“We are allowed to be upset about the devastating state of our nation; in fact, we should be”
It is exactly 40 years since Ninoy Aquino was found face first and dead on the tarmac of Manila International Airport.
This was later renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in commemoration of him. Imagine a sea of people in yellow waiting for the return of their hero after leaving home, like the arc of a classic Filipino epic.
With this gravity, picture how devastated the Filipinos were when we heard the gunshots.
How can the Filipino people not be?
By 1983, the Philippines had been under the dictatorship for 18 years. When you live in dark times and you think you finally see light at the end of the tunnel, having that light stolen from you hurts tenfold.
I’m not sure what I can say about Ninoy Aquino that hasn’t already been said yet.
Ninoy Aquino was the typical overachiever from a well-known land-owning family in Tarlac.
He became the youngest mayor, the youngest vice governor, the youngest governor, then the youngest senator.
He was a full-fledged politician at 22.
If we think about it, he was well-off enough to have chosen a safer route.
He could have chosen to stay quiet amidst Marcos Sr.’s atrocities.
He could have chosen to not go home to the Philippines, and yet…
Any Filipino, with admiration or disrespect, knows Ninoy as a ‘staunch critic of Marcos.’
He criticized the 1967 election, Marcos’ overspending on infrastructure turned edifice complex, as well as the militarization of government offices.
A proof of the claim he was in the opposition came the morning after the declaration of martial law.
He was arrested and detained in Camp Crame with other opposition members. And even in detention, he remained firm with his beliefs.
When he faced the Military Tribunal with charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion, he refused to submit to Marcos’ iron fist.
Of course, many people questioned and continue to question his bourgeoisie background.
Class is always a part of the discussion, and rightfully so.
However, it seems that when it came down to it, when he was challenged, he chose to stand by his principles and with the Filipino people.
Ninoy Aquino is an icon all on his own, but his assassination has made him even more so.
In hindsight, if you watch his last interview, he was not deluded.
He knew that there was a big possibility that he will not be stepping into the Philippines alive again and yet…
His privileged background would have been enough to let him off the hook.
He could have lived comfortably in the United States with no consequences.
But he didn’t.
When you make a choice as large as that, knowing you could have escaped and yet choose to sacrifice for the greater good, you become an impeccable representation of sacrifice, courage, and love for your people.
However much we deny it, Ninoy Aquino’s death was a huge reason why People Power was possible. When the oppressors steal the light at the end of the tunnel, you can be the light.
And that’s exactly what the Filipino people did.
To sacrifice is to know you will have to suffer and yet choose suffering for a greater cause.
Ninoy Aquino, along with many other martial law victims, chose suffering in exchange for the possibility of democracy.
In exchange for the possible toppling of a dictatorship.
True enough, their sacrifices were not for naught.
Ninoy Aquino Day will always be relevant for this reason.
But this is even truer now with another Marcos leading the country.
At present, it is even more important, not only to commemorate it, but to draw inspiration from it.
We are faced with the same things – constant human rights violations, increasing prices, and the proliferation of a fake history that makes the Marcoses heroes.
We are allowed to be upset about the devastating state of our nation; in fact, we should be.
But we must remember that despair can only take us so far.
We are tasked to call on the same spirit Ninoy Aquino had.
To choose what is courageous, what is just, what is good for fellow Filipinos.
Of course, I do not believe that life is all sacrifice, but it is an essential part of a life well-lived, of a country well-loved.
Ninoy Aquino might not have been perfect, but he was and is definitely someone to look up to when we need light and courage to make sacrifices.