FOLLOWING the lead of President BS. Aquino, if I were to suggest to my siblings (two sisters and one brother) that we should now formally regard/classify Mother and Father and one dead brother as “ghosts.” I would probably be dismissed with imprecations. If I suggested the same to my huge family clan, and to my in-laws, I will probably be cast out as a prodigal relation.
They will surely have none of it, because within our families, we honor our dead reverently and lovingly, long after their departure from this life. The closest we come to the spectral is to think of our dead as spirits who are out there watching over us.
To look on them as ghosts is to consider them “multo” in Filipino, which is scary not comforting.
And that I presume is the same way with most Filipino families and their dear departed.
But not so, it appears, with President Aquino.
Aquino’s ghost month
While attending the commemoration of the third death anniversary of his former local government secretary Jesse Robredo, Aquino got emotional and lamented that the month of August appears to be the “ghost month” for his family, because of the many loved ones they have lost during this month through the years, viz:
The President’s father, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the Manila International Airport on Aug. 21, 1983 upon his return from self-exile in the United States
2. His mother, former President Corazon Aquino, died from colon cancer on Aug. 1, 2009.
3. Last Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, the President’s uncle, former Senator Agapito “Butz” Aquino, died from complications from dialysis and multiple organ failure.
4. His maternal grandfather, Jose Cojuangco Sr., died also on the 21st of August.
In his remarks at the Robredo commemoration, which he apparently delivered in understandable English and not his usual Filipino street-talk, Aquino cited other non-personal tragedies. He said:
“You know, the month of August brings back a lot of tragic memories to me. It was year 1971, Aug. 21 when the Plaza Miranda bombing occurred. Almost all of the leadership of the Liberal Party was gone.”
He did not mention that his father, then Senator Ninoy Aquino, a top LP stalwart, was noticeably absent from the Plaza Miranda rally. While the bombing was blamed on the Marcos government, it has since been conclusively established that the communists perpetrated the atrocity. And some Liberal leaders, like former Senator Jovito Salonga believe that Ninoy was probably complicit in the assault or was probably warned to skip the rally by his communist friends and allies.
In his speech, the President also recalled that his father Ninoy used to sing the song, “The Impossible Dream” while in detention during martial law. He told his sisters that his dad was singing it out of tune.
I think that in classifying Ninoy, Cory, Butz, etcetera as “ghosts,” the President is gravely out of tune with the rest of the nation. Even SWS and PulseAsia cannot manufacture a Filipino majority who will agree with him on this one.
The elemental Filipino family
Some years back, I wrote an essay on the Filipino family, which I entitled, “The elemental Filipino family.”
I wrote then: “From cradle to grave, the family is the Filipino’s rock of ages. In childhood and youth, it is his rock of support and security; in adulthood, it is home when he marries too early and cannot cope, an insurance for times of need; and then in old age, it is the hearth to which he returns, however far he may wander.
“The Filipino may contract other bonds in the course of his life, with the company he works for, the church he worships in, the neighborhood he lives in, even the foster nation he swears allegiance to — but the foundation of his strivings is first and foremost his family. And by family is meant the veritable tree that includes under its shade relations up to the third degree as well as in-laws. This explains why the Filipino orphan who does not know his genes is the most popular figure of pity in Filipino soap operas.
“If there is one institution that truly works in the Philippines, it is probably the Filipino family. Not even the Roman Catholic Church or the State, for all their power and influence, can rival it in claiming the loyalty and allegiance of Filipinos.”
Exorcising the ghosts of Mamasapano and Yolanda
I suspect that at the back of the president’s mind when he suggested referencing the dead as ghosts, he subconsciously wanted to be rid of being haunted by all the dead people who have died during his watch, especially these two tragic groups:
The slain 44 Special Action Forces commandos, who were massacred in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 25, 2015.
The over 6,000 dead who perished in the Yolanda/Haiyan supertyphoon on November 8, 2013.
These tragedies are as alive as the latest news.
Far from becoming ghosts, these dead continue to cry for attention, recognition, and justice. And their families continue to mourn them, and will ever venerate their memory, even after Aquino departs from office next year.
The elemental Filipino family is invincible. Some build political dynasties, and once built, they are nearly impossible to dismantle.
To those who might suggest that I write this in envy of the dynasts among us and their illustrious forebears, I will answer that I have distinguished pedigree in my family, perhaps more authentic and illlustrious than those of others (there are records to prove this).
But being simple provincial folk, my family thinks it is ignoble to exploit the dead. We just venerate their memory.