Today is the 35th death anniversary of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. Pursuant to Republic Act 9256 series of 2004, August 21 was declared Ninoy Aquino Day, a special non-working holiday to be observed throughout the country to enable Filipinos to commemorate this important event in the nation’s history, to recall Ninoy’s heroism and how he has inspired Filipinos to espouse a non-violent struggle to achieve reforms and restore freedom and democracy in the country. The EDSA Commission will lead the annual commemorative activities, which traditionally include the laying of a wreath at Ninoy tomb, and a Eucharistic celebration.
Ninoy was a popular opposition figure and staunch critic of then President Ferdinand Marcos. Despite being imprisoned during the Martial Law years, he ran for a parliamentary seat for Metro Manila in the Interim Batasang Pambansa under the Lakas ng Bayan (LABAN). He and his fellow LABAN candidates, however, lost to a Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) slate led by First Lady Imelda Marcos.
In March 1980, he suffered a heart attack. His family was able to brought him to the United States for medical treatment. Toward the middle of 1983, he decided to return to the Philippines to challenge Marcos in the 1984 parliamentary elections. He returned to the Philippines on August 21, 1983, but before he could set his foot on his native soil, he was shot dead at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport (later renamed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in honor of his martyrdom. His untimely death further fanned the flames of protest and reinforced the Filipinos’ struggle for the restoration of freedom and democracy. The democracy movements and protests peaked in the EDSA People Power Revolution of February, 1986. The world renowned peaceful EDSA revolt, in which the participants came with flowers, rosaries, and prayers instead of guns, eventually succeeded in ending the Marcos regime, and Ninoy’s wife, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, was elected the 11th and first woman president of the Philippines.
Today, Ninoy’s battle cry “The Filipino is worth dying for” should not be allowed to die down and be buried in the dark recesses of our people’s consciousness. The annual observance of his death anniversary should not be allowed to be reduced to a mere holiday during which people take respite from work. It should serve to inspire the current and future generations to value and safeguard the freedom and democracy that he, along with the other heroes of our country, struggled to regain and restore at the cost of their own lives.