Friday, 21 August 2009

'the greatest president we never had'*


It has been twenty-six years since Ninoy Aquino was shot dead. I can still remember that day—anticipation heavy in the air; Tatay listening to Radio Veritas (a Catholic station, one of the very few media establishments that dared report on the activities of opposition leaders), visibly excited. And then the reports started coming from the airport: Ninoy had been shot. People waiting at the airport were scared, worried, distraught. The world, my little ten-year-old's world where nothing went horribly wrong, where there were no monsters, completely fell apart. My father, for the first time, openly angry at the Marcoses. He was dead certain they were behind the shooting. The sorrow, oh the sorrow. I'll never forget that day. I remember crying, realising with finality that our president was a bad man. I remember looking at a copy of the Sunday Bulletin magazine, which had a lengthy feature on Manuel L Quezon (born on 19 August), muttering, Marcos is no Quezon; he doesn't love his country. And I cried for this man I had only heard of a few weeks ago, when rumours of his return from exile surfaced, and my father, joyous and hopeful, started talking about how this man was going to change our country and set things right.

And he did. Through his death, he gave his country a new life. His statement, 'The Filipino is worth dying for', woke us up, dared us to prove him right. The fear, the resignation, the apathy—they all went on that fateful Sunday in 1983, to be replaced by anger, the righteous anger of a nation that had been treated so wrongly for so long. It was that anger that toppled a dictatorship and let democracy reign again in our country. For that, we shall always be grateful.




*Words uttered by another great man who should have been president too— Jovito Salonga.

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