Ninoy Aquino’s sister says renaming airport is denial of country’s history

Nikko Dizon
Ninoy Aquino’s sister says renaming airport is denial of country’s history
'The blood he shed on the airport’s tarmac symbolized the ultimate sacrifice he made as he fought for a return to democracy in the Philippines,' says Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara

MANILA, Philippines – Filmmaker Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara, younger sister of martyred opposition Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr,  said over the weekend that “revisionist” lawmakers who are moving to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are “attempting to deny their country’s history.”

On Thursday, June 25, presidential son and Davao 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, and ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap filed House Bill (HB) 7031, which seeks to remove Aquino’s name from the main international airport in Metro Manila.

They want it changed to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas – International Airport of the Philippines when translated into English – because “there is a need to identify the same as belonging to the Philippines.”

NAIA used to be called the Manila International Airport, until it was renamed during the presidency of Aquino’s wife Corazon, through Republic Act 6639 (enacted without executive approval), in late 1987.  

“The revisionist congressmen are playing politics while attempting to deny their country’s history,” Kashiwahara said in a statement.

Aquino’s sister reminded these lawmakers that renaming the Manila International Airport after her brother was “in recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquino’s assassination had not only on our country, the Philippines, but around the world.”

“I wonder whether those proposing to change the airport’s name would even be in office today had it not been for Ninoy. Many countries have named their airports to honor their own historical figures including Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the United States. In doing so, they have not lost their national identities,” she added.

In August 1983, after a 3-year self-exile with his family in the United States, Ninoy Aquino decided to return to the Philippines to join the opposition in their fight against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Under Marcos, the country had plunged into poverty and debt; thousands of Filipinos had become human rights victims as they resisted martial rule.

The senator was accompanied by Kashiwahara’s husband, Ken, on his flight back to the Philippines on August 21, 1983. Aquino was shot dead in the tarmac by his police escorts. His assassination triggered protests that culminated to the overthrow of Marcos in February 1986, and catapulted Aquino’s wife Corazon to the presidency.

To this day, there is a marker at the airport right on the spot where Aquino fell.

The attempts to change the Philippines’ history became prevalent since the Marcos family sashayed back to power. (READ: U.P. History professors slam Bongbong’s call to revise Marcos regime accounts in textbooks)

The Marcoses found an ally in President Duterte, whose presidential bid they openly supported. Duterte himself repeatedly says that he idolizes the dictator Marcos. (READ: Duterte on Marcos burial: Let history judge, I followed law)

Kashiwahara also raised a practical point from the point of view of marketing a country brand: “If the congressmen proposing change intend to rebrand the Philippines as a tourist destination, the question is for whom? Most foreign tourists will have no idea what the Tagalog name means and Filipinos already know the airport is in the Philippines.”

Paolo Duterte et al’s bill was met with criticism online. Vice President Leni Robredo also described the proposal to rename the NAIA “ill-timed,”, reminding the lawmakers that the country is in the middle of a pandemic. 

Robredo also asked, “Where is our sense of history?” –

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Nikko Dizon

Nikko Dizon is a freelance journalist specializing in security and political reporting. She has extensively covered issues involving the military, the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute, human rights, and the peace process.