August 21, 2008. Some of my brods and I went to Tarlac City in Tarlac to join the provincial government’s commemoration ceremony of Ninoy Aquino’s 25th death anniversary. We left UP pretty early and arrived at the province around nine in the morning. Before proceeding to the provincial capitol, we also passed by the municipal hall in Concepcion, Aquino’s hometown, and where he was once Mayor.
At around ten, we arrived at Tarlac City to meet the governor, Victor Yap, who is another brod. The commemoration ceremony was held and I was even asked to give a spontaneous speech in front of all the elected provincial officials and employees.
We went back to UP a little past lunch time. That night, we held a memorial at the theater of College of Law, also in honor of Ninoy Aquino.
Invoking what Conrado de Quiros apparently wrote, a friend of mine, Anton wrote that it is an act of betrayal to remember only Ninoy Aquino as one of a handful of heroes of Martial Law. Indeed, it is. History as we know it may be tilted in favor of some, so many Filipinos like me may not truly know the unblemished truth. But for me, sans his death, Ninoy Aquino may not have been an extraordinary statesman. He was a traditional politician, apparently, in more ways than one. Some may say that his heroism may not really come from his own actions. His death is, obviously, not something he did. But I say the act of returning to the Philippines amidst a real threat of danger and assassination is heroic. He gallantly spoke against the dictatorship, but so did thousands of others, some more than him. But nevertheless his assassination set him apart from the rest of those who went against the dictator. And as many literature say, it was part of what ignited the “peaceful revolution” that toppled the Marcos regime in 1986. His assassination punctuated and sealed his fate as a national hero.
In the same breath, let us also always remember the thousands of political prisoners, and martyrs of the Martial Law regime, most of whom may not have had the same privilege of having the commemoration to the extent this country gives the late Senator but are no less heroic, including two Upsilonians, Melito Glor and Merardo Arce, from whose names the Southern Tagalog and the Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Commands of the New People’s Army are named after.
More than remembering, we must continue to realize that the social conditions that bore fruit to the activism and heroism of thousands of heroes and martrys of Martial Law still exists. And for as long as such conditions persist, we must transcend the mere act of commemoration and remembrance because the struggle for genuine change and liberation ensues.