Tribute to Former Philippine President Noynoy Aquino

AN ENCOUNTER FOR A TRIBUTE – Written by Atty. Antonio Amora Jr. / Philippines

Farewell, my President. And thank you. Really, really thank you. Your presidency restored the faith of our people in that office, brought our economy to greater heights and put our country in lofty standing among the community of nations. It was my humble honor to serve as your campaign manager for Bohol and co-campaign manager for the Central Visayas in the 2010 elections.

Former President of the Philippines, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

I cannot forget one incident during that period. You were campaigning then in Bohol and a plane was to pick your party back to Manila. We were inside the old Tagbilaran airport. But the plane was much delayed. It was an inconvenience for the party but turned out to be a stroke of luck, at least for me. You see, you and I ended up spending almost two hours talking just by ourselves.

When we knew that the aircraft will be very late in coming I asked if you want to squeeze in a round of blitzkrieg drive-by sortie in the city or pass the time at a nearby resto within the airport. You said we’d rather stay where we were. We were sitting then at two monobloc chairs inside the CAAP fire station beside the airport waiting lounge. I sensed you had enough of the campaign heat and just wanted some breather. The nook was just perfect – shielded from curious onlookers and far from adoring supporters.

And so we talked. Not about the campaign nor about political matters. We just talked about life – yours and mine. We were happy to know of common connections. The Jesuits. Ateneo de Manila. The anti-Marcos struggles. Even music. Somehow these warmed us to each other even if we were only casual acquaintances.

I told you I grew up idolizing your dad, Sen. Ninoy. That our group of seminarians sang during a wake mass for your murdered father in your Times Street house in 1983. I saw delight in your eyes when I disclosed that during the 1986 snap elections, two young Jesuit novices asked – and were grudgingly granted – permission by their novice master to campaign openly for your mom, Cory. This, even if the Church is generally non-partisan. The two reasoned that to be neutral in those times was to favor the oppressor and his oppressive regime. The audacious two were Manoling Francisco (your cousin and now a Jesuit priest) and myself. You chuckled when I recounted how Fr. Manoling and I carried on our backs plastic sacks filled with yellow Cory t-shirts and slippers. We distributed these among Sapang Palay residents, the sacks’ own weight made insignificant by the threats of Marcos thugs in the squatter resettlement area.

Then you shared your family’s struggles when Marcos jailed your dad for seven years. How you felt duty-bound to act as the surrogate father – being the family’s only boy – especially when Ninoy was killed by the military on orders of powers-that-were in those dark days of the dictatorship. It was a heavy burden made even heavier when your mom – the reluctant candidate – was ushered in as the successor of the unlamented dictator and was tasked to clean up the big mess. Yet I sensed no vindictiveness nor rancor.

And we chatted about music, too. You told me of your jazz and easy listening collections. We talked of commonly-admired artists. When I told you of my prized iPod with around 24,000 song content from classical music to metal rock and everything in-between you were fascinated and asked if you could download some. Your presidential duties later buried that request.

As we talked the air hung heavy with the smoke of your limitless cigarettes. I did not have the guts to tell you the ‘evils’ of cigarette smoking but you seemed to read my mind. You explained that cigarettes help you think and ease your mind especially during pressure-laden situations. And you also revealed you can’t pass a day without a Coke in hand. But beyond these ‘vices’ I saw a man who simply loves his country and its people. No pretenses of a “know-it-all, do-it-all” politician. No sense of entitlement despite a lofty pedigree. No overweening political ambitions. Just pure availability and offering of oneself when the nation calls. Typically Ninoy. Markedly Cory. Indeed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I shall treasure forever those privileged hours of banter. When I encountered that day a future president – my president – clothed in simple humanity.