via Manila Bulletin & Yahoo |
Manila, Philippines — Some say it is very difficult for a son (or daughter) – especially a namesake – to live in the shadow of a great and famous father, because there is so much expectation and a high standard to measure one’s success.
For President Aquino, the measure for what he does is much, much higher than that for an ordinary citizen. As the third child, and only son of a hero, Ninoy Aquino, and the Icon of Democracy and former Philippine President Corazon C. Aquino, he stands in an extra-large shadow.
First, for carrying the name – Benigno Simeon Aquino III, PNoy keeps in mind his father’s letter given to him in 1973.
“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. I now pass on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather passed it on to me.”
In the same letter, that father left an advice to his son who would one day be the President of the Philippines: “The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.”
Today, Father’s Day, President Aquino’s thoughts turn to his father. Though life with a father who spent many years in jail, worked for his countrymen, and later sacrificed his life because “Filipinos are worth dying for,” Aquino says he would not have wished for an “ordinary” father even if life dealt them the hardest blows in his father’s lifetime.
President Aquino was barely a teenager when his father was arrested, then jailed for eight years and sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge. Suddenly, the teenager was the “man of the house” for his mother and his four sisters, including toddler Kris. While his mother, Cory, tried her best to give the children a “normal” family life, having an “absentee” father for them was hard.
Visits to Fort Bonifacio where Ninoy was jailed, took the form of going to Sunday masses at the Army grandstand and lunch together, occasions when Ninoy tried to be his usual jovial self to his children. Even the memories of Sunday togetherness could not keep the family from the anxiety of having a father in jail. Later, when Ninoy was secretly taken to Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, the family feared he had been executed.
Today, Ninoy’s namesake still looks to his father for guidance especially in difficult situations.
“The constant thought of him is how perfect and exemplar he was. No matter how bad a situation is, or how impossible to find a solution, I only have to look at how he handled similar situations to raise my hopes,” the President told us.
“No matter the magnitude of the problems I faced, or the uncertainty of the solutions, they pale in comparison to what he had to go through. His having surmounted those seemingly insurmountable challenges continues to drive and inspire me,” he said.
Although Ninoy was busy with commitments to serve his people during his short life, he made up for his absences with “quality time” with his young family.
The “happiest years” of the President were the three years of “quality time” the family had with his father after Ninoy’s heart operation in Texas and the family lived in Boston.
But that did not last as the restlessness to do something for his beloved country was still in Ninoy’s heart, and he made up his mind to go back to do something.
As Pinky (Abellada), the second child recalls, “Dad was always in a hurry…everything had to be done yesterday!”
“He died at 50, but I think he accomplished enough for 100 years!” said Pinky, who was nicknamed “Double Mommy” by her dad (she was named after his mother Aurora, and ‘Corazon’ after her own mom).
On the generosity of her father, Pinky shared: “Dad would give his last possession to help someone. He was not at all attached to materials things.”
In Boston, President Aquino spent much time with his father. As only son, it fell on his young shoulders the jobs of gardener, driver, electrician, handy-man, and jack- of- all- trades for the family, while his dad attended to opposition leaders who visited, gave lectures, and networked to gain support for the Philippines while he took up studies in Harvard.
The horror of seeing their dad slain so obscenely in front of television cameras is still etched in the minds of his children. But Noy looks back on his dad’s and mom’s legacies and is determined to see their dreams for the country nurtured.
One of his sources of strength is a beautiful letter Ninoy gave him in 1973, when the family visited.
My dearest Son,
“You are my 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 sorry.
“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. I now pass on to you, as good, I pray, as when my father, your grandfather passed it on to me.
“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.
“Forgive me for passing unto your young shoulders the great resposibilities of 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.
“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.
“Finally, stand by your mother as she stood by me. I pray to God you inherit her spirit and her rare brand of silent courage.
“The only advice I can give you: Live with honor and follow your conscience.
“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.
“Son, the ball is now in your hands.”
[Featured Photo: The Aquino family–(L-R) Viel, Cory, Ninoy, Ballsy, Noynoy and Pinky–has early morning breakfast at their home in Times St., Quezon City. Photo from the official Flickr account of The Official Gazette]