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Ninoy and People Power: Stories of generations

The youth today, perceived by some to be apathetic, could actually be seen instead as disempowered in solving the nation's problems

STORIES OF GENERATIONS. Dr. Benjamin Tolosa, Jr. conducts a lecture as part of "The Aquino Assassination: Thirty Years After" series at the Ateneo de Manila University on Tuesday, August 6. Photo by Michael Bueza/

MANILA, Philippines – “Telling the stories of the events of the 1980s would always be a challenge. What story will I tell and how will I do it?”

This was the question posed by Dr Benjamin T. Tolosa Jr in his lecture entitled, “The Aquino Assassination: Stories of Generations, Active Non-Violence and Faith-Response” at the Ateneo de Manila University on Tuesday, August 6.

The lecture is the first of 6 in “The Aquino Assassination: Thirty Years After” series organized by the Ateneo’s Interdisciplinary Studies Department.

Read: Revisiting the Aquino assassination 30 years after

Tolosa, former chair of the Ateneo Political Science Department, chose to tell the story starting with the video footage of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino’s last plane ride and eventual assassination at the tarmac of what was then called the Manila International Airport on Aug 21, 1983.

“Part of the reason behind the massive outrage towards Aquino’s death — compared to reactions towards other victims of human rights violations during Martial Law — had to do with the brazenness of the assassination,” said Tolosa.

Tolosa then flashed images of Ninoy’s funeral procession and burial, and of the People Power Revolution 3 years later, from Feb 22 to 25, 1986.

Closing the generation gap

Tolosa noted that the current generation can only understand the events of the 80s through the generation that experienced it.

It is important to build shared consciousness and to “close the gap” between generations through a process of dialogue to bring about social solidarity and historical change.

People Power displayed the readiness of those in the 80s to respond in a radical way. The challenge for Filipinos today is to sustain that spirit of People Power, said Tolosa.

Filipinos have to veer away from the “good guy/bad guy” distinctions prevalent nowadays, and return to having a sense of mission.

The youth today, perceived by some to be apathetic, could actually be seen instead as disempowered in solving the nation’s problems.

Tolosa suggested that the youth be organized to make them see that they are involved in the larger scheme of things and can make a difference.

Active non-violence and faith-response

The roles of active non-violence and faith-response during those tumultuous times were also discussed. Tolosa mentioned the importance of above-ground, non-government organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) which practiced “active non-violence” in battling the Marcos dictatorship.

Tolosa also referred to the rise of the “middle forces,” or those not politically active but socially engaged with realities of that period.

These groups, as well as Ninoy Aquino, were influenced by community-organizing principles and the teachings of Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi, Tolosa said.

Literature he quoted said that active non-violence operates on the idea that “human dignity, unlike physical strength or military arms, is a resource possessed in equal measure by all.”

“If all were equal in human dignity, no one deserves to be the subject of violence, not even those who are perpetrators of violence. The use of non-violent strategies also equalizes participation in social change,” Tolosa said.

The Ateneo community during those times espoused the legacy of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), that is “a call for the faith to engage the world that was suffering with a lot of poverty, inequality and political injustice.”

Training Filipinos to adopt the active non-violence strategy partly explains why it took them 3 years to “take to the streets” and demand Marcos’ ouster through People Power.

After his lecture, Tolosa told Rappler, “We can’t talk about the EDSA Revolution with just those 4 days in February 1986.” –


Note: “The Aquino Assassination: Thirty Years After” lecture series at the Ateneo de Manila University runs until Sept 17, 2013 

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