MY nephew said Roxas Blvd. would be closed to traffic at 7 a.m. so if I didn’t want to walk to the Quirino grandstand, I had to wake up early. It rained heavily that Tuesday afternoon when he warned me and I didn’t relish the idea of witnessing history unfurl in a barong Tagalog that was dripping wet. So at six in the morning of June 30, 2010, I was up and on the road.
The lobby of the Manila Hotel where the Cebu delegation had agreed to meet for breakfast was already humming with activity when I arrived. The coffee shop was filled to capacity but Boy and Melona Cuenco, who planed-in from Cebu that same morning, had the foresight of calling earlier for reservations.
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The grandstand is less than 500 meters away from the Manila Hotel so we decided to walk, especially since only vehicles carrying VIPs were allowed access to the area. By the time former Philippine Daily Inquirer vice president Sammy Señoren and I arrived, Jim Paredes of the Apo Hiking Society and Juana Change were working up the crowd. Not that the people needed any rousing; the air in the grandstand was electric.
Sammy and I were assigned to the north wing. I found myself seated with Cebu Doctors Hospital owner Jun Larrazabal, his wife Zeny, Cebu Institute of Technology president Greg Escario’s wife Agie, Dra. Mila Tolentino and Edwin Nacua.
University of Cebu owner Gus Go and his wife Beth, Cesafi commissioner Boy Tiukinhoy, lawyer Merong Estenzo and the Cuencos were in the south wing. (The other members of the Cebu delegation to the inaugurals were lawyers Mocring, who is being pushed to be a Department of Justice undersecretary, Lourdes Barcenas and Noy-Mar Execom members Victor Dumon, Ronnie Baquiano, Rey Calooy, Gilbert Lim and Francis and Joy Onglatco.)
We took our seats at 9 a.m. and waited more than two and half hours before Mr. Aquino and Mrs. Arroyo arrived. Happily, it did not rain. But while a thin layer of cloud hid the sun, it was still hot. It did not help that the electric fans did not work (no power, explained the operator) until Mr. Aquino arrived.
Then, they came. The grandstand reverberated with applause and shouts of “Noynoy” when the new President stepped out of the black limousine with his predecessor. Mrs. Arroyo was greeted with some boos but otherwise, the crowd was respectful. I thought that the catcalls were inappropriate for the occasion and from the look in his face, I could see that Jun Larrazabal agreed with me. But apparently, not everyone shared our concept of graciousness and Christian charity.
I have not been to any other presidential inaugurals but I was told that Mr. Aquino’s was one of a kind because it blended solemnity with glitz. Indeed, the ceremonies did not want in entertainment. Noel Cabangon, for instance, successfully coaxed almost everyone to stand up and sway to the tune of “Mabuting Pilipino.” Even former presidents Fidel Ramos and Erap Estrada, who earlier looked glum or bored, showed that they were game.
The inaugural speech took longer than the promised (according to media reports) eight minutes but it was worth the extra wait. There was no bombast, no fiery oratory or grand vows, only the promise that the people will be Mr. Aquino’s boss and that therefore he will listen to them.
I thought I saw the President wince when Ogie Alcasid sang in Tagalog that Mr. Aquino was the only hope of the people (tanging pag-asa ng bayan). His face lightened up when Regine Velasquez followed with her rendition of “Hindi Ka Nag-iisa.”
How true. Mr. Aquino may be our only hope for meaningful change but he couldn’t do it alone. We shouldn’t leave him alone.