[PHOTO AT LEFT - Lower photo shows the passport of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. in the name of ‘Marcial Bonifacio’ in a scene from the ‘The Last Journey of Ninoy’ (top photo), a 55-minute documentary on the final days of the opposition leader. The movie will be shown to the public at Rockwell Cinema on Aug. 21. MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR) By Joanne Rae Ramirez - Faced with danger-fraught scenarios, including death, if he returned to the Philippines, Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was offered safe passage through the Philippine backdoor of Mindanao by the Sultan of Johor – but Ninoy refused.

Ninoy, according to the latest documentary on his final days, “The Final Journey of Ninoy,” said he did not want to sneak back into the country even if it meant his death. He chose to arrive in full view of the people and his captors, enplaning from Taipei at noon of Aug. 21, 1983. He was assassinated minutes after setting foot on Philippine soil.

In an interview in March, former President Corazon Aquino, who passed away 12 days before the documentary was previewed at a Makati theater said: “The last thing he (Ninoy) said was ‘But if they make a mistake and have me killed, then that is the best thing that will happen to me… I’ve always wanted to die for our country.’”

It was the last interview Corazon Aquino ever gave, in fact, it was an interview she insisted on. When the makers of the 55-minute documentary The Last Journey of Ninoy asked for details of that fateful journey, Mrs. Aquino told her daughter Ballsy Cruz, “Why don’t they just come and interview me?” She took a break from her chemotherapy sessions to narrate details about Ninoy’s final journey.

Unfortunately, the former president, who passed away on Aug. 1, did not get to see the interview or the documentary. The Last Journey of Ninoy was previewed last night at the Rockwell Cinema 4 in Makati City, and will be shown again at 7 p.m. in the same cinema on Aug. 21, the 26th anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy.

“There are only two narrators in this documentary,” says Mrs. Aquino’s nephew Rafael Lopa, executive director of the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation. “Ninoy and Cory, and sometimes, Marcos.” Lopa was referring to the sound bites from the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos taken from news footage.

In the documentary, it is revealed that Ninoy took a sidetrip to Johor, Malaysia before he enplaned for Taipei, where he was to spend the last night of his life on Aug. 20, 1983.

The Sultan of Johor, whose son Ninoy kept an eye on while the latter was studying in Harvard, is shown offering to facilitate Ninoy’s entry into the Philippine backdoor in Mindanao, even offering him travel documents. But Ninoy said he wasn’t going to sneak back into the country, he was returning to it in the sunshine, in full view of all Filipinos. Or so he hoped.

“Uncle Ninoy wanted to face his fate — whether it was imprisonment or death,” Lopa said.

Mrs. Aquino’s interview took place in March 2009, five months before she passed away, and though weakened by her chemotherapy sessions, the person you see in the documentary, written and directed by Jun Reyes, is sharp, alert and even bubbly at times. She gives names, places, dates and pinpoints even the ranks of the military officers in Ninoy’s saga.

Though parts of the documentary were taken from news archives, some parts of Ninoy’s final journey were re-enacted by his nephew Bam Aquino, son of his youngest brother Paul. Some of the thought streams were voiced over by Paul Aquino himself.

Director Jun Reyes, who took three years to finish the documentary, said: “I wanted to make a timeless film about Ninoy, a film that will make him real to audiences who have never witnessed him alive nor remember him for what he has done - hoping to inspire future generations, to spread Ninoy’s ideals and to make him known as more than just the face on our P500 bill.”

The narrative of the film is unique and compelling.

The docu-drama uses two timelines. The documentary shows archival footage. The drama part exposes the US exile to Manila arrival. Details of this last journey, unknown to many, will be revealed and re-enacted for the first time.

The film is told in two voices and from two points of view only – Ninoy’s and Cory’s. The stories of these two unique individuals - their struggles and victories, the transformation of Ninoy from a man-of-the-world to a spiritual man and Cory as a witness to all these, will be heard and seen throughout the film.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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