keep myself informed so that I can make better decisions about them.
7) I will do my work to the best of my ability so that I become a source of pride and inspiration, and not of shame, to my family, friends and public.
8) I will support all efforts to promote peace and justice that will positively impact the lives of the majority of our people.
9) I will use whatever celebrity status I have to promote causes that will uplift the consciousness of our people in ways that empower them.
10) I will work for the passage of the reproductive health bill in this Congress, or in the next one.
11) I will not refrain from speaking my mind on issues, especially those that pertain to how the arts and media sectors can be more responsible to our public.
12) I will continue to write and sing songs that inspire and elevate the spirit and sensibilities of my audience.
13) I will make myself knowledgeable about grassroots issues in my immediate neighborhood and help in any way I can in resolving the problems in my community.
14) I will strive to live a more environmentally correct lifestyle. For one, I will bring my own water (bottled from home sources) so that I will not need to buy bottled water and pollute the landfills with plastic.
15) I will live as simply as I can.
16) I will support efforts that will make higher quality education more accessible to more people.
17) I will read literature in Pilipino so I can communicate and discuss things more intelligently with more of our countrymen.
18) I will take personal responsibility for all my actions.
19) I will strive to get out of the habit of blaming anyone when something goes wrong, and instead offer solutions when possible.
20) I will continue recycling conscientiously at home.
21) I will write to the media and encourage others to make their views, opinions and objections known when government and other institutions, including the media itself, cross the line.
22) I will obey all laws and follow traffic rules to the letter.
23) I will never bribe my way out of any situation.
24) I will support and show appreciation when I see government officials and functionaries doing their jobs well.
25) I will keep my home and every environment I inhabit clean and garbage free.
26) I will support and encourage excellence and correct thinking when I see it among our countrymen and I will bring home, from every place I visit in the world, lessons that can help make life better for our countrymen here at home.
I thank God that I have not been called to die for our country since EDSA 1, although there have been moments I think I probably would, should the need arise.
But it is one of the legacies Ninoy left behind, when he and Cory helped us get our freedoms back, that we no longer have to die for our country. Instead, we are called to live for it with commitment and integrity. This civic call can no longer remain unheeded. It is time to stop playing deaf. It is time to listen, and to act.
It would be the greatest tragedy to let this second shot at national redemption go to waste by not doing what needs to be done. Let us all be part of an awakened citizenry that will transform this nation in the peaceful but determined way that Ninoy and Cory showed us.
What’s on your list?