‘To be understood or misunderstood is not so much a struggle as it is to understand or misunderstand the longing for peace in each man’s heart.’
Thus begins the late PNoy’s college yearbook entry. Here, he emphasized the consequence of one’s emotions as opposed to one’s mere cognition. PNoy proved this over the course of his presidency. Two weeks ago, he passed away due to renal disease secondary to diabetes. He was sixty-one. After his demise, social media was full of tributes and farewells to former Pres. Aquino. He was someone who touched the souls of many, because he was an honourable man through and through. Of course, there are other world leaders and notable figures who fell asleep, but the latter’s passing struck a chord across oceans. News of his death was reported around the globe. When your time is up, people will recall the good deeds.
Case in point: there was once a wake announcing the death of a hated entity. People were surprised that there was a throng of people gathering. Unable to contain their curiosity any longer, one of the passers-by approached them.
‘I thought he was a hated man. Why is there a big turnout?’
‘Without question that guy was despicable. We just want to make sure that he’s really dead.’
PNoy was the only son of Corazon and Ninoy Aquino, Jr. and. The latter was a key figure of the opposition who became a martyr. He once proclaimed, ‘The Filipino is worth dying for.’ His image is immortalised on the 500-peso bill. The family was exiled to the US for three years during the Marcos regime. Noynoy finished his university studies prior to joining them Stateside. After People Power 1986, Cory was sworn in as President. She had previously challenged Marcos for the Presidency, which was marred by election fraud. PNoy is a fourth generation Pinoy politician. Starting 1998, Aquino served three consecutive terms as Representative of the 2nd District of Tarlac. He then won a Senate seat in 2007. Shortly after his mother’s passing in 2009, he declared his candidacy for the top post. The wave of support from the public was termed ‘Noynoy Phenomenon.’
Aquino was sworn in as the fifteenth President of the Philippines on 30 June 2010. He took residence at the Bahay Pangarap (House of Dreams), the first Filipino head of state to do so. He asserted that the Malacañang Palace was too big for him, his staff, and security aides. He engaged in talks with a key rebel group in Mindanao who sought self-determination. PNoy revamped the educational system, which has been in place for decades. He instituted the K-12 curriculum in the country, adding two years to basic education. This ensured that the Republic was more in line with the rest of the world. On the downside, this added further cost to schooling as well as the need for more teachers and classrooms. PNoy made his country better. His reforms and policies resonated well not only with the youth but likewise with older voters. He tried his best not to leave anyone behind.
He stood up to the bullies, whether they were superpowers, super-corrupt or super-potbellied. He championed the cause of Juan de la Cruz both at home and beyond. On the world stage, he did not back down from aggressors. I recall a time when, at an international convention, he even used a philosopher’s quote while fighting for our cause. Even the Chief Justice, who was alleged of being crooked, wasn’t safe. He was booted from his perch after a Senate vote. His handling of the pork barrel scam was classic PNoy. The rapacious politicians were jailed, the evildoers vanquished. He was the model Filo leader when it came to just governance.
The Filo flag bearer
Early on during Aquino’s term, the country had a diplomatic incident when a former police officer took a tourist bus hostage. PNoy cited the media for worsening the incident, as it gave the gunman ‘a bird’s-eye view of the entire situation.’ There were nine casualties, including the assailant. Nine other passengers were injured. Two days after, he declared a national day of mourning and the lowering of flags at half-mast across embassies and consulates. While he took responsibility and launched investigations into the crisis, he shunned an apology.
His handling of Typhoon Haiyan was also criticized. The government was tagged as ‘slow’ in providing aid to victims, with other Western countries doing a better job of giving support in Leyte. Now that PNoy is gone, commentators and voters alike have wondered how he would’ve handled the current COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines. They are convinced that he would’ve treated every Pinoy equally. He would’ve tackled the pandemic with a firm resolve.
Restoring our belief
PNoy was also noted for his use of the native tongue. When he addressed the public, whether in press conferences, speeches, or interviews, he never passed the chance to speak in Filipino. He did not marry and had no children; he was the country’s first bachelor president. Noynoy was the third of five children. His time in office was marked by the continued rise of our economy, thereby dubbing the nation a ‘Rising Tiger.’ The ex-President brought annual economic growth that was the highest since the seventies. Amid his term, I conversed with a family friend. She told me that ‘Things are looking up now that PNoy is President.’ More than anything, Noynoy – like his father – made us commoners believe in the power of true democracy again.