The yin and yang of justice

By J. Vincent Sarabia Ong – We Filipinos recently had two long weekends of snoozing, goofing off, DVD marathons, overdue reunions over coffee, hopping back to our barrios and, of course, pigging out. Basically, time was finally ours and there is a reason for that. It is because of our national heroes that we can appreciate those few days of liberty from corporate slavery. Aside from the genius of holiday economics, heroes make life more than just bearable. They make it possible.

Yet what are heroes in the first place? Are they mortals or gods that walk on this earth? Do you need to wear a cape to be one? These ruminations started kicking in as I realized how much time I had, thanks to heroes like Ninoy whose time was cut short. I considered that my A.D.D. couldn’t contain such lofty ideas (or ideals). I also knew that I couldn’t talk to Ninoy Aquino since he has been gone for 25 years unless I stare at a P500 bill. So I did the next best thing. I talked to people who at least looked like him and maybe spoke like him. I set up an interview with his nephew Bam Aquino and grandson Jiggy Aquino-Cruz. They have both edited books about heroism — one about the past and the other about the future of heroes.

Super Lolo
As I read 22-year-old Jiggy Aquino-Cruz’s tribute book to his lolo, Ninoy: Essays and Art, I discovered the true heart condition of this modern Filipino inspiration. He didn’t have coronary insufficiency, as Dr. Rolando Solis says in this book. I would rather believe that it was because his heart had a big hole: it bled too much with love for both the people he knew personally and for people he never even met. As a teenager, Cory writes, Ninoy gave her a portrait that was worth two months of his salary at the time; but he also had compassion for foreigners like the Koreans whom he reported about in the Manila Times. His heart was too big for his body; maybe that’s why he even came back to Manila only to be shot after three tranquil years of living as a family man in Boston.

After reading these anecdotes, I realized that there is a yin and yang to justice. The equation is that for every loss, there is a gain. For something to live, something else must die before it. In Ninoy’s life, his early understanding of responsibility came with the passing of his father when he was only 14. Then Ninoy had to lose himself in Laur prison to find God. Finally, he had to lose his personal dream of a family and intellectual career by coming back for us to live that dream ourselves, thus making sure that people would never have to make the same sacrifice again.

And this is why Ninoy is more than a measure of currency that can give you a fistful of change in denominations of 100s and 50s; he has changed forever the lives of many persons starting with his grandson Jiggy who worked on this book for two to three months, giving up time after hard working days, as a gift to his Lola Cory. Now, the buck has passed on to the many writers and artists who were inspired by Ninoy. This includes the writers who were Jiggy’s famous relatives, friends from his comic arts group Übermensch Studios and even a Ninoy Aquino scholar, Sonny Pasimio, who is now an assistant VP with an international company. The artists, on the other hand, are what Jiggy calls a “comic book boy’s dream.” The contributors include Whilce Portacio, Leinel Francis Yu, Philip Tan, Jason Paz, Gerry Alanguilan and others who set aside time from their big projects at Marvel and DC comics to complete the work at a photo-finish pace. The outcome is a collection that Ninoy would no doubt have appreciated: work done with a lot of heart.

Bam! Fighting everyday evil
Like Jiggy, his uncle Bam is a comic book fan. Yet Bam (or Paolo Benigno Aquino) already possesses the powers of a superhero. As president of Microventures, he already has empowered poor sari-sari stores on a multi-regional scale through his Hapinoy microfinance program. He was also chairman of National Youth Commission (NYC) for three years. More than that, just as Robin was trained to excel by Batman, Bam was raised as a political child star — but instead of singing he began by giving speeches at rallies by the age of six, immediately after Ninoy’s death. His strong resemblance to his uncle even makes you think that the universe has conspired to have him fill the gap Ninoy has left behind.

He has certainly lived up to his role to inspire, beyond his clean-cut looks and simple demeanor. As he capped his NYC run two years ago, he was asked to produce a book for the 40th anniversary of the ASEAN. He gladly accepted the task and took it as a cherry atop his political career. The outcome is an ambitious profile book entitled Young Southeast Asia: 40 Inspiring Youths published by Art Post Asia, written by 10 teams from the ASEAN region, and shot in natural light by our very own Jake Versoza.

As much as featured names like Bounleuth Luanpraseuth or Muhammad Fahmie Haji Awang Metussin can leave you breathless, their diverse stories of courage, compassion, commitment, and creativity can leave you at the loss for words. Included among the 40 is a Quaran-reading winner, a world-class violin player, a colleague of Professor Stephen Hawking at age 21, a bowling champion, a Gawad Kalinga volunteer, a Miss Universe representative turned teacher. These stories, Bam says, reflect the character of the ASEAN region due to specific problems that kids must face, whether poverty or political turmoil in their own communities, and the changes they want to inspire. He adds that religion, as an integral part of our Asian heroism, shouldn’t be thought of as a backward characteristic because it displays the richness of our cultures as compared with the West.

He hopes that readers won’t find the lives led by the 40 featured Asians to be daunting, but rather as inspiring, attainable and accessible as the people they see every day. This is all in the wish that people might pick up a soccer ball, a chessboard, a Bible, an ambulance bicycle or even just themselves to change the world and challenge people to do the same.

It’s A Matter Of Time
As I got my Aquino dose of what valor means, I realized that heroism begins with what you do to fill your time on the planet. If you are not doing something good for others or yourself, you owe it to the heroes who made your time possible. Whether it’s two months like Jiggy or two years like Bam, we have to realize that evil occurs because there is no one to stop it. Thus, in the yin and yang of justice, we have to ask ourselves where we stand in the balance of good versus evil. After all, as Ninoy told Kris: “Nobody will help make the Philippines great except us Filipinos.” We must understand that nobody can make ourselves great except us. It is only then that we can be prophets of hope as Ninoy continues to be.

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Ninoy Art and Essays is exclusively at Comic Odyssey ( Robinsons Galleria, Robinsons Place Manila, and Druid’s Keep, third floor, Gateway Center, Paseo de Magallanes.

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Young Southeast Asia available available at National Bookstore and Powerbooks.

Other Art Post Asia books at
Bam Aquino’s next book is TAYO (Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations).

Look for his projects at and

Jake Versoza’s photos at
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Inspire me at and

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