August 21, 2008

Where were you on 08/21/83?

IT'S hard to believe that it's been 25 years since Sen. Ninoy Aquino's death. In a way, it's like the JFK assassination in the States...everyone remembers where they were when it happened. For us Pinoys, however, since Ninoy's arrival at the NAIA was not covered by TV news organizations – given the then dispensation – most of us found out about his assassination rather belatedly.

And so, I don't remember where I was when Ninoy was shot. I don't even remember how I found out about it. Since this was in 1983, I had just started college at De La Salle, so I would assume, I was in class that day. And most probably, I only found out about the assassination when I got home.

But I must admit, Ninoy Aquino was not a big name in our household. My parents were huge supporters of the Sen. Gerry Roxas kasi, who was Ninoy's "rival" of sorts back then. So what is more vivid in my recollection is the bombing at Plaza Miranda of the Liberal Party campaign rally in 1971. I remember a flurry of activity at home and phone calls, watching TV for any word of Sen. Roxas who I am told, was my ninong at my confirmation. And my Pop heaving a sigh of relief after upon learning that "Ninong" Gerry was in the hospital but okay (I use the term "ninong" loosely because I never really got the chance to meet him), and telling us about it. I was relieved as well...though I can't explain how I could have some affection for someone I had never even met.

(Image of Ninoy Aquino from the rocketboychronicles)

Anyhoo, flash forward to 1983...although I don't remember where I was when Ninoy was shot, I remember attending forum after forum at De La Salle, watching that short video where the cameraman tries to follow the Senator as he disembarks from the plane, then someone blocking the camera, and a split second after...hearing the words "pusila, pusila" (shoot! shoot!), and then shots ringing out. The next footage showed Ninoy Aquino dead on the tarmac and soldiers trying to pick up his body.

That video footage – akin to the Zapruder 8-mm film during JFK's assassination – was to be replayed again and again in schools everywhere, and in homes, and was very elemental in galvanizing an entire nation to protest against the Marcoses, and eventually throw them out of power.

Ninoy's death meant a lot for us Filipinos, yes even to me who had only scant knowledge about him prior to Aug. 21, 1983. It helped open my eyes to the realities in our country, and see the dark side of the Marcoses (even though truth to tell, my childhood was pretty much safe under's FM's regime, and there was no queing for rice, unlike today).

Has anything changed really from Marcoses time to today? The same corrupt infrastructures are still in place, the same faces are still around, a number of them possibly responsible for Ninoy's death and the countless of others who tried to warn us about the atrocities committed under the strongman's regime. The same mistakes are made, the same misdirected government policies implemented, all in the glorious name of the people. 25 years after, Filipinos are poorer, less educated, and are hocking all their possessions just to get a chance to leave the Philippines and work abroad.

Perhaps it's just as well that thanks to the presidentita and her holiday economics, Aug. 21, is just an ordinary day like any.

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