MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III was in high spirits when he returned to his family home at Times Street in Quezon City on Thursday, June 30.
His neighbors, supporters, and Cabinet secretaries prepared a short thanksgiving program for him on Thursday.
One of the organizers, singer Leah Navarro, said the original plan of Aquino's neighbors was simply to meet him in front of his house.
Frankie Dayrit, president of the West Triangle Kapitbahay Movement, thanked Aquino for what he has done for the last 6 years.
"Maraming salamat po (Thank you very much), Mr President. I am sure your late mother will be looking now on you, very happy that you've decided to stay with us. Again welcome home, welcome back, PNoy," Dayrit told Aquino on stage.
Aquino now speaking before supporters here at Times Street pic.twitter.com/UtAReTkFrR — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
Aquino, in his speech, said he doesn't know "any other home than here."
"We've been here since 1961. Siyempre sa millennials, 1961 panahon yata ni Jose Rizal 'yun a (Of course for millennials, 1961 must be the time of Jose Rizal)," Aquino joked.
On Wednesday, June 29, Aquino returned to Times Street for the "first time" to drop off some of his belongings. He already saw by then the yellow ribbons tied by his neighbors to trees and gates.
In his speech on Thursday, he reminisced about how the whole neighborhood also put up many yellow ribbons during the Marcos regime "perhaps in defiance of the dictatorship."
"That was indelibly marked in my memory," he added.
Yellow ribbons all over Times Street hours before outgoing President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office pic.twitter.com/2iJsRomS0Q — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 29, 2016
Aquino thanked the crowd for the welcome he received, and asked for forgiveness if at times his neighbors were bothered by his critics.
"I was actually discouraging all of these....Maraming times na ginulo tayo dito sa Times ng mga walang kakuntentuhan na mga kababayan nating iba. Alam na 'di ako nakatira dito, [pero] dito sila nagpo-protesta," he said.
(Many times, we were bothered here at Times Street by our fellow Filipinos who are never contented. They know I don't live here but they still go here to protest.)
"Sa mga nabatuhan ng pintura...Sana naman po ako ay balik na sa normal life, at sana mabalik na rin ang normal life niyo (For those whose houses were vandalized by paint... I hope I will be going back to a normal life, and I hope you can also go back to your normal lives)," he added.
In November 2014, a leftist group staged a protest rally in front of the Aquino home at Times Street, calling for peace and food in Mindanao. The rally turned violent as the program wrapped up. The group painted red the gate of another home in the neighborhood.
Almost 3 hours after Aquino returned home, about 60 youth protesters from Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist, and the League of Filipino Students gathered a few blocks away from Aquino's home to protest against the former president.
Bearing placards that read "Jail Aquino," the protesters called for the resumption of peace talks, the junking of the K to 12 program, the end of contractualization, and the release of political prisoners. They also protested against tuition hikes in schools.
A few hours after Aquino's homecoming, youth protesters gather near his QC home w/ placards that say: "Jail Aquino" pic.twitter.com/tETi1IrcFe — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
Dayrit described Aquino as a simple, quiet person, who is not lavish. This is why they tried to keep his homecoming simple.
"Akala nga namin kami lang magkakapitbahay, [pero] yung ibang nagsusupport sa kanya (We thought it would be just us neighbors, but his other supporters), they want to join also," he said, adding that "whether before or now, same thing, we consider Times [Street] as yellow."
During the short program which started around 10:50 am, some of his supporters took to the stage to thank Aquino. His Cabinet secretaries Armin Luistro and Ramon Jimenez Jr also spoke on stage.
Meanwhile, singers Navarro, Jim Paredes, and Noel Cabangon performed a few songs while waiting for Aquino, and after he left the scene to finally go home.
Scene here at Times Street after Aquino's speech pic.twitter.com/xltfWOAWZI — Jee Y. Geronimo (@jeegeronimo) June 30, 2016
Dayrit hoped "citizen" Aquino will "find peace" now that he's back home.
"We wish him a happy life, especially love life," he joked.
This was echoed by Cornelio De Guzman, a friend and neighbor of Aquino. "[We want him to have] a happy life, especially the love life, kasi syempre iba 'yung may family (because it's really different when you have your own family). It's time for him to get a family," he said. (READ: The bachelor president: Aquino and the women he met) – with reports from Paulina Peregrino/Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.