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Where were you 37 years ago?

From the desk


According to a Pew Research Survey, 95% of Americans born in 1955 or earlier said that they recall exactly where they were or what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was killed in November 22, 1963. As one of the greatest Americans of his time, people lamented his sudden death for he was a young and vibrant politician. His family like him is filled with promise and though he came from a political family, JFK connected well to his fellow Americans. His administration was then called the “American Camelot” a reference to the place where the legendary King Arthur holds court.


August 21, 1983 is the November 22, 1963 in the Philippines – it was the day when Ninoy Aquino was killed.

Returning after three years of self-exile in the US, Ninoy holding a dubious passport by a certain “Marcial Bonifacio” went back to Manila as he saw the state of the affairs worsening and that this might be the right time to persuade President Marcos to restore democracy in the poverty stricken nation. As we all know what happened next and the three years after it, August 21, 1983 is not a date reserved only to one man, it is “our” day, the day we finally woke up. Such is the great emotion of that date that people knew exactly where they were when they heard the painful news from the Catholic Radio Station “Radyo Veritas”.


Chito Reynaldo who was then in his early thirties recalled that he just arrived from a quick lunch when he found his officemates cornering a battered radio in their office in Cubao. A native of Pasig, he was shocked and worried of what might happen next given that Ninoy Aquino was slained and though the AGRAVA Board by then has not been convened; he knew just like everybody else who the culprit was. To be worried and scared is the overall theme of the day.


As the economy collapse, people were getting uneasy on the politics of the times. The confidence of the people are dwindling while insurgence is growing in the mountains. A lot of soothsayers try to predict all the possible outcomes of Ninoy’s death as would be analysts scramble their boards to offer advice and well-researched opinions to either contain or deliberately cause panic to the emotion-filled crowds.


For a fourth year high school student, the death of Ninoy meant long kilometric lines in Quezon City.


Dory Reyes remembered accompanying her parents bearing flowers to visit a person whom they have never met or even had any profound meaning on their lives. They had no car but gracious jeepney drivers and volunteers lined up in pick-up places to bring car-less people in Santo Domingo Church and see the remains of the murdered senator.

When she saw Ninoy’s disfigured face and bloodied suit she knew right there and then that this guy fell victim to a death that is shared by countless and faceless Filipinos mostly young and vibrant who went missing but never mentioned in the news. She also realized why her mom never wanted her to study to a national university or even to a school very far from home. The body of Ninoy was never altered or embalmed, as Dona Aurora Aquino would like the people to see what “they” did to her beloved son.


The 12-hour journey of the flatbed truck-turned hearse of Ninoy was a hair-raising sight. Some 2 million people went out of their houses to be one with a widow and her fatherless children. Bearing signs of “Cory ‘di ka nag-iisa” and all sorts of encouraging messages, the Filipinos lamented a death that taught them never to be indifferent to the sufferings of others again.


One of those people was Ruth Natividad whose husband was recently released from Camp Crame. She knew the pain of being far from her husband but this is something else. This kind of pain is something which loving couples would never want to feel or experience. Death is certain to everyone; to be murdered is something else. Ruth cried with Cory but she lamented more because of the children Ninoy left behind.


Thousands of people if not millions of them got affected because of the events surrounding August 21, 1983. It was a day when we reclaimed our humanity and all its glories.


We realized the value of liberty and we learned it not because we knew politics and the intricacies of such. We learned it because we saw it unfold with our very own eyes.


Back to a Pew Research study, while memories of JFK’s assassination lingers in individuals, the number of people bearing those memories are declining. Factors like age among others are the prime reasons. 1983 is quite recent and though age may be a factor for the inevitable decline of such memory, the way we are fed by information technology and historical revisionists contribute to the murder of our history. Can you imagine a beloved relative long since gone being badmouthed by a younger set of relatives who never knew or even bothered knowing the benevolence of his death?


National memory plays a role for it guides us to a concrete direction. We are once again in a turning point where our judgements and realizations play an important role in shaping our nation. Being forgetful of who we are damages our national DNA wasting yet again the blood spilt by our martyrs. Let us not forget therefore the sins and glories of the past. They exist to teach us a lesson and remind us that the Filipino is truly worth dying for.


Where were you 37 years ago?

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