By Deedee M. Siytangco
Its easy to become soft in America. Who does not want to enjoy the freedom? But as long as the Filipino people are suffering, I think it would be more meaningful if we can go back there and share that suffering. —Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
The charismatic opposition leader who had been jailed for seven-and-a-half years did come back. He could have remained in sweet exile in the US, but his sense of patriotism to try to do something for his beloved countrymen made him come back. He wanted try to talk sense to the dictator, his fraternity brother in the Palace.
His decision to return was against the well-meaning advice of supporters and his family. His assassination by his military escorts sent to “secure” him, in front of the international media group which accompanied him, lit the spark that became the bloodless People Power Revolution three years later. His funeral, attended by more than a million people, was a big blow to President Marcos.
Last Tuesday there was a 35th year memorial mass for Ninoy at the gravesite he shares with the woman who stood behind him and supported him while he fought for democracy and freedom. In the afternoon, Tindig Pilipinas organized another mass at the historic Sto. Domingo Church and it was full of yellow-clad supporters and friends of Ninoy. Portions of EDSA was again festooned with yellow ribbons!
His only son, the former President, reminded supporters that “if we are to follow the footsteps of those who came ahead of us, we should do our part, no matter how small we think it is. Let us keep in mind,” he continued, “that it is not up to Pedro or Juan or whoever, to save us. Let us keep in mind that we are the ones responsible for our future.”
And yes, he will campaign for the opposition candidates next year!
Now, how do Ninoy’s two eldest children, Ballsy Cruz and former President Benigno S. Aquino III, remember their mother, the Icon of Democracy, Corazon C. Aquino?
“I still miss mom, very much! And when I do, I talk with my siblings and that makes me feel better,” her only son mused.
Cory succumbed to color cancer and its complications and was memorialized with a funeral procession that lasted several hours because of the million or so mourners who lined the streets from San Juan to Sucat in Parañaque.
Ballsy, the “ate” of the family, continued her recollections of her mom, “These days I am reminded of something she would repeat: Work with all your might. Pray with all your heart. And the rest you leave to God.”
“Ate” to her siblings, she remembers fondly that “when [Cory] was alive and there would be a problem and things seemed to be going from bad to worse, she turned to prayer and then she would be very calm and at peace. And that was contagious. Seeing her not worrying erased the fear in me.”
Ballsy remembers being such a worrier before. Then her mother told her “to stop worrying about things I couldn’t control and just surrender the problem to our Lord and believe that He would take care of it. I used to tell her how much it was easier said than done but now I just want to say how true!”
We asked her only son, “kuya” to his sisters, Noynoy to friends, and Sir Noy, what he remembers most of his mother. She, unfortunately did not live to see him as President. His memories can be summed up in the introspective recollections he gave us.
“If there was one word that comes to mind for my mother, it would be ‘love.’ I say this of a woman who was a dedicated housewife and a caring mother to our family and to so many.”
True, I count myself and my family, my husband Sonny and my children, as among those she touched with her kindness—and yes, love. She was my Lady Boss, but she became my life mentor and eventually a beloved friend.
“During the Martial Law years, when my father was taken away from our family, she obviously had to perform the roles of ‘father’ and ‘mother’ to all of us, while being a supportive wife to her incarcerated husband. Rather early on, I decided that my problems were trivial and inconsequential, compared to what my parents were bearing, and therefore I decided to keep them to myself,” the former President revealed. “That has the danger of isolating one’s self from others. In the few times I did approach her with my personal concerns, I did not sense any distance, so much so that it were as if we had been in constant dialogue throughout the years. That constancy was indeed a blessing.”
When urged by the then opposition and by Jaime Cardinal Sin to be their presidential candidate against the dictator Marcos, she turned to prayer and her children for strength.
Much as her decision to accept the challenge to be the most credible opponent to Marcos shook her children, they all rallied around her and supported her in every way.
Noy remembers with awe. “When she took on the challenge of leading the opposition against the Marcos regime, she was not one who claimed abilities, nor training that she did not possess. But her love and faith in God and our people gave her the strength to lead the toppling of a dictatorship. All of us know how deep her faith was.Throughout her life, she really demonstrated the belief that though man is limited, God is not, and God will provide that which we could not.”
Cory was the pillar of strength to her family. It also fell on Noynoy’s young shoulders to be “father” to his sisters Ballsy, Pinky, Viel, and Kris. When she campaigned and won as President, her eldest son had another load, that of her security. Even if she had the private security group provided by her clan during the presidential campaign and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during her presidency, her only son still took an active hand in protecting her. He learned to shoot and was close to the men and women comprising Cory’s PSG.
I remember during her official trips to the provinces, he would sometimes go but not with the presidential chopper or plane, but with the security troops. He would also not be on stage with his mom but behind the platform monitoring movements. Later on, he may have not been the perfect President but he was always focused on his work and responsibilities, informed, honest, and incorruptible—like his mom.
Allow me to brag as a “lola” about my first grandson, Ramon Julian Siytangco IV who will be turning 17 this Dec. 11. Monchu, as we call him in family circles, or Ramon to his classmates, gave a very good showing at the recently-concluded Special Olympics Canadian National Games in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
According to his very proud daddy, my eldest son Junie and equally proud mother, Coralyn, he brought home four medals for the Team British Columbia in swimming. A gold for 25-meter backstroke, a silver for 100-meter freestyle, and a bronze each for 25-meter breaststroke and 50-meter backstroke. He made the regional team in 2016 and represented the Vancouver chapter and qualified for Team BC when he brought back multiple medals in the Provincial Games held in Kamloops, BC the following year.
Now he is waiting for an invitation to represent Team Canada for the World Games to be held in Abu Dhabi on March next year. He trains with the Vancouver Pacific Swim Club as well as the Special Olympics chapter of Vancouver. His younger brother Miggy is very happy about his “kuya” Monchu’s achievements too!