But in August 1983, I was just about to finish my university education. It was the last term of my schooling and all I had were the minor subjects which I have purposely left behind in order to focus on my major course.
That morning of the 21st, I remember being on the 3rd floor of the Benilde Building. The day before, there was talk that Ninoy Aquino was coming home to engage the Marcos regime once more. I had seen and heard Ninoy speak through smuggled video cassette tapes. I remember one particular video cassette where he spoke on a podium and spoke flawlessly, without an idiot board, on the Marcos regime, Marcos’ poor health and his conversion experience in prison. I could not help but be dazzled by his delivery and the substance of his speech. No wonder Marcos felt threatened with his return.
And so, on that fateful morning, while waiting for my next class, we heard that Ninoy’s plane has landed. And even if most of my generation never knew the pre-martial law Ninoy, most of us in La Salle were exhilarated to know that Ninoy is coming home to fight the evil empire. There was a barker who kept us all informed of the goings-on in the Manila International Airport (“MIA). Then, we heard what would become THE watershed event for the last half of 20th century Philippines.
Ninoy was shot.
The whole student population in Benilde Building just exploded. Some in anger, some in shock, some were outrage, and most of us were in disbelief. How could Marcos possibly do a brazen act in the light of day and in the presence of local and foreign media? I just could not believe that this could be happening. That day, the students did not care what the teachers were teaching, the teachers taught lackadaisically and La Salle, known for its snootiness, became politicized overnight. Superman died that day in MIA.
On that day as well, his immortal words “The Filipino is worth dying for” suddenly gained currency and relevance among disbelievers, skeptics and the apathetic middle class.
His death was not in vain. People ran out of the streets, demonstrations became widespread, criticism became more common and bolder, the opposition eventually learned to shed off its crab mentality and eventually, galvanized the populace against Marcos, culminating in the First People Power Revolution where I, along with others, contributed to the downfall of a repressive regime.
Ninoy’s 23rd death anniversary is approaching soon and we see a people similarly situated and similarly apathetic. It is this reason that GMA has brazenly murdered the democratic institutions with nary a whimper from the middle class. The latter is much divided, the opposition has no frontliner and she rules with an iron hand and runs roughshod over what is good and righteous.
On August 21, let us take stock of what transpired the day Ninoy Aquino was shot and the lessons learned from his death. Let us also compare the situation we have today, the government’s attitude of impunity, brazenness and total disregard for the rights of its people.
It is for those of us who believe that Ninoy’s death has meaning to stay the course and fight the good fight. It is for those of us who believe that the Filipino is worth dying for to continue hammering on justice and good government. We who benefited from Ninoy’s death and have tasted what true freedom is can not afford to be complacent and indifferent to the political crisis that besets this country. We cannot move on until and unless justice is served.
At the very least, we owe it to Ninoy.
At the very least, Ninoy expects it no less from us.