Opinion: ‘The Filipino Is Worth Dying For’ - Ninoy Aquino
Our column today diverts again following last week’s remembrance of the late Bishop Antono Y. Fortich whose life and works contributed much to the welfareand history of Negros Occidental and the Philippines. Today, we remember again another outstanding Filipino whose life and works have greatly influenced Philippine politics and history. We are referring of course to the late Ninoy Aquino who, on that fateful afternoon of August 21, 1983 was treacherously assassinated at the Manila International Airport tarmac as he was being escorted by Metrocom soldiers down the China Airlines plane. One of the most memorable of Ninoy Aquino’s last statements as he prepared to come home from the USA to the Philippines is our column title "The Filipino is worth dying for."
What factors or events led to Ninoy’s historic martyrdom? Our column is too short to allow a longer narration but a capsule view will suffice here. Ninoy was, of course, one of the most promising Filipino politicians of this generation. Born to a landed family in Tarlac, he became one of the youngest Mayors in the country and had a brief stint as journalist who interviewed the Hukbalahap chief Luis Taruc. Rising to the halls of the Philippine Senate, he distinguished himself with his eloquence and notable legislative activities. He became one of the stalwarts of the Liberal Party together with Jovito Salonga, Lorenzo Tañada and other notable political leaders. When Martial Law brought down the dark nights of Philippine politics, he and other opposition leaders were among the first to be arrested and detained. Ninoy Aquino himself spent nearly 10 years in detention, and in the miserable conditions of practically solitary confinement which could not however break him down as apparently planned by his captors. Offered to go on exile to the US, he willingly agreed and spent three of his most memorable years with family and friends and schooling as well in Boston USA. As he indicated later, he had experienced a spiritual conversion during his imprisonment. One of his remarkable statements was his recall of the inspiring words of the historic Jesuits, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, to develop the courage to confront his years of imprisonment with an indomitable spirit of struggle and which eventually led to his decision to go home to the Philippines with the now immortal statement "The Filipino is worth dying for." With his triumphant martyrdom on August 21, 1983 Ninoy Aquino passed on the torch of freedom to the Filipino people. Lest we forget, providentially and historically an essential part of his legacy was his beloved widow, Cory, who herself eventually brought down the dictatorship with the historic support of the Filipino people power. And of course, we have today their only son, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who is carrying on the historic struggle for a better life for the Filipino people. As history has taught, the struggle must be sustained to substantially address deeply-rooted poverty and corruption, with people powered governance.
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