MANILA — Filipinos on Sunday remembered the late Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. on his 39th death anniversary at a time when his family's political nemesis is back in power.
The Ninoy & Cory Aquino Foundation published a short video tribute to the former lawmaker who was assassinated upon arrival in Manila from the United States where he was on exile for three years, on Aug. 21, 1983. At that time, he was the face of the political opposition, as he kept challenging the authoritarian rule of then President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.
"Today, we honor the memory, courage and indomitable spirit of Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr., and the millions of beating hearts that stood with his - when his life was offered in the name of freedom 39 years ago," the foundation's post said.
"His faith made him a hero, and his faith in us made heroes of us all," it added.
Sunday marked the first time Ninoy's death anniversary, a regular holiday nationwide, was commemorated under the administration of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.
The assassination of Aquino sparked protests that led to the ouster of the Marcos family in February 1986 through the People Power Revolution. Aquino's widow, Cory, assumed power from that time until 1992, and their only son, Benigno "Noynoy" III, was also elected to the presidency in 2010. The two have passed away in 2009 and 2021, respectively.
Flowers were offered at the Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where Ninoy was shot and killed in its tarmac.
The Aquino family, led by daughters Balsy and Viel, visited the tombs of Ninoy, Cory and Ninoy at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City.
"Mula noon hanggang ngayon, mahalagang isapuso at alalahanin ang naging tugon ng sambayanan sa kanya, 'Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa,'" former Sen. Bam Aquino, Ninoy's nephew, said in a tweet on Sunday.
"Ngayong araw ay ating inaalala ang tapang, sakripisyo, pagmamahal, at kabayanihan ni Ninoy Aquino," he added.
Historian Xiao Chua also commemorated Ninoy's martyrdom, reminding Filipinos to never forget what happened 39 years ago.
"Dahil alam kong ayaw mo namang lumimot, magtulungan tayong umalala," Chua said in a social media post.
For 19-year-old Carl Patrick Suyat, who was born decades after Ninoy was killed, the late senator's memory should not be erased amid efforts of historical distortion especially on the Internet.
Suyat is the co-founder of Project Gunita, a citizen-led online initiative archiving documents about the military rule under Marcos Sr. The latter imposed Martial Law all over the country from 1972 until 1981, a period marred by human rights abuses and corruption.
"Hindi ko rin matatanggap na yung kwento nila and the story of Ninoy will be relegated to the sidelines because of a historical denialist project by some powerful people," he said.
With Suyat was August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM) member Mae Lagunday, who visited Ninoy's resting place at the Manila Memorial Park earlier in the day to light some candles.
"For me, still nako-consider ko martyr si Ninoy. Iyong pagkamatay niya at yung binaril siya sa tarmac, hindi iyon katanggap-tanggap. Ang alam namin, uuwi siya pero hindi para patayin," she said.
— with reports from Larize Lee and Jeffrey Hernaez, ABS-CBN News