THE late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. is a household name.
Aside from having the country’s airport named in his honor, in the P500 bill’s design, he is the man with a cheerful smile behind former President Corazon Aquino.
Above all, though, he is greatly associated with beginning the end of the 20-year Marcos regime.
It is for this reason that Aug. 21 is declared a national holiday to commemorate the 33rd year since his assassination.
While it can’t be denied that Ninoy played a significant role in the nation’s road to achieving the liberty it has now, people have mixed emotions on him as a national hero.
For Maria Estrella Brault, 75, if it weren’t for the media frenzy during those dark times, Ninoy would be no less different than the other anti-Marcos advocates.
“The people needed a champion to represent them and Ninoy was the viable nominee, with him being vocal on going against Marcos. I believe the people hopped on the craze and the thirst for liberty have blurred the point that while he was a prominent figure in the political scene, he was just a family man, sick and tired of having a dictator for a leader,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.
For a woman who’s witnessed both the Second World War and the Martial Law, Brault said the real revolutionary heroes are those who are unsung, working behind curtains, guiding the then naive Cory down the muddy tracks of the Philippine Government.
“While I do commend Ninoy’s personal efforts in putting an end to the Marcos regime, I see him only as the husband of a former president,” she said.
Singer and songwriter Jerika Tedorico, 19, shared the same sentiment, saying that Ninoy’s death is merely coincidental to the Filipino uprising following the events that led to the first EDSA (Epifanio Delo Santos Ave.) Revolution.
“It was his death that caused the revolution to be finally realized by the Filipino people. He is not a hero because a hero, for me, is someone who does good with intent to do so,” she said.
Grade four student Alexander Teves, 9, echoed the same point, saying that a hero’s legacy should be best seen among his or her descendants.
“From what I’ve read in books, he was great. But I don’t really see him as the hero he is portrayed to be because I did not feel his legacy during his son’s (former President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy”) administration. There was so much corruption and drugs,” he said.
Elementary school teacher Claire Diane Tabanas, 20, and Psychology student Joesyl Banogbanog, 18, on the other hand, consider Ninoy as a hero.
“He became a catalyst for change in the government setting. His loss unintentionally brought the Marcos regime toppling down, that’s why I see him as a hero,” Tabanas said.
“He’s a quintessential figure during the worst times of Philippine democracy. He’s rejection of the then-burgeoning Marcos dictatorship still echoes the legacy of kindling nationalism to those who threaten liberty on the oppressed,” Bangobanog said.
Former Cebu Board Member Ribomapil “Joeyboy” Holganza Jr. recalled that he was in detention then at Camp Sotero Cabahug with his father when the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was shot dead.
Joeyboy and his father, Ribomapil “Dodong” Holganza Sr. were jailed at that time for the alleged crime of rebellion against the administration of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Joeyboy and Dodong, together with Dr. Felimon Alberca and two others, were arrested at 9 a.m. on Dec. 24, 1983 while visiting a house on Lopez Jaena St., Cebu City.
Dodong Holganza was a member of then opposition party PDP-Laban, a merged group of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) of former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Laban ng Bayan (Laban) of Aquino.
PDP-Laban is now the official party of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is the chairman, and Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as party president.
“We were really excited that day as we had prior knowledge of Ninoy’s arrival. But I was shocked by the news that Ninoy was shot and killed at the airport,” Joeyboy said.
“But part of me was really scared with the thought that the real revolution was about to begin and I didn’t know how it would end for my Dad and myself,” Joeyboy added.
He said the death of Ninoy has made the Filipinos realize that freedom and human rights matter.
“You must have remembered how small were the crowds that we gathered during our rallies before Ninoy’s death and how it all changed after Aug. 21 (1983),” Holganza said.
Joeyboy said that after Ninoy’s death, there were bigger rallies in Cebu and those who wanted the return of democracy were generous to give snacks and meals to rallyists.
Aside from the Holganzas, the other opposition leaders were lawyers Marcelo Fernan and Antonio Cuenco and broadcaster Nenita Cortes-Daluz who all became members of the Batasang Pambansa in 1984.
Daluz failed to pursue her political career and went back to broadcasting. Fernan later because Supreme Court chief justice and senator, while Cuenco later became congressman and deputy House speaker.