MANILA - In what could be seen as a marshalling of forces for his presidential bid, Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III on Thursday visited former allies in Davao City before going on a spiritual retreat in a monastery in Zamboanga City.
Aquino first visited JVA Group of Companies chairman Jesus "Chito" Ayala at his house in Juna Subdivision, Davao City. A long-time friend of the Aquinos, Ayala was appointed the regional development council 11 chair and presidential legislative liason officer of Malacañang during President Cory Aquino’s administration.
The senator admitted that he consulted Ayala about his plan to run in the 2010 elections. For his part, Ayala said Noynoy has his blessing as long as the senator listens to the advice of his own family.
"I told him, 'Consult your family first then if you have decided, then come back here and we will support you,'" he told ABS-CBN.
The senator also talked to members of the Mindanao Commission on Women and the Mindanao People's Caucus for a briefing on the situation in Mindanao. Both groups said Aquino should brush up on the problems of the country, especially the Mindanao situation, so that he would be better prepared to make a decision.
"We are advocating peace in Mindanao, that is why we would like to ask him what his plans are in restoring peace in Mindanao before making any decision," said Gus Miclat of the Mindanao People's Caucus.
Before leaving Davao City, Aquino also talked to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who told him that the final decision on the presidency is still up to him.
Aquino on Wednesday said he would undergo a spiritual retreat to “pray for discernment and divine guidance” before deciding on whether or not he would run for president in 2010.
"This weekend, starting tomorrow actually, I will be going on a spiritual retreat as I pray for discernment and divine guidance. I urge you to pray with me so that you too can assess your own readiness to take part in the difficult struggle ahead. We are hopefully in this together," he said in a speech on Wednesday at the Club Filipino in San Juan.
Calls for Aquino's presidential bid started after the death of his mother, Cory Aquino, last August 1. On Tuesday, his main rival for the opposition Liberal Party's candidacy, Sen. Mar Roxas, withdrew from the race and endorsed his candidacy.
Retracing mother's footsteps
Aquino's younger sister, Kris, said Noynoy will be staying for several days with a religious order that was instrumental in helping their family deal with her mother's illness. The Aquino clan's matriarch, former President Cory Aquino, succumbed to colon cancer last August 1.
"I won't name names. They were very instrumental in helping Ate and Mom accept the realities of Mom's illness. They've helped Ate so much to come to terms of letting go and accepting God's Will, and Noy was helped so much by them so Noy is really comfortable with them. Alam ni Noy na they have a direct line with God, and Noy also feels that whatever it is they will impart, yung isha-share nila kay Noy, mensahe din yun ng Mom kaya dun siya pupunta," Kris said during a "Showbiz News Ngayon" broadcast Wednesday.
Although they were not identified, the Carmelite Monastery in Zamboanga City confirmed that the senator will be staying at their compound for a spiritual retreat this weekend.
A member of Aquino's staff said the spiritual retreat was sought by the Aquino brood before he makes his final decision. The move also mimics their mother's own spiritual retreat before she decided to run in the 1986 snap election.
Sister Edilla of the Carmelites said Aquino called Sr. Agnes Guillien to inform them of his plans. She added that during the retreat, a person is given enough time to pray and meditate in order to make a decision about his future.
Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles said Aquino may request for an audience with religious leaders in the city before making his decision. "It is part of the moral obligation of the person to consult with God on important decisions, such as what Noynoy is doing now," he said.
Kris Aquino said she expects Noynoy to stay in the monastery for at least two days before returning to Manila.
Kris thanked various people for expressing their support for Noynoy. She said she was especially affected when Roxas, who is widely viewed as the Liberal Party standard-bearer, withdrew his presidential bid and endorsed Noynoy's candidacy for the presidency.
"I was really crying. I felt how sad they must be, because they've invested so much of their lives into this and for him, Ninang Judy and the rest of their family to step aside, naramdaman ko kung gaano kalalim yung sakripisyo at yung the pain because you did invest so much and you gave so much of yourself," she said.
She said she and her sisters expressed their misgivings to Noynoy about his plans to run before they visited the wake of Iglesia ni Cristo leader Eranio "Ka Erdie" Manalo on Wednesday.
Kris said the situation was particularly hard on her sisters, Ballsy, Pinky and Viel, since they all want to live quiet lives away from the spotlight ever since their mother's death. She added, however, that the family is 100 percent behind Noynoy in whatever decision he would make.
"I told him that we've already experienced Malacañang. Kung mabuti kang tao, kung tapat ka sa tao, kung wala kang kurakot na ginagawa napakahirap nung buhay na yon kung nandun ka para manilbihan sa tao at wala kang iniisip para sa sarili mo. It is the biggest sacrifice because you give yourself. You not only give yourself, puso, isipan, kaluluwa buong pagkatao binibigay mo sa bayan 24/7," she said.
She added, however, that she apologized to Noynoy because she thought about their welfare first before the country, which is different from what their parents taught them.