There exists a thirst for stories about Ninoy Aquino.
Rightly so that such interest lingers. I believe it to be good civics to engender his memory, enhancing a better appreciation of national tragedy and an ensuing frustrating triumph. After all, it cannot be denied that it was the President Ferdinand E. Marcos master-minded assassination of Ninoy that spurred People Power. Its signal feat, toppling the dictator sealing his political demise. Yet, it was the Filipino that failed the promise of that universally celebrated fateful bloodless revolution.
I will absent myself from delving into the imponderables and philosophical underpinnings of this sad era in Philippine life. Such role is reserved for academically credentialled savants of our county’s social and political history.
However, significant trivia can contribute context to memorials. And so, back to the thirst for Ninoy stories. From readers’ reaction to our cyberchat last weekend, it became obvious to me that I can lend a hand quenching that thirst. Expectedly, this will help correct and quash the well-financed attempt of the Marcos heirs and minions, their keyboard mercenaries, who are surreptitiously reinventing and altering the history of our country’s most egregious contemporary era, even in desperate denigration of Ninoy’s memory.
I have decided to do a series from my own trove of personal memories and resources, even soliciting a vignette or two from Dr. Rolando “Rolly” M. Solis, Ninoy’s heart doctor who ministered to Ninoy’s medical needs during the last three years of his life. You see, Rolly was not just a doctor; he was Ninoy’s friend, like no other. I can even say “the last friend!”
During one of my visits with Rolly in Dallas, Texas reminiscing about our times with Ninoy, I recall Rolly sharing with me one such moment. Ninoy told him: “If I could trust you with my life, I can trust you with anything.” One can imagine what confidentialities these might have been. But Rolly, like a true friend, will carry these respectfully to his grave.
On that tragic day, August 21, 1983 when Ninoy returned home, he had with him two items Rolly and I are personally knowledgeable about and connected with, respectively. The passport Ninoy travelled with, and the other, a black cloth badge sewn just below the left breast of the white long-sleeved bush jacket Ninoy was wearing. And was interred with.
History records that on his return to the Philippines aboard that China Airlines Flight No. 811, Ninoy was listed as passenger “Marcial Bonifacio.” His genuine Philippine passport said so. “Marcial” for Martial Law and “Bonifacio,” Fort Bonifacio where he languished incarcerated. The matter of how, by and through whom Ninoy was able to secure an authentic Philippine passport with an assumed name, has been much talked about, even with varying claims. I do not discount the possibility that one other passport may have been fabricated by some caring consulate officer posted in some foreign assignment, risking a bold attempt to help Ninoy, albeit remaining unutilized.
To settle this matter once and for all, let me share what I know to be the unadulterated and authentic circumstance, as told to me by Dr. Solis.
Sometime in July of 1981, Ninoy together with Dr. Solis travelled to Saudi Arabia in order to call upon His Majesty King Khaled, then the reigning monarch, an event previously sought through connections of prominent Filipino Muslims. It was a political mission of very high import. Living in Jeddah at that time, in self-imposed exile, were Lanao del Sur Congressman Rashid Lucman and Atty. Macapanton “Jun” Abas, Jr. The Filipino senator’s party must have stayed in Jeddah for about ten days awaiting clearance to be received at the King’s palace in city of Taif. It was there and then while in Jeddah when Ninoy’s “Marcial Bonifacio” Philippine passport was acquired at the behest of Congressman Lucman who had a nephew working at the Philippine Jeddah Consulate who ‘facilitated’ that travel document . As an eye-witness, Dr. Solis, who hotel-roomed with Ninoy, told me that Ninoy returned to Boston with that passport, adding that Cory Aquino, after she had been widowed and maybe already as President, told Dr. Solis that it was that particular passport that Ninoy had with him and used when he last departed Boston.
January 1982, it was my turn to go to Jeddah and Riyadh on a follow-through mission covering the initiatives put in place by Ninoy’s visit mid-July the previous year. This was the last assignment I undertook for Senator Aquino. Folks, I will find the opportunity to tell you of my own Saudi Arabia visit. But first, I will request Dr. Rolly Solis to be our guest storyteller, just as soon as possible, to validate my recollection about that “Marcial Bonifacio” passport. It is best straight from the horse’s mouth than from the other end!
Now, about that black badge. Video clips and photographs of Ninoy’s last plane ride as well as of the bloody aftermath of the tarmac on August 21, 1983 and even of his historic funeral have shown faintly, indirectly while a few frontally, a circular black badge on Ninoy’s lower left breast. It was 2 and ¾ inches in diameter, with embroidered white thread around the circumference edge and the initials “BSA” at center. Benigno Simeon Aquino! BSA.
Why would I know Ninoy Aquino trivia with such precision?
Reacting to our last blog, Popsy Mendez-Aquino, Ninoy’s sister-in-law, widow of brother Butz, reminded me that she was the one I requested to deliver to Ninoy while in Fort Bonifacio detention the BSA badges, which she most probably sent through Cory. Hence, this recollection.
You see, serendipitously, I came upon those badges in a souvenir shop along Nathan Road in Kowloon when I was living in Hong Kong in the late 1970s. What coincidence that they bore my dear friend’s initials, BSA. I bought the remaining lot and kept one for myself. (a photo accompanies this chat). Actually, that BSA badge stood for a decommissioned logo/insignia of an old English firearms factory--British/Birmingham Small Arms. I even remember now that it was an Ayala associate of mine, Donnie Gallardo, who told me of the logo’s provenance.
Ninoy evidently cherished that simple, humble remembrance enough for it to accompany him to destiny.
I guess I possess the privilege of holding the distinction of having a personal memento interred with a national hero!
For other articles by Buddy Gomez, click CYBERBUDDY
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, the 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.