Philippine democracy martyr Ninoy Aquino remembered on national holiday

Philippine democracy Ninoy Aquino
Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. criticized martial law rule and was jailed for nearly 8 years. Photo from Official Gazette

The world remembers Philippine democracy martyr Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. as the country marks a national holiday today to celebrate the life of the fallen hero.

The vocal critic of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law was jailed for nearly 8 years, went on self-exile overseas for 3 years, and was assassinated upon his return 39 years ago on August 21, 1983.

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Back then, the world witnessed the former Senator gunned down at the Manila International Airport tarmac as he got off the airplane on his return to the Philippines from exile in the United States.

The shocking incident triggered and eventually galvanized the Filipino nation three years later in 1986 to stand together in the People Power Revolution that ousted the dictatorial government through non-violent means – a historical moment that drew world attention and praise for the Filipinos’ legacy in the exercise of democratic power.

Ninoy Aquino’s sacrifice was honored by the renaming of the airport where he died, and the day of his death was celebrated as Ninoy Aquino Day by mandate of Republic Act No. 2956 in 2004.

Eighteen years after the commemoration of Ninoy Aquino’s death anniversary and martyrdom was made an official non-working holiday, the celebration of his life is marked by activities led by private groups instead of the usual government-led events, in the face of a new national leadership led by the son of the dictator.

The Ninoy & Cory Aquino Foundation (NCAF) waived entrance fees at the Aquino Center and Museum in Tarlac, live-streamed a Holy Mass presided by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Dagupan and offered the free viewing of the multi-awarded documentary, “The Last Journey of Ninoy” on the NCAF Official YouTube account.

“Today, we honor the memory, courage and indomitable spirit of Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr., and the millions of beating hearts that stood with his – when his life was offered in the name of freedom 39 years ago.
His faith made him a hero, and his faith in us made heroes of us all,” NCAF posted on its social media.

“Hindi ka nag-iisa, Ninoy!” added the foundation social media, recalling the catchphrase that rang loud and fierce four decades ago along with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon”, a hopeful welcome-home song that later inspired the theme color of the political opposition campaign to challenge Marcos and elect Aquino’s widow, Cory, in 1986.

At the Bantayog ng mga Bayani memorial park in Quezon City, people gathered together to honor Ninoy Aquino along with other martyrs and heroes of Martial Law through history presentations in videos, speeches, and musical performances.

On social media, where historical distortion efforts downplay the abuses of the martial law years, individuals, school organizations, and private businesses posted reminders of Ninoy Aquino Day and why the fallen hero deserves to be remembered.

Filipino artist Audie Gemora tweeted a photo of the funeral march of Ninoy Aquino where a million people lined up in the streets to pay homage to the fallen hero.

UP Oikos of the state university posted key points of Ninoy Aquino’s fight against the dictatorship.

Filipino international brand Potato Corner recalls Ninoy Aquino’s declaration of “The Filipinos are worth dying for” which became a battle cry for freedom fighters.

Ahead of August 21, America’s TIME magazine published a feature whose title sums up why the world is looking at the Philippines right now.

“On Sunday, the Philippines Celebrates the Life of a Democratic Hero. That Could Be Awkward for Its New President” went the title of the TIME article.

TIME writer Chad de Guzman summed up the Philippine situation in 1983:

“Filipinos were already tired of the two-decade Marcos dictatorship, with its rights violations, martial law, rampant corruption, and tanking economy. But Aquino’s assassination, in broad daylight, was the last straw,” de Guzman writes.

The TIME feature also notes how the son and namesake of the dictator “praises his father publicly and refuses to discuss the many unresolved issues from the era of martial law. He has also demanded that history textbooks be revised to tone down mention of his family’s unexplained wealth—even though several court rulings affirmed that some of the Marcos millions are ill-gotten.

“His decision to observe or ignore the upcoming Ninoy Aquino Day—one of several ‘hallmarks of the revolution’—will signal the extent of his appetite for further historical revisionism,” de Guzman writes in the article about the Philippines published on August 19.

READ MORE. Here is the Scholarum Award-winning feature on Martial Law heroes of peace Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, Lorenzo “Ka Tanny” Tañada, and Bishop Felix Paz Perez.

WATCH “The Last Journey of Ninoy” and SHARE this article to help the Filipino nation remember Ninoy Aquino and the Philippine situation under martial law.

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Angie is a self-confessed reformed news critic who vows she has finally found infinite value in delivering the good news. She teaches students of all ages how to make the important interesting for audiences across media platforms.