BENIGNO Aquino Jr. (1932-1983). Nicknamed Ninoy. A guy from Concepcion, Tarlac. Popular politician. Newspaper man. Mayor - governor - senator - political prisoner. A "martyr towards reconciliation." Upon his return from the US as a political exile, he was welcomed by a bullet at the Manila International Airport (now renamed in his honor).
Here in Bacolod City, at least he is remembered. Coming from the north, you turn left. There, you will experience horrible traffic congestion during rush hours before reaching Shopping Center. The stretch from Bangga La Salle up to CSA-B is "dangerous by night," at least to students and Koreans. You can never tell. You might be in a company of snatchers and hold-uppers. Why of all places, these sons of Ali Baba do their thing in front of Redemptorist Church? Mother of Perpetual Help, have mercy! The thoroughfare is known as Benigno S. Aquino Drive.
At the center island of the street near the oldfangled Bacolod Airport, Ninoy has a statue there. Neglected. Disregarded. Ignored. Overlooked. I hope that should not to be forgotten. After all, he is a great man! What made Benigno S. Aquino Jr. a great man? Join me. Let's traverse down memory lane. Ferdinand E. Marcos ascended to power as president of this republic. He was a Liberal-turned-Nacionalista. A bar topnotch. CIA man in Manila. My favorite authors Mariel N. Francisco and Fe Maria C. Arriola called him the shrewdest politician the Filipinos had ever known (but not until Her Excellency whom you know broke his record).
Marcos dictatorship triggered the expansion of Kabataang Makabayan (KM), the most radical student organization founded in 1964 by Jose Maria Sison, a UP English major; then, came its military arm - the New People's Army (guided by the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist thought).
There was series of explosive mass actions (January-March 1970). In my calendar, I marked it bloody red as the First Quarter Storm. I was then a college student leader of Colegio de San Agustin - Bacolod belonging to the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP).
Apo Ferdie created factionalism in Philippine politics. The elite factions, his cronies and doggies (tuta), took turns in ravaging the economy of the country using political power and military claws. Politics became a dirty and deadly game. An opposition rally in Plaza Miranda was bombed. Bombing here, bombing there! Private commandos were terrorizing electorates. Mindanao became a killing field. Almost 3,000 lost their lives in the election rivalries of 1971 and an estimated half a million brother Muslims and Christians fled their homes in consternation.
While all these happened, First Lady Imelda Marcos (Si Maganda) and the nouveau riche (Filipino industrialist elite class) were throwing lavish parties left and right - en grande! That was their obsession but the poor man's nightmare!
Gradually, the Philippines became the Fifth World (not in your dictionary). Filipinos became victims of International Monetary Fund (IMF) onerous conditions. Marcos government went out of control. Even Uncle Sam was vomiting but the Apo was still his best puppet in Asia. Then, Pres. Malakas declared Martial Law, "By the powers vested in me by P.D 1081!" That was on September 21, 1972.
The most prominent of Makoy's rival was former Super Mayor, former Super Governor who became Super Senator - Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. When Marcos declared Martial Law, Aquino was arrested, put behind bars, was made to face fabricated accusations as if he was communist, killer, assassin, enemy of the state, godfather of rebellion, sorcerer, warlock, exterminator, lollapalooza, whatever.
He was melancholy in his prison cell. He got sick and was ordered by his doctor to undergo open-heart surgery in 1980. He was allowed to go to America for medical treatment on one condition. "Zip off your mouth!" He survived surgery. While in Boston, Massachusetts - Ninoy had great days with Tita Cory and the children.
As a man for his people, he was troubled by the news coming from his homeland - widespread poverty and extreme disorder. He decided to go back to the Philippines. He knew that jail is waiting for him...or even death! Death from firing squad or death in the hands of the assassin. All he said was - "The Filipino is worth dying for." He left Boston on Aug. 13, 1983; travelled in the person of Marcial Bonifacio (Martial Law/Fort Bonifacio); went to Taipei and met his brod-in-law, Ken Kashiwara, and some media contacts; and on Aug. 21 boarded China Airlines Flight 811 bound for Manila.
The Filipinos were excited as they filled the air with the song "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree". That was a titanic homecoming because the yellow ribbons were all over Metro Manila. Aurora Aquino, Ninoy's mother, spearheaded the well wishers. Political magi were already seeing stars of hope. They named BSA Jr. as the next president of the Republic of the Philippines. Airport welcomers were chanting "Ninoy! Ninoy! Ninoy!"
The Touch Down. 1pm; MIA. Gate 8. Aviation Security Command was waiting. Three military personnel met the senator and escorted him out of the plane passing the tunnel leading to the main terminal. They did not pass the jet way but passed the side door. A sound of the gun was heard...then a fusillade of gunfire. Ninoy was shot! Dead! The military of Marcos government claimed that Rolando Galman was the assassin but nobody believed that story. Galman could have been killed three days before Ninoy's arrival and was made to stay inside the freezer for the airport moro-moro.
Let's remember Ninoy. Let's commemorate his love for the Filipinos on Aug. 21. "The happiest people are those who love even they don't have everything they want. They make the most out of what they already have." This, I believe.