Thursday, August 19, 2004

Remembrance, part 1

I was driving to work today when I noticed the row of yellow flags the Manila city hall had planted on the island dividing Roxas Boulevard. The wind-whipped flags bore the face of martyred Senator Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino as part of the commemoration ceremonies this Saturday (August 21) marking his 20th death anniversary.

This also reminded me that the national government had just declared August 21 as a special national holiday in perpetua or something like that. (Now if that doesn't tell you that Ninoy is now a bonafide hero, I don't know what will.)

For those who aren't in the know, Aquino was the nemesis of dictator Ferdinand Marcos during his 20 years-rule and the one of the leaders of the political opposition at the time of Martial Law.

On August 21, 1983, upon Aquino's return from the US after a medical checkup, the senator was assassinated on the tarmac of the international airport. Marcos said the alleged gunman, Rolando Galman, was a tool of the communist rebels. However, many believe that Galman was just a scapegoat and it was the military who was behind the slaying.

Ninoy's death later became the linchpin of the uprising that culminated in the peaceful 1986 EDSA revolution that overthrew the Marcos regime.

I remember that fateful afternoon when Ninoy was killed. I was still a kid then and I remember I was playing with my toy soldiers in my room while my parents watched the senator's arrival on television.

Then the trouble began as television cameras were blocked by bystander bodies; later, gunshots and shouts of "Shoot him! Shoot him!" (Pusila! Pusila!) were heard. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thinking about all of this, it makes me wonder: what makes a hero? Is it destiny or accident? Aquino was declared a hero. But what about those others who had died during the dark days of Martial rule, like Edgar Jopson, Macliing Dulag, Fr. Rudy Romano, and the rest of the desparaceidos? Does that make them any less kind of heroes?

As for Ninoy, did he ever have an idea knowing that he would soon be turned into a national hero? Did he ever get a whiff of the fate that this country had in store for him?

Let's turn the question around: If you had to face that burden that Ninoy had-- and you knew what the costs would be-- would you take it?

Just some questions that came to mind while I was driving to work today.

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