By KRIS BAYOS – Former Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada yesterday joined leaders of political parties of various affiliations in commemorating the 25th death anniversary of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.
In a memorial mass celebrated by Balanga Bishop Socrates Villegas at the St. John Bosco Parish in Makati City, key members of the United Opposition, the Liberal Party, the Partido ng Masang Pilipino and the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats ignored party differences to unite and pray with Ninoy’s widow and family on the anniversary of his martyrdom.
Among those present were Senators Mar Roxas and Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, former Senate Presidents Ernesto Maceda and Franklin Drilon, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and former Senator Serge Osmeña, III.
According to Drilon, the presence of three former presidents signifies that people are still united in remembering the heroism of the late senator.
“Seeing the three former presidents here in the same church is a good sign of the people’s unity in looking back to the greatness of Ninoy,” he said.
Although seated pews away from Mrs. Aquino, Estrada and Ramos both extended to Ninoy’s relatives the admiration they had for the late senator.
“It is because of Ninoy’s greatness that we are all gathered here. It is just fitting for everyone to remember what he has done for us,” Estrada said.
For his part, Ramos wished the ailing Mrs. Aquino the best of health, especially as she is under chemotherapy for treatment of her colon cancer.
“Let us pray for Mrs. Aquino and her family that they be courageous enough to take care her. After all, she’s our national treasure,”Ramos said.
After the memorial mass, Mrs. Aquino thanked those at gathering, especially the youth who she never thought would remember Ninoy beyond the knowledge of the airport named after him, the R500 peso bill donning his face, and a paragraph recounting his assassination in history textbooks.
Accompanied by her son Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III, Mrs. Aquino said it fills her with joy seeing the youth—some of them not quite 25 yet—revisiting what her husband stood for.
“Twenty-five years after I first thought that I had lost Ninoy forever, it is gratifying to know that he continues to live in your hearts and minds. It is even more clear to me now that Ninoy was never really mine or my children’s to lose, he has always belonged to the people he chose to serve and to die for,” said Mrs. Aquino, who wore her trademark yellow dress.
She also commended the Benigno Aquino Jr. Foundation for spearheading the “iamninoy” project that sought to raise awareness of Ninoy’s martyrdom at the then Manila International Airport after a three-year self exile through television.
Shortly after the mass, the foundation launched posters, streamers, and black and yellow shirts featuring Ninoy’s iconic retro glasses to “bring Ninoy to a new dimension to make the young want to know more about him and research about him in books or the Web.”
Various demonstrations, rallies and memorial activities were also held around Metro Manila.
At Ayala Avenue, militant groups and non-government organizations suchas Anakpawis, Anakbayan, and Gabriela staged a noontime rally recalling the heroism of Ninoy during the Martial Law rule of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
At the Ninoy Aquino Monument, Ninoy’s brother and for Makati Rep. Butz Aquino led a wreathlaying ceremony that saw a reunion of members of the August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM).
Together with Binay, Butz recounted the struggles of ATOM in search for justice for Ninoy’s death. “Tuloy ang laban ni Ninoy,” he said.
After the ceremony, Binay and members of ATOM proceeded to St. Andrew’s Cathedral along Kalayaan Avenue to attend another mass in the memory of Ninoy and the other deceased members of the movement.