Writing alone is hard. I often find myself losing to Microsoft Word with the cursor happily blinking away on an empty page, as if celebrating its triumph.
Writing about a legend – a hero in so many respects – is a different story altogether.
No matter how hard I rattled my mind and ticked off the keys on my ailing laptop, I still end up long-pressing the ‘backspace’ to start all over again. And then I realized, I will never be able to tell the story of such a great man. He is great enough to tell his story using the words he left for his family.
Here are excerpts from the late and great Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.’s letters for his beloved wife Cory, his daughters Ballsy and Pinky, and his only son Noynoy.
Ninoy became the great man he was because of his father, which he shared lovingly with his only son Noynoy.
“I was barely 15 years old when my father died. His death was my most traumatic experience. I loved and hero-worshipped him so much; I wanted to join him in his grave when he passed away. But as in all sorrows, eventually they are washed away by the rains of time.”
In his letter to then 13-year old Noynoy, Ninoy explained to his young son his next course of action. He chose to stand in trial without defending himself. He explained to Noynoy why he chose to do this, despite the terrible consequences of his decision. He is indeed a man of unparalleled principle.
“Some people suggested that I beg for mercy from the present powers that be. Son, this I cannot do in conscience. I would rather die on my feet with honor, than live on bended knees in shame… I have chosen to follow my conscience and accept the tyrant’s revenge… The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.”
He is also a man of great faith, often turning to prayers and God’s Words in trying times.
“The message of Jesus, as I understand it, is that we must be ready to sacrifice for our fellow men at all time, and if need be, even offer our lives for them. Unless we are willing to suffer with, and share our love with our neighbors, then we are like the grain that does not fall into the ground,” he told Pinky in his letter.
In his letter to her, he also lovingly asked for her prayers.
“…please pray for your daddy, who loves you very much and whose sufferings will be greatly eased if your will grown up into a real fine lady whom everybody will be proud of.”
Having gone through a brutal legal battle during the Martial Law, Ninoy lost all his possessions and more – something he feels deeply sorry about.
To Noynoy, he wrote: “You are my only son. You carry my name and the name of my father. I have no material wealth to leave you; I never had time to make money while I was in the hire of our people. For this I am very sorry. I had hopes of building a little nest egg for you. I bought a ranch in Masbate in the hope that after 10 or 15 years, the coconut trees I planted there would yield enough to assure you a modest but comfortable existence. Unfortunately, I had to sell all our properties as I fought battle after political battle as a beleaguered member of the opposition. And after the last battle, I had more obligations than assets.
“The only valuable asset I can bequeath to you now is the name you carry. I have tried my best during my years of public service to keep that name untarnished and respected, unmarked by sorry compromises for expediency. I now pass it on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather, passed it on to me.”
As if foreseeing his fate, Ninoy did not waste any time to leave his ladies to his only son.
“Forgive me for passing unto your young shoulders the great responsibilities for our family. I trust you will love your mother and your sisters and lavish them with the care and protection I would have given them.
“Look after your two younger sisters with understanding and affection. Viel and Krissy will need your umbrella of protection for a long time. Krissy is still very young and fate has been most unkind to both of us. Our parting came too soon. Please make up for me. Take care of her as I would have taken care of her with patience and warm affection.”
I guess Noynoy knew he had really big shoes to fill. “Son, the ball is now in your hands.”
He asked both Ballsy and Pinky to be more tolerable of each other and the rest of their siblings, to look after one another, and to respect and love their mother as he would have.
Ninoy did not come short in reminding his children of their good traits.
To Ballsy, he wrote: “I am very proud of you because you have inherited all the best traits of your mother. You are sensible, responsible, even-tempered and sincere with the least pretenses and affection which vehemently detest in a woman. I am sure like your mother, you will possess that rare brand of silent courage and that combination of fidelity and fortitude that will be the life vest of your man in the tragic moments of his life.”
“I have watched and observed you very carefully and all these years and of all my children, you are the most sensitive, the most emotional and therefore the most artistically inclined. You have a keen eye for details and you are possessed with a sharp analytical mind and intellect,” he wrote to Pinky.
Just like any father, Ninoy longed for his children to be well-educated and to do well in life. To make him and his wife, their mother, proud in every aspect of their life.
To Noynoy, he wrote, “In the coming years, I hope you will study very hard so that you will have a solid foundation on which to build your future. I may no longer be around to give you my fatherly advice. I have asked many of your uncles to help you along should the need arise, and I pray you will have the humility to drink from their fountain of experience.”
“Your success will be the most soothing balm for my tortured heart,” he wrote to Pinky.
Ballsy is Ninoy and Cory’s first child, for which Ninoy never failed to be thankful for. “You are the first fruit of our union, the first proof of our love and the first seal of our affections.”
Yet, with all his greatness on display for the public to see, he still felt inadequate as a father.
“…forgive me, my love, for not having been an ideal, good and thoughtful father to you all as I pursued public office. I had hopes and high resolve of making up, but I am afraid my destiny will not oblige,” he wrote to Ballsy.
Through his letter for Pinky, he gave these tips for his children:
- Never sell yourself short.
- Be more tolerant to your brother and sisters.
- Learn to give and take because life is a continuous compromise.
- Listen to Mommie’s advice.
- Learn not only to like but love Noy-noy.
- Love and serve them (grandparents) well!
- I wish you would finish your college education before thinking of marriage because the world is getting more and more partial to college graduates
On the eve of his fateful arrival at the manila International Airport on August 21, 1983, Ninoy wrote his last letter ever. Most fittingly, it is for the love of his life, Cory.
“All the things I want to tell you may be capsulized in one line – I love you! You’ve stood by me in my most trying moments and there were times I was very hard on you. But if anyone will ever understand me, it is you, and I know you will always find it in your heart to forgive – and unfair and ironic as it is – it is because of this thought and belief that I often took you for granted.”
For his kids, he knew he tried his best and give what he could.
“I did what I thought I could do best, which is public service, and I hope our people in time will appreciate my sacrifices. This would be my legacy to the children. I may not bequeath them material wealth but I leave them a tradition which can be priceless.”
In his last few moments, he lavished Cory with words of affirmation.
“I realize I’ve been very stingy with praise and appreciation for all your efforts – but though unsaid – you know that as far I’m concerned, you are the best. That’s why we’ve lasted this long. There will only be one thing in the world I will never accept — that you love me more than I love you –because my love for you though unarticulated will never be equaled.”
He made sure that should the time come that he would no longer be there to look after his wife, his children will do it for him.
For Ballsy, he wrote, “Love your mother, whose love for you, you will never be able to match. She is not the greatest mother in the world, she is your sincerest friend.”
“Finally, stand by your mother as she stood beside me through the buffeting winds of crisis and uncertainties, firm and resolute and uncowed. I pray to God you inherit her indomitable spirit and her rare brand of silent courage,” he told Noynoy in his letter 10 years before his last letter to Cory.
Ninoy, in his solitude at Fort Bonifacio in 1973, considered this time as a way to be one with his hapless country.
“It is a rare privilege for me to join the Motherland in the dark dungeon where she was led back by one of her own sons whom she lavished with love and glory… It takes little effort to stop a tyrant. I have no doubt in the ultimate victory of right over wrong, of good over evil, in the awakening of the Filipino.”
In his last act of unprecedented heroism, Ninoy decided to follow his conscience and defy the tyrannical rule of their time. No matter what consequence his silent defiance may bring, he chose to let the law take its course – albeit he had an inkling that revenge will be sought in his trial when he comes home. Nonetheless, his indomitable spirit and strength of character – fuelled by his love for the country that has lavished him with so much – led him back home to face his impending doom in the hands of a heartless dictator.
“Son, my decision is an act of conscience. It is an act of protest against the structures of injustice that have been imposed upon our hapless countrymen. Futile and puny as it will surely appear too many, it is last my act to defiance against tyranny and dictatorship.”
All the way ‘til the end, he believed that indeed, “the Filipino is worth dying for.”
“There is no greater nation on earth than our Motherland. No greater people than our own. Serve them with all your heart, with all your might and with all your strength.”
Photos from Atty. Lorenzo Martinez Tañada’s Facebook page / public photos. Transcriptions from NinoyAquino.50webs.com