Saturday, October 23, 2010

History Snippet

The other day I was chatting with a US reader who is a few decades younger than me, and I mentioned something about “Ninoy Aquino, a national hero of the Philippines.
“Oh, you mean that boxer guy?” was the response.
That would be seven-division world champion boxer MANNY PACQUIAO. So, no, not exactly.Manny is a famous sports figure and is known as the boxing pride of the Philippines, but he's not quite of Nelson Mandela proportions.

“Wonderkid” was the moniker that Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. acquired as a Provincial Governor at the age of 29 (while at the same time becoming Secretary General of his party). He’d already been elected as a Municipal Mayor at 22 (a municipality is comparable to a County). A brilliant, gifted politician and charismatic speaker, he went on to become the nation’s youngest ever Senator at 34, in 1967.

Ninoy Aquino on the Stump
Descended from a line of leaders dedicated to Philippine independence, “Ninoy” Aquino fought an unending battle for political reform in the name of the country and people he so fiercely loved…. Aquino maintained that non-violent protest was crucial to sustaining a legitimate democratic movement. His legacy is the “indomitable spirit” and the enduring belief that our “readiness to suffer will light the torch of freedom which can never be put out.”

Marcos at the Height of His Self-Aggrandizing

Ninoy’s senate career began during Ferdinand Marcos’ first term as President, and the two men were pitted against each other from the start. Aquino bedeviled the Marcos regime at every turn with his rapier-like tongue. Marcos declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus in 1971 in his quest to secure leadership for himself; thousands of citizens were rounded up as was Aquino. Ninoy was falsely charged with murder, illegal possession of firearms and sedition and held for 7 years and 7 months. As a private citizen, Aquino protested (even by a 40 day hunger strike) being under trial by a Marcos-appointed military tribunal but was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to death by firing squad. In 1980 he suffered 2 heart attacks from a blocked artery, but refused treatment by Philippine doctors for fear of Marcos’ duplicity and controls, preferring to stay in his cell and face death there. The wife of Ferdinand, Imelda, made an unannounced visit to Ninoy’s room with an offer to be flown to the US for medical attention, which he accepted. Thus began a 3 year exile in the US during which he accepted a Fellowship at Harvard. Eventually, his desire to serve his people led him to return to his homeland, no matter what the personal outcome. When he alighted from his plane in Manila in 1983, he took no more than 10 steps on the tarmac before he was shot dead.
Aquino's wife, Corazon, also became a worthy national heroine. Cory has been called everything from “Woman of the Year” (Time Magazine, 1968) to one of the 20 Most Influential Asians of the 20th century (Time Magazine, 1999), The People’s Queen and the Saint of Democracy in the Philippines. When her husband Ninoy was assassinated, she had previously always been a self-proclaimed "plain housewife" and mother, quietly in the background, acquiring no political experience. After his death, the 50 year-old widow was swept up by circumstances, becoming the reluctant leader of the opposition against the now 20 year-long authoritarian rule of the Marcos regime. In the face of escalating public discontent and under pressure from foreign allies (including the US which had previously supported him), Marcos called a snap presidential election for 1986 to try and legitimize his position. The opposition united behind Corazon and she right away proved to be a skilled campaigner and inspiring orator.
The Marcos-controlled Philippine Parliament (a Marcos invention) claimed that he won this election, but Cory's supporters staged massive protests and Marcos was forced to flee the country, accepting asylum in Hawaii.  

Benigno “Noynoy”Aquino III, the 3rd of Ninoy and Cory Aquino's 5 children, was elected this year as the 15th President of the Philippines. It’s been said that his previous stints as Congressman and Senator for nearly 12 years were for the most part un-remarkable. He’s rather soft-spoken, a bachelor and non-drinker. Not your typical national hero profile. He won election because of widespread deep dissatisfaction over his predecessor and Philippine economics in general, but mostly because his mother, Corazon, passed away late last year and brought back again the country’s sentiments toward the Aquino legacy. 

Kris Aquino, born 1971 and the youngest Aquino child, seems like she’s in 1/3 of all television commercials, 1/3 of all Philippines-based TV shows (talk shows like Elen Degeneres’, game shows as in Wheel of Fortune, Deal or No Deal and a couple of entertainment news shows) plus she has over 20 film roles to her name as well as numerous awards. She’s very popular, outspoken and has always been a lightening-rod personality. She obviously was also inspired to achieve popularity, but as of yet not in the same vein of public service as her parents.

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