After 31 years, Aquino visits Boston home of Aquino family
NEWTON, Massachusetts—After 31 years, President Aquino thought it was time to go back to his second home, a two-story red brick house at 175 Commonwealth Avenue in Chestnut Hill, an affluent area in this Boston suburb.
The house has been owned by a retired American schoolteacher over the past decade. Aquino was to visit the house at 10 a.m. on Sunday (10 p.m. Monday in Manila).
“I normally try to remove emotionalism in my speeches but it’s the first time I have been back in Boston. And I actually had several opportunities to come earlier, and I kept begging off. I said, ‘Let me make sure that my emotions are in check before I do make a homecoming,’” the President said in a speech at Boston College, a stone’s throw away.
“To those of you who remember me back then as the dog-handler, carpenter, plumber and baggage-carrier, as that young man who found it difficult to weather your cold winters, you must be thinking, ‘How things have changed.’ Boston played a significant role in this,” he added.
He said Boston gave the Aquinos during three years of self-exile a sense of normalcy “in what can only be described as abnormal times” in the Philippines under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Here, he experienced his first snowfall, which coincided with one of the coldest winters in the state at the time.
To survive the biting cold, he slept in a tracksuit and thermal underwear, snuggled inside a sleeping bag, and buried himself in heaps of blankets and sheets which he topped with a comforter.
“One typical Boston winter, our family had an influx of visitors, among them my grandmother who came to America to receive treatment for colon cancer. Her company and contingent of relatives, and some Japanese friends of my family, were all our guests at the house at 175,” Aquino said.
With so many people in the house, Aquino said, the hot water eventually ran out.
“And I, being part of the host, that was how I learned to take a shower in two minutes flat, using ice cold water in the dead of winter,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
As he shivered, he saw TV advertisements of sunny Florida “with its warm breeze and palm trees.” He remembered the Philippines.
And he recalled how much he missed the Philippines that he was thankful to the kutsinta that longtime family friend Norma Bucal, who hosted lunch for him on Sunday, made every Christmas.
“And since there were so many Filipinos waiting for her kutsinta, it was divided by, I think, two pieces per person per year… And I have to tell you—it’s a confession—that up to now, whenever I see kutsinta, regardless of where I am in the Philippines or elsewhere, I have to [eat] it. Perhaps I was too deprived then,” Aquino said, again eliciting laughter.
It was in Boston where he said he learned the value of introspection, as he considered how his family lived in exile while the Marcoses partied in Malacañang, “raping the economy and oppressing my people.”
He also learned to empathize with overseas Filipino workers who missed the Philippines.
The President expressed gratitude to the Bucals, Dr. Steve and Cheri Aguilar, the Buenaventuras, and all his family’s supportive friends who helped him ease his “entry into a new life in the midst of a small community composed of professionals and students.”
He thanked them for being supportive to this day, especially when Cheri Aguilar “defended the truth” when her late husband’s name was dragged into the 2010 presidential election “in an attempt to slander me.”
Dr. Aguilar was allegedly the psychiatrist from whom the President sought treatment for a mental disorder. Cheri Aguilar denied this.
“It was in Boston, thanks to all our friends, that my family was given a haven from the persecution of the dictatorship,” Aquino said.