‘Be and be better’
Thirty four years ago today, excitement filled the air. Some people, including those who dreaded his return, knew he was coming. After all, he, Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was the most popular opposition figure and the public enemy number one of the dictator of 14 years, then president Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The courageous Ninoy was returning and ready again to face jail time – that was foremost in our innocent minds.
Together with fellow political prisoners, he languished in Fort Bonifacio for seven months and seven years including a solitary confinement in Laur, with another hero, Senator Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno. He suffered a heart attack and permitted to go to the United States for medical treatment. After a self-imposed exile in the US for three years, and missing his beloved homeland, he decided to return.
He knew the possibility of being killed, saying “If it’s my fate to die by an assassin’s bullet, so be it…” and immortalized the words, “the Filipino is worth dying for.”
“On the plane, he is joined by several journalists whom he told to ‘be ready with your camera because this action can become very fast… in a matter of 3 or 4 minutes, it could be all over… and I may not be able to talk to you again after this…’” (prophetic words indeed)
As he prepared to set foot again in his motherland, he made a final statement: “I have returned to join the ranks of those struggling to restore our rights and freedom through non-violence. I seek no confrontation.” (http://www.ninoyaquino.ph/the-horrendous-homecoming.html)
Ninoy’s lonely figure in white slumped in the tarmac on August 21, 1983 will forever be etched in our consciousness. It was a day of darkness. Yet, his death and ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country marked the dawn of a new era of tremendous upsurge of the collective will of Filipinos to regain their lost freedom and end the dictatorship.
And, we proudly did.
In February, 1986, Philippines won the admiration of the world by staging the world’s first bloodless revolution. The Marcoses fled in the darkness of the night and Ninoy’s widow, Corazon Aquino, was sworn into office as the president of the Philippines.
As part of her commitment to restore democracy and set the foundation for strong institutions to emerge from the ashes of the martial law years, one of the greatest legacies that she left us was the pro-people, pro-participation and pro-environment 1987 Constitution. Our fundamental law of the land became our strong anchor for human rights to be respected by duty-bearers, our public officers.
For the first time, the right to a healthful and balanced ecology was specifically enshrined, a right which the Oposa ruling declared as concerning “nothing less than self-preservation and self-perpetuation.” The right to life is paramount.
By strange twists of events, the said right to life and the freedom that we fought so hard to be restored in our country, are now under severe threats.
This is a nightmare of a reality staring at us in the face. What are we doing about it?
What are our state institutions doing about the killings? Is it not that under our Preamble, “Government shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity, the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”
The slaughter of our fellow Filipinos, condemned because they are allegedly drug addicts, without the benefit of due process of law and presumption of innocence, are affronts to human dignity and our institutions and the people behind them.
The painful death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos in the hands of policemen in civilian clothes and so many others in this merciless drug wars should stop. Tama na, sobra na.
A just and humane society, is it not what we all desire for our people?
In this darkest of time, I am sharing Maya Angelou’s lovely poem, When Great Trees Fall. This is for everyone who lost their loved ones, but gives hope and, from the pains and realizations, new meaning and purpose – “Be and be better”.
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us.
Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away.
We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves. And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”
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