San Francisco Fil-Ams rekindle memory of Ninoy Aquino’s sacrifice
SAN FRANCISCO — More than three decades have passed since Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was assassinated at the Manila International Airport (MIA) tarmac, but his relatives, friends and admirers have not forgotten the historical impact of his martyrdom.
About 150 of them, including community leaders and Filipino World War II veterans, packed the San Francisco Philippine Consulate’s ground floor gallery August 20 to honor Aquino’s heroism, which paved the way to the peaceful 1986 EDSA Revolution.
Dubbed “Friends Meeting Friends, Remembering Ninoy Aquino,” the event became an occasion to rekindle patriotism among Filipinos thousands of miles away from the Motherland.
Also honored was Ninoy’s younger, Agapito Butz Aquino, who died days before after a lingering illness. A book of condolences was on hand at the consulate lobby for those who want to convey their sympathies to the Aquinos.
Foremost among the attendees was Ninoy’s own younger sister, Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara, and her husband, former newsman Ken Kashiwara, who accompanied Ninoy on his fateful flight to Manila.
“Ninoy has given light to the world. His martyrdom was covered (worldwide), (was even) the fifth (top) story of the world when he died,” Lupita told INQUIRER.net.
“And so it had a tremendous impact. I supposed it touched the heart — that here’s a person who wanted to go home from a comfortable life in Boston to go back home and revive and renew and bring back democracy in the country. That alone touched the hearts of many people all over the world. If you recalled the EDSA People Power became a model for so many countries. Six or seven more countries in the world tried the bloodless People Power,” Lupita added.
Lupita’s husband Ken, a journalist who was with Ninoy on the China Air Lines flight to the Philippines, recalled that day.
“What happened 32 years ago on the tarmac I still remember like it was yesterday. I am getting old so my memory is fading, but that historical moment I won’t forget. It kind of consumed my life for a while because Ninoy and I planned the trip for three months very intensely, trying to find a way to go so Marcos wouldn’t find out where he was to try and stop him. I was very involved. In the end it was a culmination of our all our efforts, but I still remember very well,” Ken recollected.
Asked on whether he thought Ninoy was going to be shot upon touchdown at MIA, Ken said he did not at all anticipate that the assassination would happen.
“Ninoy was a perennial optimist. So all along, he thought he would be placed under house arrest. And I tried to convince him no they are going to put him back in prison. So when I saw the soldiers coming up the stairs into the ramp of the plane, I thought they are going to escort him to prison. So I wasn’t extremely worried although the atmosphere in the plane was extremely tense.”
Ken said he had no idea what was going to happen until after they took Aquino to the gateway down the stairs and he heard the first shot and the shots afterwards.
“I knew then what had happened,” Ken continued. “When we landed he fully expected that he would not be shot.”
“My biggest emotion when it happened was, What a waste! What a waste of this talent, of this person, this charismatic figure, this future leader of the Philippines who had so many ideas and so much vision. So I thought what a waste that they killed him like this. And it wasn’t until, I guess, I saw him (his body) in the morgue, went back to his house then I saw the people (remember in the controlled media there was no word on it) lined up down the street around the block to his house waiting to pay their last respects. And this went on all night into the next days. I knew at that point he would not be forgotten. He awakened something in the Filipino people.”
Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr. was a student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman when Ninoy Aquino was killed.
“When I learned that he was assassinated, that triggered a fire in my heart and I decided to know the person more. I tried to know more about Ninoy and as I learned more about him I began to idolize him in terms of the principles he stood for. When you think about it, how one person can change the whole history? I saw that the principles that he stood for are something we really need for the country. And those are the principles I continue to hold dear to my heart.”
Speaking on behalf of the World War II veterans present, Regino Nacua told INQUIRER.net, “Nandito tayo sa kamatayan ni Ninoy bilang alaala sa kanya ng mga Pilipino. Maganda naman ang ibinunga ng kamatayan niya dahil ang mga Pilipino ay nabuhayan ng loob at nagising mula sa pagkakatulog dahil na rin sa mga naging pananalita ni Aquino.”
(We are here to relive his memory among Filipinos. Many Filipinos still remember his many contributions. After his death, many were given hope and were awakened from a long slumber guided mainly by the words he left behind.)
Lupita Kashiwahara stated that the restoration of freedom and democracy was Aquino’s legacy. “And it is very nice that we do this on a yearly basis. The Philippine government has made a national holiday of his death anniversary. Once a year, the people remember. Do they, the young ones especially, remember? They will have to read and know about him. Listen to the stories of us who are still alive that walked the streets of People Power.”
She continued: “So it is up to us to be vigilant and be sure that no other dictator will come to our lives. The other most significant legacies that Ninoy gave our country is patriotism, love of country, to be a true Filipino – love your country and be a true Filipino.”
Bensurto told the audience that the chance to be a hero in a big way does not come along all the time, but “we can all do heroic things by doing ordinary, day-to-day things well for the benefit of all Filipinos. This is what I take as an inspiration from Ninoy’s memory.”
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