August I mark for another birth date (which I share with Chair Boy Brillantes, Magic Johnson, Fr. Zamora and Tim Tebow) and death anniversaries, Ninoy’s and Cory’s, Plaza Miranda victims, and Walking Tall Sheriff Buford).
Ninoy Aquino at 50 ? Once again in search of his place in history I wrote in Mr. & Ms. on Dec. 7, 1982. Herewith –
“I got back in the wee hours of Saturday, November 6, completing a trip to the U.S. that began last September 22 (Mr. & Ms., October 12, 1982). . . .
I met during my trip Prominent Heavies such as Ninoy Aquino,…
“I spent the first week of my six?week sojourn in San Francisco, the next in Washington, D.C. the third in New York, the fourth in Boston, the fifth in Los Angeles, and the last in San Francisco again. “[I met] Ninoy, who turned 50 last November 27.
“He was a stranger to me prior to October 13, 1982. I had not met him before that night, after checking in at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel coming off a bus trip from New York. A beautiful way to see New England in autumn with its spectacular fall foliage. I dialed his number which Ernie Maceda had given me in New York. Ninoy and I arranged to meet the following noon at the Harvard JFK School of Government, where he was to give an informal talk to the highly regarded JFK Fellows.
“At the table, I, in T?shirt and jeans, asked to sit between famous State Sen. Mark Quentin Rhoads and Feminist Guru Betty Friedan. [We may have been a baker’s dozen.] Bedan Ninoy, in coat and tie, held court on his perceptions of the Philippine and international situations. He talked of his past, present and future. He would repeatedly stress that, partly as a result of his prison experience and being strapped for cash, his public life was behind him and that he had cancelled his reservation for what was at bottom an ego trip to the presidency. He had gotten elected youngest governor and senator in our history and ? who knows? – perhaps he would have been the youngest president of the country had martial law not been inflicted by Mr. Marcos. His detractors say he would have been our first dictator.
“He said he enjoys the quiet life there. He is not sure after a trip to tropical Nicaragua that he could adjust again to our weather in the Philippines, let alone perhaps the heat Mr. Marcos would put on him, one might add. When I later told others about Ninoy’s forswearing politics they would smile a la Mona Lisa.
“Would he consider teaming up with the Marcoses? He recalled that his father had helped a lot of people in World War II and was labeled a collaborator for his pains, which he tried to live down; he passed away at 53 of a heart ailment ? was it a broken heart more like? Ninoy would rather not risk being so perceived or misunderstood.
“There was, one might suppose, providence in Ninoy’s release. Did the fickle gods intervene in 1980? However that may be, his release on deus ex machina has been at once a burden and a blessing. His monochromatic martyrized image was blurred or distorted, if not ruined altogether.
“He recalls that once in 1977, Mr. Marcos had sent for him. They met in Malacañang in the presence of Gen. Ver, Minister Enrile and Minister Tatad. Then ensued the following exchange, as I recall his narration of his own recollection of it, at least in substance, as something may have been lost in the transmission of hearsay twice removed, so to say.
“MARCOS ? You know, a thought occurred to me last night, while I was thinking of our meeting today. Suppose I let you out right now, what will you do?
“AQUINO (surprised) ? Well, I don’t know, brod, I have not given it a thought really as I have not been allowed to read or hear or watch the news all these years. Maybe what I will do is to go out to the people and ask if they are happy under your administration. If they are, then I will just keep quiet. However, if they are not, then I will probably try to lead them against your administration.
“MARCOS ? You know, in a way, I envy you.
“AQUINO ? Why, brod?
“MARCOS ?You have all the time to read the great books, the classics, the finest literature. I am still struggling for mine.
“AQUINO ? Well, my years in prison also made me realize who my very few real friends are. How about you, brod, do you know who your real friends are?”
“Ninoy had probably let loose a shaft and sensing it found the mark, twisted it. There was an uneasy shuffling in the seats by those present, he recalled.
“He was serious, he was light, he would touch on matters of state and the latest gossip on the members of the local ruling elite and would punctuate most anything with ‘Jeez’.”
Yesterday, we marked the death anniversary of one who said she prayed with all her heart, worked with all her might, and the rest she left to God. May I wade in and exercise also my braggin’ rights in the pissin’ contest on Prez Cory’s paintings? She gifted me with one and wrote at the back this grace note: “Thank you for being my spokesman, my lawyer, my [very very occasional]speech?writer, my loyal supporter and most of all for being my friend. God bless!”
MABINI colleagues – Kindly recall that in our meeting, there was a heated debate on whether I should accept that U.S. State Department’s human rights grant for 1982. Subjected to voting, only Honorary Chair Sen. Tanny and Joey Lina shared my reservations, but a definitive 13-2 vote made this Good Soldier accept. And I finally met The Man, who I could only see as San Beda’s commencement speaker in 1964 but I have a better recollection of Amalia, accompanying kin going upstage. (I was also on stage as a ’63 Bar Top Tenner).
I also met The Woman in Newton, but the Plain Housewife was only making ganchillo in the background. With Ninoy, larger than life, no room for anybody else.
But of Chino Roces’s prediction of an Aquino following Marcos, wrong sex.