NINOY'S NEPHEW BAM AQUINOManila, August 21, 2003  (STAR) By Joanne Zapanta-Andrada - Bam Aquino is special because – whether he likes it or not! – he is a living reminder of one of the greatest heroes of our nation, Ninoy Aquino.

The fact that uncle and nephew have many similar characteristics oftentimes raises the question: "Will Bam Aquino be another Ninoy?"

As Ninoy Aquino’s 20th death anniversary approaches, Uptown/Downtown asked Bam to share his views on his uncle’s legacy, his own life and his future, and his views on nation-building.

A Special Perspective

"My uncle died when I was six. After his death, our country erupted and there was a call for his family members to come out and show that we weren’t afraid. At six, I started to speak in protest rallies and sorties all over the country. My family and I would spend our nights roaming the streets of the city or the countryside attending rallies with as small as 20 persons and as large as thousands.

"This was probably the most influential time in my life. I was exposed to things people my age never saw and probably might not ever see. In this sense, I know I am fortunate. Culminating in the 1986 Revolution, I experienced what the Filipino people can do and can be. To a certain extent, I am where I am because I am still searching and hoping for the time when our people can come together again and show the best the Filipino has to offer.

"On his 20th death anniversary, I hope people will stop and remember his sacrifice and be inspired to sacrifice for our country. Nobody has to take a bullet in the head; the sacrifice can be done in our everyday lives. In fact, Tita Cory (Aquino) will honor 20 People Power People – people and organizations who have shown what it means to continue what Tito Ninoy stood for; people doing their bit to make our country better again. The National Youth Commission has a similar program for youth organizations called TAYO or Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations. At the end of the day, I guess that’s what Tito Ninoy wanted – to share what he could to help make our country better again.

Ninoy’s Impact

Tito "People say I look like my uncle. Whether it’s the glasses, the build, or the hair, I can’t seem to get away from the comparison. On the other hand, a lot of people consider my uncle handsome, so I guess I can live with it.

"When people say that I speak like Tito Ninoy or that I remind them of him, I am humbled and flattered at the same time. Flattered because being compared to a great person can bring chills to anyone’s spine and humbled because I’m a long way off from even an iota of what Tito Ninoy has accomplished and has meant to our country. As my mother always says with a smile, "Marami ka pang bigas na kakainin!"

"The irony of being compared to my uncle is that I never really met him. My dad always reminds me of the time we visited him in Fort Bonifacio when I was three, but the actual event escapes my memory.

"Through the years I’ve read Tito Ninoy’s writings, watched his videos and read numerous novels and essays about him. Of course, my aunts and uncles always tell me stories about Tito Ninoy.

"Sifting through all those stories, anecdotes and writings, the most outstanding event in Tito Ninoy’s life for me was his transformation in jail or his re-invention as I’d like to think of it. Stripped of all the pomp and glory of the Senate, alone and barely clothed in his jail cell, he rediscovered God and himself and became the better man for it. He never lost hope in and for the Filipino and most likely, the decision to go home came directly from his strengthened spirit and his hopeful heart.

"As for me, I’m still strengthening my spirit, but my heart has always been hopeful for our country.

Doing His Part

"In 2001, I was appointed to the National Youth Commission as commissioner-at-large. The National Youth Commission is the sole youth policy-making body of the government. Think of us like a think- tank for everything concerning the youth. We help pass laws on the youth and craft youth programs for line agencies. At times during the course of the year, we also get to implement youth programs.

"Last February, I was upgraded to chairperson of the National Youth Commission. Since then, we’ve finished two programs that we intend to implement yearly – the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations Search (TAYO) and the Presidential Youth Fellowship Program (PYFP). Right now, we’re in the thick of preparing for the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Youth at the end of the month as well as a voter’s registration/education campus tour and a new and innovative drug prevention campaign. We’re also part of the Mindanao National Initiative and are currently lobbying for our version of the magna carta for students. Of course, the staple NYC programs like the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program and the Youth Entrepreneurship Program are ongoing. By the end of the year, we will launch a nationwide Youth Volunteer Program.

Also On Tv

"Around the time I was appointed to the government, friends from ABS-CBN asked me to join a youth-oriented early morning show called Breakfast. That was April 2001. The show has undergone a number of format changes and a few changes with the hosts, but I can proudly say we’re stronger than ever. In fact, we are on three platforms now – ANC, Studio 23 and The Filipino Channel.

Looking Ahead

"I plan to stay in public service as long as I can. As to running in an election, definitely not in the near future. To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought. I am very happy to be both on Breakfast and in the National Youth Commission. With regard to the NYC, there is still so much potential that needs to be realized and I still have a lot of crazy ideas that I want to implement before I leave.

"Government cannot solve our problems alone. People need to get involved to make things work and people’s involvement can and does make a difference. More of our countrymen, especially young people, should realize this. Otherwise, we will be a country of complainers and not doers.

"We have to think beyond our families and ourselves and think about our country and countrymen and where we are headed or not headed. We have a penchant for short-term, not long-term, solutions and our collective vision as a people is at times myopic.

"However, all this being said, I believe our country and our countrymen can get past any obstacle. In this sense, I guess, I am like my uncle.

"I would like to be remembered best as a good son, as a friend, as someone who never stopped believing."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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