Three shades of yellow

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By Menardo Wenceslao

Candid Thoughts

Friday, August 22, 2014

I PURPOSELY didn’t write anything about the Aquinos last Aug. 21, the 31st anniversary of the death of former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. After three decades, the act of recollection loses its edge. But again, did I say three decades? I can come up with a cliché for that: how time flies.

I actually caught the tail-end of a forum on TV5 last Aug. 21. I liked the phrase in the theme about three shades of yellow: Ninoy’s, his wife Cory’s and his son Noynoy’s.

Those yellows represent three chunks of the country’s history.


Among the guests of that forum were former senator Rene Saguisag and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Christian Monsod, popularly known as the husband of economist and media practitioner Solita “Winnie” Collas-Monsod. Looking at the two was when I was reminded of the distance between now and 1983.

The white hair and the wrinkles. Yes, the generation that was the primary fixture of that period has aged considerably.

In 1983, I was young and thin but imbued with the zeal of youth and idealism. I could roam the rough terrains of the mountain range of Central Cebu for hours almost every night. I was proud of my thick soles and my capacity to endure the difficulties of countryside life while being away from my family for long periods of time.

I was home on a break the day Ninoy was shot. My father was listening to his old transistor radio that he hung from the support frame of the low nipa roof that covered what should have been our side yard that he and my mother converted into sleeping quarters-cum-work place.

That year straddled the phase in our family life when we hit an economic low. My father had retired as salesman of a soft drinks firm, had spent his retirement pay on a venture that failed, and had ended up being propped up by what used to be his and my mother’s sideline when he was still depending on his salary: running a sari-sari store. My father, who was politically inclined, would listen to the radio while helping re-pack sacks of charcoal or helping weave baskets from midribs of coconut leaves to be sold to an agent of an exporter.

I could no longer recall the name of the radio station my father was listening to. But it did report the arrival of the plane Ninoy was in at the Manila airport and that shots were heard. After that was the seeming confusion about what really happened.

“Patay na,” my father said with seeming certainty, sadly shaking his head. What many of us thought would not happen did happen. Ferdinand Marcos’s biggest political rival was assassinated. A faction of the ruling class killed one who belonged to its own class.

In the story of Ninoy and Cory, death marked both the final scenes of one phase in history and the ushering in of another phase. Three years after Ninoy was killed, Marcos was nudged off the presidency and the dictatorship shattered. The post-Marcos period began in 1986 with Cory (Corazon) as president. Almost a year after Cory died years later, or in 2009, Noynoy (Benigno III) was catapulted to the presidency.

I won’t venture into describing or differentiating the shades of yellow that the Ninoy, Cory and Noynoy periods represented. It would take more than one column to do that. But here’s something I would note: Noynoy’s presidency is not yet over.

Which reminds me of the debate on whether or not Lebron James is a greater basketball player than Michael Jordan. It is a futile exercise. Lebron needs to finish first his career and then we can talk. What I am saying is that PNoy, like Lebron, is still shaping his legacy.

What cannot be debated, however, is the Aquinos’ contribution to the shaping of the Philippine’s recent history. For good, or for bad.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2014.


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