HEART TO HEART: REP. BENIGNO "NOYNOY" AQUINO III
MANILA, August 21, 2003 (STAR) By Ann Montemar-Oriondo - " I AM HERE TO CONTINUE MY DAD'S WORK"
As the nation commemorates the 20th death anniversary of national hero Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. this Aug. 21, one person will have more vivid and more personal memories of the man – Ninoy’s namesake and only son, Tarlac Rep. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Here, in warm anecdotes, Noynoy shares with Allure readers the more personal side of Ninoy Aquino the father and how his example molded his son and inspires and guides him to this day.
Noynoy also opens up his heart about his much-speculated-on love life, and what he really hopes for his sister Kris Aquino.
The Father He Knew
"I got my sense of humor from Dad. Once he went to Hong Kong and asked me what I wanted for pasalubong. I said, ‘Daddy, matchbox!’ When he came back he handed me posporos! ‘Di ba yan ang binilin mo?’ he said. I complained to Ballsy that daddy gave me posporos. The next day, he gave me a whole case with individual compartments for matchboxes – there were about 30 or 36 of them!
"We were spared the rod rather quickly. I was in my pre-teens when I was already reasoned out to. Dad was knowledgeable in everything and anything, a disciplinarian who reasoned out before we were at the right age na dapat i-reason out.
"Was he an affectionate dad? Yes, especially when we were kids. Ang sa kanya, cariño brutal. He liked hearing this (makes sounds by snapping the joints of his knuckles). Type na type niya yung gagawin ko yon.
"He also liked being scratched. Me and my eldest sister, nangawit na kami (scratching him)! Kumuha kami ng tig-isang comb for scratching. Pulang pula yung likod niya!
"Masyado siyang family-oriented. We had just fallen asleep when he’d come home with siopao and siomai. ‘Kakain muna tayo,’ he’d say.
"We all went to Mass together. Kung hindi ka pa ready, (he’d say) ‘Let’s go, magbibihis ka sa kotse! At pag balik niya, pasisimbahin ka muna. (laughs)
"Dad’s dilemma before was he was sobrang generous, at the same time sobrang conscious mag-spoil. My mom was stricter day to day, pero feeling ko talaga, Dad was stricter. Ang Mom pag nagalit, more mapapahiya ka, rather than masakit. Ang tatay ko yata lalakdawan muna yung nasaktan ka.
"If there’s one word to describe Dad it would be ‘simplicity.’ When he dressed up he was not the most bongga but he was not naman madungis. He was presentable but malayo sa ostentatious. Parang there were not too many things in his life that he had to have.
"One time, kwento sa Tarlac, somebody said, ‘Ganda ng relo!’ Binigay niya ang relo! Na- appreciate ang camera niya, binigay niya! One time nga, pati yung aso ko binigay sa mga pinsan ko! (laughs) None of those people ever asked for those items. They only admired them.
"One time I asked my dad, ‘May I watch a movie?’ He asked me if I had money. For whatever the reason, he would have no cash in his wallet all the time. Parating checkbook ang dala. If I’m not mistaken, he had P20 in his wallet. That was his only bill. ‘O eto ang pang-sine nyo,’ (he said). Parang binigay niya lahat-lahat – that was the extent of his generosity.
His Darkest Hours
"No, it never crossed my mind that Dad would die when he left. I knew going back would be risky, not in the sense of a physical danger but one of the scenarios we were thinking of was that President Ferdinand Marcos would invite him to Malacañang, show him being toasted (on TV) with no audio or anything to destroy his credibility with the opposition and then immediately bring him back to Fort Bonifacio and make him a non-entity
"Our house in Boston had a TV room. That was where I was listening to CNN. I was watching because I wanted to hear word about my dad. They didn’t have a photo of my dad, they didn’t have anything. They even mispronounced his name. When the newscaster mentioned that there were shots heard, that Dad was lying in a pool of blood, it was a shock. What brought me out of it was when the phone rang. I was alone but my mother and my sisters were in my mother’s bedroom praying the rosary.
"There was an absence of feeling. I was hoping that the shots were sound effects or that there was a mistake in the first report, errors in eyewitness accounts and all of that.
"I didn’t have any premonition before he left that Dad was going to die. Although later on when he was in Taiwan, he received a call and after receiving that call, talagang bumagsak yung mukha niya. I think a member of the military – it’s not really clear who – was tipped off that there was a plan the following day. Sen. Ernie Maceda at one point told Dad, ‘May masamang balak.’
"When I saw Dad’s body sobra ang galit ko. The bruises were really... the scabs... He was literally dropped on the tarmac.
"When we returned to the Philippines someone who I assumed was in the military met us and said, ‘Tulungan namin kayo’ and I said, ‘Hindi namin kailangan ang tulong mo!’ He was insisting and I really had an awful temptation to slam my case into his face. The way I felt was, ‘Ang tatay ko ang ganda-ganda ng balak para sa ating lahat, ginawa ninyong baboy.’
"My mom cried upon seeing my dad’s body. After the body was released to us, my Lola Aurora Aquino said that the Filipino people should see exactly what was done to him (so Dad’s clothes were not changed). My dad’s cardiologist was with us in the flight. As a doctor, he started conducting in effect, an autopsy. He was looking at Dad’s cranial area then he broke down in tears. Everytime he cried, I wanted to cry.
"For me at that point, parang wala nang chance for attaining Dad’s dreams. Parang nagwala na lahat itong mga kalaban.
From Darkness Comes The Light
"When people flocked to our house in Times St., Quezon City, that gave me the first impression that perhaps the dream wasn’t dead, that something good would happen.
"People from all walks of life came to sympathize even in ungodly hours.
"During the funeral, I was on the funeral truck at ang sakit ng katawan namin doon dahil may tradisyon ang mga Pilipino na nagbabato ng coins. Imagine, yung 10- or 12-wheeler truck, napuno ng coins, siguro mga two or three inches thick!
"Seeing the mass of humanity, from the point na wala na, sayang ang tatay ko, wala nang mangyayari – parang, totoo yata! Dad had quoted the Bible which said that if it is not the right time, a thousand prophets won’t make a difference. But if it is the right time, not a single prophet is needed.
"It was a learning experience for everybody involved. Plus yung maturation nung non-violent movement.
"How did it personally change me? Para sa akin hindi importante ang mabuhay kung hindi matapos yung hinahabol ng tatay ko. I had to do whatever I could to ensure that it gets to the point that the pain of having lost my dad and countless others along the way has some meaning.
Carrying On... And Being His Own Man
"I think I have a little gift for communication. After Dad’s death, pag may speech or rallies sa mga tagilid na lugar like La Union, Ilocos Sur, Antique, Marawi, sa akin yon.
"I don’t go for the high-falutin ‘I will solve the economic problems of the country’ and all of that. No. Sa akin lang, simpleng, simple. My mom and so many others struggled for democracy. Basically democracy is an opportunity for us to get to where we want.
"People who were with my dad, especially in our part of the country, would say, ‘Ah malayo ka sa tatay mo,’ or ‘Ay di mo mapapantayan.’ Ang tawag sa kanya si Superboy. Sa akin, okay lang, tatawanan ko na lang.
"Hindi ako nakikipaglaban sa kanya. Pero puwede nating pagtulungan at tapusin ang ipinaglaban niya. I am not out to compete either with my mom or my dad, but basically I am here to finish their work. Kasi there will always be that tendency to experiment either by backsliding or going back to a rightist government or a leftist government. Di ba parang we’re centrist; we agree that this is the best possible form of government and all we need to do is fine-tune it and make it really work.
Matters Of The Heart
"Did I ever ask Dad about girls and sex? No, he was the one who asked me! (laughs).
"Yes, even when Dad was incarcerated I did have girlfriends. The first was when I was 18. I took our separation hard. I would fall asleep in the middle of my thoughts and I couldn’t laugh.
"I also had a girlfriend while we were in Boston. I’ve had other girlfriends but sometimes I think that maybe singlehood might be part of my fate. I learned in a Philosophy class that if something unexpected happens, maybe it’s pointing you to other paths.
"Having the Aquino name (somehow leads to) a transition phase – a lot of my ex-girlfriends start off aloof before we become super close.
"I’m single now. Pagod na ang puso ko! (laughs)
"I was in a car with a nephew who’s in high school and he asked me, ‘Mauuna pa ba akong ikakasal sa ’yo?’ And my reaction was ‘Ibaba sa kotse! (laughs)
"Sometimes I wonder (when I break up with someone) if it would have been better not to have said ‘hello’ and spared each other the pain.
"How romantic can I get? If I don’t pass the test na hindi ako plastic, ’di ko ginagawa (romantic gestures). So sometimes she (a girlfriend) might say, ‘Ang tagal naman bago dumating (romantic gestures).’ Ayoko yung nagpapaandar ng kapwa ko, yung mina-manipulate. (Maybe that’s why) I don’t think any of my ex-girlfriends have any ill will towards me.
"As far as my love life goes, Mom is the quiet one; she does not comment unless asked.
A Brother Forever
"What do I wish for Kris?
"Let me put it this way. When I was 13, my dad was a month or a month and a half incommunicado. He wrote an article that got published in Thailand or Singapore. Marcos was mad because it was critical of Martial Law so he sent Dad to Fort Magsaysay. We were allowed to visit him and we weren’t even told where he was.
"My image of Dad before this was that of Santa Claus. But when I saw him he had to hold on to his pants – he was that thin. He was in tears. It was the first time I ever saw him disheveled. They had taken away his wedding ring and his eyeglasses. The moment his glasses were removed, he got headaches. The place he was in was so hot; at 7:30 or 8 at night, it was so hot already. ‘Noy, pasensiya ka na, bata ka pa,’ he told me. ‘This might be the last time we might see each other. Bahala ka na sa nanay mo at mga kapatid mo.’
"Kris was only two years old; she wasn’t conscious (of what was happening then). Kris hugged mom and put her head on mom’s shoulder.
"From that day on I’ve always kept in mind what Dad told me.
"Kris knows what I want for her. The only thing I want is for her to be happy.
The Challenge For Filipinos
"Be wary of people who try to influence you, who complain and complain but do not have the solution.
"Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you are doing. At the end of the day, ask yourself, ‘Nagawa ko ba lahat ng kaya ko? Did I leave the world better than I found it?
"This is a good system. We have good people. We just have to make things work."
(E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org )
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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