(This was first delivered during a Memorial Mass on the eve of Ninoy Aquino's 53rd birthday on November 26, 1985 at the Newman Center, University of Hawaii, Honolulu. With very minor editing, the same was again delivered at the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu on the third anniversary of Ninoy’s assassination on August 21, 1986.)
We gather in devout commemoration of a martyrdom, a martyrdom that sparked a revolution. A revolution that brought back pride to Filipinos all over the world: People Power unshackling human bondage and regaining a nation’s freedom. It is, in this dear friend’s eternal rest, a dream come true.
Ninoy Aquino had his dreams of Camelot. He died in the romantic pursuit of that dream. And in death, he lives again in the moral leadership of his adored widow, as she courageously takes the nation by the hand in the renewed pursuit of her husband’s Camelot. In Christmas of 1979, at the behest of President Carter, Ninoy was allowed a respite away from his Camp Bonifacio jail to be with his family; to be with friends and relatives he had not seen for more than seven years. Ninoy spent this most joyful reunion almost without sleep, but with bountiful smiles, laughter, even hope.
Here was a man – a prisoner without position nor power, perhaps even without a future, yet his humble house in Quezon City was jampacked, all hours of the day, well into and past the night, by friends and political associates; media, both foreign and local; simple folk from Central Luzon and leaders from the Visayas and Mindanao.
The Marcos military stationed sentries at the entrance of the Aquino residence, interrogating visitors, demanding identification, purpose of visit and signing in. All this menace was to discourage visitors and keep track of the undeterred bold. A few days through the furlough, the sentries gave up in frustration and embarrassment, for they could no longer cope with the unexpected stream that called on the still popular Ninoy.
On the day he was to go back to the “slammer,” as Ninoy was wont to refer to his jail cell, he confided to friends: “I feel like a child, totally helpless and completely under control.”
One of those who visited was given a bunch of Haiku poems Ninoy had composed in the loneliness of his cell. One of them reads like this: “If death is certain, the secret’s not in living but is in dying.”
And oh, how he died! By Ninoy’s death, Marcos the grandmaster of political brigandage had earned for himself his day of infamy. Ninoy’s burial produced an unforgettable phenomenon — the biggest and longest funeral in our country’s history.
Oh, what a death! The beloved Ninoy’s memory was indelibly ensconced as a monument in the hearts of his countrymen.
And oh, yes, what a colossal miscalculation! Marcos and Imelda – the Malakas and the Maganda of their own maladjusted myths – are still upon a demented search for history’s favor while their despicable fawning minions concocted in concrete Marcos’ bloated likeness desecrating a tribal mountainside.
There are legions of Filipinos, friends and admirers, who well-meaningly, although unwittingly, say that Ninoy’s death gave new life and immeasurable strength to the political will of the Filipinos. Others say, perhaps, without his death, Filipinos may have remained cowed, unresistingly accepting their enslavement.
As a family friend and a political confidante, I do not believe it is enough to say that his death finally stirred the people into active indignation and rage. And the opposition, to a re-awakening from somnolent resignation into a fortress-like oneness. These are normal and logical sentiments but only make up for half the truth and therefore, not a fair measure of the man’s greatness. There is far, far much more than death, that Ninoy will have given to the Philippines and the Filipinos, had he lived.
It is for this reason that the crime of Marcos, Imelda and Fabian Ver was not committed against the Aquino family alone. The assassination of Benigno Aquino is a crime committed against the Filipino people because it deprived the country of the symbol and leadership, the example and direction that only Ninoy could have provided at precisely that moment when these were most desperately needed. Ninoy alive, will have undertaken the perilous and arduous task of leading the people in deliverance from a vicious and violent dictatorship. But as Fate would have it, from his dramatic death came the historic justice of a people’s inspiration and courage for their own deliverance.
Armed with nothing else but the conviction that his homecoming was well worth the risk in exchange for the chance to speak to Marcos for an hour, Ninoy placed his life on the line. That conviction is best expressed in Ninoy’s staunch and unflinching devotion to the restoration of the people’s rights and freedoms through non-violence, the personal sacrifice for genuine national reconciliation, founded upon Truth and Justice.
Despite being systematically maligned, harassed and humiliated by Marcos from the time that Ninoy was governor of Tarlac province to 1967 when he ran for the Senate; from being jailed and kept in solitary confinement for over seven years; to being tried by a kangaroo court—still, there he was, risking coming home and reaching out to Marcos.
As Cory Aquino, his loving wife, said: “Ninoy sincerely believed that if the two of them could sit down and talk to each other, he would be able to convince Marcos to return our democracy to us.”
But Marcos would have none of Aquino. Instead, he sent Imelda first to persuade and then to bribe him. Brazenly with bragging frankness, in a frivolous attempt at foolish flattery, Imelda told Ninoy that it would be much less expensive for the Marcoses to maintain Ninoy and his family, in grand style, away from the Philippines, than have him back in the country. But will all the cajolery and chicanery of the cute Imelda failing, she finally threatened Ninoy with death should he still persist in returning.
I recall, in an earlier meeting between Ninoy and Imelda, in imploring that the conjugal tyrants relax their stranglehold upon the nation, Ninoy had cautioned: “If your husband is sincere, nothing is impossible. But if your husband is not sincere, nothing is possible.”
The author of “Aquino vs. Marcos – the Grand Collision,” Manuel Festin Martinez, pointed out that to a despot like Marcos, “reconciliation is an impossible proposition, unless it is made in his own terms—that Marcos remains in power and the character of his government shall not change.”
In contrast, the Jesuit Fr. Jose Blanco observed that Ninoy wanted a reconciliation that “seeks to change the situation rather than destroy the opponent.”
On August 21, 1983, Marcos undertook to preserve the situation and destroyed his opponent.
To many, especially those in high places, the murder of Aquino has been a puzzle. Why would Marcos and Imelda order Ninoy’s death? It did not make sense to believe that Marcos would order Ninoy killed because Marcos would be the obvious loser. But there was more sense to the question that begged to be asked: who will be the biggest loser had Ninoy lived?
Ninoy’s unexpected decision to return home then became a cause of grave distress to the Marcoses, because Aquino, back in the Philippines and alive, will most certainly and effectively unsettle their carefully crafted cabal, along with the pre-calculated foregone results of the legislative elections scheduled for 1984.
Let us all remember that the enormity of the crimes committed by the Marcoses, behind the smokescreen of Martial Law and “constitutional authoritarianism” no longer allowed them to dismount the tiger of absolute power, lest they are gobbled up in mangling death.
The 1984 elections was the linchpin of a long-range scheme to legitimize and perpetuate Marcos. That was the one and only scenario that would have provided the fulcrum upon which to launch Imelda as Prime Minister, and consequently as successor to her obsessively secretive ailing husband.
The Marcoses knew this is what they would lose had Ninoy lived. Therefore, they gambled on his death and arrogantly underestimated the Filipino people.
The conflict therefore transcends the exercise of political power and the heady opulence that comes with material wealth; it goes beyond all pretensions to statesmanship. Because insofar as Marcos and Imelda were concerned, Ninoy was the lingering mortal threat to their very animal instincts of self-preservation.
And so Ninoy had to be destroyed!
Graceful propriety and humane sensibilities would otherwise have demanded that anger and rage be absented from occasions such as this, but I find it an emotional and practical impossibility to extol the greatness of a much loved and admired friend, without providing the bitter circumstances, against which, his selfless act of bodily sacrifice became genuine heroism.
Ninoy’s willing sacrifice, exemplified by his decision to return home, despite the foreknowledge of the perils awaiting him, cannot but leave a legacy of courage.
His lonely battle against tyranny and oppression; his obstinate challenge against duplicity, deceit and debauchery demonstrated for all the world to see, that life after all, can be a great and honest adventure, full of meaning and purpose, if only men would choose to be brave and true.
Such a noble act of extraordinary courage, I pray, from human sight be covered not.
For in God’s own measure of time, Ninoy is “our fleeting wisp of glory…that for one brief shining moment...simply cannot be forgot.”
Because he dared to dream of Camelot.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, then-Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.