When remembrance is an obligation

Every year, when this time comes around, there’s always a smaller number of people who would remember. The older Filipinos may forget, and the younger population may not even be aware of it. It is certainly up to us, those who remember, to do the reminding.

And so it is with this goal in mind that I write about Ninoy Aquino every year, just in time for August 21, his death anniversary. This year, we are commemorating his 37th death anniversary. While it is true that some of the details may fade with time, the message of his life and death remains valid up to this day.

Ninoy’s popularity started when he became part of an elite group of Filipino war correspondents who covered the Korean War for our local media. This opened opportunities for the young journalist to pursue a career in politics. As a politician, he opposed the dictatorship of then president Ferdinand Marcos and did what he could to help the country regain its lost democracy.

His death in 1983 inspired the Filipino people, led by his widow Cory Aquino, to join hands in a peaceful revolution. The 1986 People Power movement ended the Marcos regime and resulted in certain freedoms that the country still enjoys up to the present time.

This, in a nutshell, is the story of Ninoy. It is also the story of Cory and the EDSA Revolution. It is the story of how democracy was restored in a country that was oppressed for two long decades.

Some of the lessons that Ninoy left us with is this: In the face of sheer hardship, we must not lose hope. We must continue to fight for the good of the majority. And we must not lose courage, even if we have to stare death in the face.

When he was interviewed for Asia Society in New York City on August 4, 1980, he said: “I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy? I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.”

And he did. He died for the Filipino people in an effort to preserve the freedoms we deserve. It’s the ultimate sacrifice and the appropriate gesture, in exchange for our inheritance, is to make sure we remember the sacrifices and protect what the previous generations have valiantly fought for.

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