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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Wednesday, 05 August 2009 22:04

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

 

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) --  It was past deadline and I just turned in my day’s last news story to the news desk of the Manila Bulletin one night in the early 80’s when the Bulletin’s provincial editor, Mr. Cornelio (Kune) de Guzman, asked me if I wanted to join him. I asked, “Where?” And he told me “at the house of my kumpare” (a family friend). And I needled him, who was your “kumpare”? And he whispered, “Ninoy Aquino.”

 

I hesitated a bit and told him, “Can you wait for me until the news desk had gone over my stories?” Kune said, “Sige (okay), I will wait for you.”

 

During those days, the Bulletin was only one of three national dailies allowed by President Ferdinand Marcos to publish. And any association with Marcos’ No. 1 nemesis -- Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. – was a subversive act.

 

It was almost 8 p.m. when we arrived at the Aquino neighborhood. I noticed the front of Aquino’s residence at Times Street in Quezon City was dark.  

 

But outside the door were heavily armed soldiers, who motioned us into signing up with our names and our addresses in the entry book. I suddenly noticed that the soldiers turned the table on us.

 

 

PAPARAZZO

 

 

As Kune was signing up, a soldier was taking his picture. It was odd because, as newsmen, we were supposed to be ones taking photos.

 

So, when it was my turn, while the soldier was taking my picture like a paparazzo, I was frightened so I signed up with a different name. I got a break because the soldiers did not ask for my ID to tell the difference in my signature.

 

When we got in the house, Ninoy was in the living room while Cory was cooking in the kitchen nearby.

 

Kune greeted Ninoy with a warm handshake, as they did not see each other for a number of years. And we also said hello to Cory.

 

I just noticed that although Ninoy had been in jail for more than seven years up to that point, he was up to date with current events. If Ninoy was isolated and had no contact with the outside world while in detention, there were Cory and her family to thank for in bringing Ninoy up to speed with events.

 

A former newsman himself, Ninoy rattled off names of martial law reporters as if they already met them. He was asking us about the loyalty and integrity of the reporters.

 

Ninoy also mentioned that he was exchanging letters with former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan before Mr. Bhutto was hanged to death in 1979 by martial law Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq on suspicion of conspiring to murder the father of his political opponent.

 

Because Cory was busy with her kitchen duties then, she did not pitch in our conversation.

 

 

CHATTY

 

 

At one point when we were ready to take leave, I told Mrs. Aquino, “ang daldal talaga ni Ninoy” (Ninoy was chatty), and Cory said, “oo nga” (oh, yes).

 

Nobody could blame Ninoy if he were talkative because it was a rare opportunity for him to talk to people, other than his guards and his relatives.

 

Ninoy just wanted to get reconnected to his friends, like Kune, who gained his friendship when Kune covered Ninoy in the Philippine Senate for the Manila Times and Taliba.

 

But I never could imagine that it would be the last time that I would ever see him alive again.

Nor could I imagine that Cory would be stepping in Ninoy’s huge shoes following his assassination.

 

A Chicago-based friend of mine, Marlon L. Pecson, who was a student volunteer a few days before the People Power Revolution in 1986, observed up close when Cory finally decided to accept the nationwide clamor for her to lead the civil disobedience against Marcos martial law apparatus.

 

 

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE

 

 

“We were at the Mondragon building in Makati when Mrs. Aquino heard the news that she was going to be arrested. With grace under pressure, she told us there was no turning back.” Marlon recalled. “She did not drop any hint of any fear in her eyes. She just wanted to accomplish Ninoy’s unfinished business of returning democracy back in the Philippines.”

 

Cory must be a quick study as she easily picked up where Ninoy left off.

 

She was able to rally the Filipino people behind her.

 

Not bad for a doting housewife to take up the mantle of the presidency. She was able to put democracy back on its feet in the Philippines, with a minimum coaching but maximum common sense.

 

Despite her weaknesses, warts and all, Tita (Aunt) Cory’s legacy is secure – she was able to institutionalize democracy and made it work.

 

She was also able to complete her term, without any stigma of corruptions, term extensions and other scandals associated with other presidents.

 

When she was president, Cory, who died August 1 at 76, wanted to be called merely as “Mrs. President,” and not the extravagant “Madame” moniker favored by Imelda Marcos.

 

Perhaps, Mrs. Aquino’s simplicity and unpretentiousness must have rubbed on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who wanted to be called simply as “Tony.”

 

But for me, Cory will always be “Mrs. Clean.” (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net) # # #

 

   
Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 August 2009 22:19
 

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