A lifeless body on an airport tarmac always comes to mind every time Filipinos commemmorate Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.’s death anniversary every August 21.
Hours before his assassination in what was then the Manila International Airport, Aquino knew the danger to his life of his homecoming to the Philippines. He had been in exile in the United States for three years.
“If it’s my fate to die by an assassin’s bullet, so be it,” he told journalists while onboard China Airlines Flight 811 – the flight that would eventually be his last.
Before his tragic death, Aquino was not only known as the staunchest critic of former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Filipinos knew him for his indomitable spirit. He told kababayans in Los Angeles in 1981: “I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying for? Is he not a coward who would yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy? I have carefully weighed the virtues and faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for.”
Shortly after Martial Law was declared, Aquino was arrested and endured long periods of solitary confinement. In 1975, he went on a hunger strike to protest his military trial. He suffered a heart attack in his cell in 1980 and was allowed to leave for the United States.
A journalist at 17, Aquino’s wisdom and intellect reflected in his interviews and speeches, even up to the hours before his assassination.
Rappler compiled some of the late senator’s most notable soundbites from archive footage and documentaries so that Filipinos continue to remember Aquino’s heroism and his contribution to Philippine democracy.
Note: Rappler could not get access to the speech “Is the Filipino dying for?” that is quoted above. Our apologies for not being able to include it in this video essay.
Watch the full video on this page and on Rappler’s social media channels. – Rappler.com
Produced by Nick Villavecer