On May 16 this year, former Ateneo de Manila University president Rev. Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” Villarin, SJ texted his friend former President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino III.
“Pre, Asension ngayon. Nawa’y akayin kang umahon ng ating Poon (Pre, today is Asension. May our Lord raise you up).”
“His will and intention be done,” Aquino replied. “Jett, hindi ako nagpapadalaw sa ospital. Baka ma tsambahan pa ng COVID. Salamat sa alok (I don’t allow visit at the hospital. COVID may get you. Thanks for the offer).
For which the priest replied: “Nauunawaan ko kaya pray from home na lang ako for you. Ingat lagi (I understand so I just pray from home for you. Take care always).”
Two days after Aquino underwent a medical procedure, Villarin texted him again.
“Pre, kumusta na. Kumusta ka na after your angiogram (Pre, how are you. How are you after your angiogram)?”
“They discovered a blockage, between 70 to 80 percent,” Aquino replied. “In a good position for access. Massive relief after. This was the best outcome possible. Thank you for the prayers.”
“Ay galing! Natanggal ang bara (That’s great! The blockage has been removed,” Villarin said. “Hinga ng malalim. Mabait ang Diyos (Take a deep breath. God is good).”
Aquino texted back.
“The heart got enlarged,” he said, “because it was working so hard to remove the fluid because efficiency was down due to the blockage.”
“Kaya pala stout-hearted ka (That’s the reason why, you are stout-hearted),” Villarin replied. “Sige, now the heart can rest. Kung makina pa ‘yan, nag over heat na o kumatok dahil barado ang karborador. Pahinga ka pa at hayaan mong humilom ang puso (If it’s an engine, it would overheat or knock because the carburetor is clogged. Rest more and let your heart heal).”
He thought that Aquino would stop replying, but his phone rang once again bearing a text message from Aquino.
“Yung isang klaseng broken heart, hindi kaya dito (That other kind of broken heart, it cannot be fixed here).”
That was the second to the last text message that Villarin would receive from Aquino. He could only guess what the former president meant by his text.
This was the last exchange of text message between Aquino and Villarin, as told by the later in his homily during a mass on Friday, June 25, held in honor of the former president who died on June 24.
Pnoy’s broken heart
Aquino and Villarin’s friendship goes all the way back when they were still at Ateneo studying their undergraduate degrees in the late 1970’s. They were both student leaders during their time.
Villarin graduated with a degree in Physics in 1980 while Aquino finished a degree in Economics the following year.
Aquino later went to become the country’s 15th president from 2010 to 2016, while Villarin became Ateneo’s 30th president from 2011 until 2020.
“Isa lamang ako sa marami na nakamalas sa kabiguan ng kaniyang puso. At hindi lamang dahil sa kanyang lovelife, na inihalintulad niya sa Coke zero (I was just one of many who witnessed his heart broken. And not just because of his love life, which he likens to a Coke zero),” Villarin said.
“Pangulo siya, pero ilang beses siyang nakatikim ng talo (He was the president, but he has tasted defeat several times).”
Villarin described the former president as a person who easily gets bored and angry especially if you don’t do your homework.
He remembered the numerous afternoon he spent with Aquino where the latter would let out his disappointment on several matters including the Church, the issues hounding the justice system, as well as the slow development of the country.
“Kung brokenhearted si Noynoy, alam kung dahil din ito sa hati ang puso ng bayan. Ang dalamhati ng bayan siya ring daladala ng taong ito (If Noynoy is brokenhearted, I know that it is also because the hearts of the people are divided. This man is also carrying the grief of the people),” Villarin said.
“Ang broken heart ng taong ito nasobrahan din ng broken heart ng taong bayan (This person’s broken heart is also overwhelmed by the people’s broken heart),” he added.
Last text message
In his last text message to Villarin, Aquino said: “Pre, sa grade school hamburger. Umasa at may pagasa (Pre, the grade school hamburger. Continue hoping for there is hope).”
Even in his last days, the former priest said that Aquino managed to still reminisce his youth as well as the things and places that brought him happiness.
“Kung nakakahinga ka na ng malalim, alam ko na sa langit gutom ka pa rin at broken heart ka pa rin para sa amin (If you can take a deep breath, I know that in heaven you are still hungry and you are still brokenhearted for us),” Villarin said.
“Noy, ikaw naman ngayon ang pray from home, ang pray from heaven. Ikaw naman ang manalangin (Noy, you can now pray from home, pray from heaven. It is up to you to pray),” he concluded.
Watch the full mass here: