(Published July 1, 2016, the day after former President Benigno S. Aquino III went home as private citizen to his home at Times Street. )
JULY 1, 2016 – It was a moment not many have witnessed – the last few minutes before the country’s most powerful man turns into a private citizen. Yesterday, President Aquino came home to No. 25 Times Street, Quezon City, in his white Toyota Land Cruiser, and was welcomed by about 200 people – neighbors, supporters, former classmates and members of his Cabinet.
He had come straight from the departure ceremonies at the Malacañang in Manila and arrived at Times Street at about 11:30 a.m.
Instead of turning into his gate, Aquino’s car went straight to the end of the street where a small stage had been set up by the West Triangle Homeowners Association, and where Leah Navarro and Jim Paredes were entertaining the crowd.
“We might be cited for being a traffic obstruction here,” Aquino said, checking his watch. “I’m still in charge for the next 13 minutes,” he said to the cheering crowd waving small yellow paper flags.
Aquino thanked his neighbors for the warm welcome and apologized to them for the trouble that his house had brought to the street by groups who staged protests.
“They know I don’t live here and yet they come here and disturb you; shout slogans and throw paint. I am sorry for that. Now I hope that your lives will return to normal here,” he said in Tagalog.
Home is Times St.
He said home to him will always be Times Street. “Ever since we transferred here in 1961, this has been my home,” he said. He said the house is of huge value to him. It has been their residence since his father, Ninoy Aquino, became a senator in 1960s. It was also the same house this mother, late President Corazon Aquino, went home to after her term ended in 1992.
“Lahat ng life experiences po natin – marami po talaga – ay bumabalot po dito sa Quezon City, sa Times. I really don’t think that it would make any sense for me to move anywhere else because this is where the roots are, this is where the friends are, this is where the family really is,” he said.
Just a resident
Appearing in the most relaxed state that we have seen him, Aquino related a story on how he is considered a simple neighbor there while his mother was well-known. Once, he went to buy a watermelon for his mother at the fruit stands in front of National Book Store. His assistant tapped each fruit and finally decided on one that was on the second row. He asked his assistant what sound he expected from the tapping and he said he did not know either, but it would make the vendor think they know what they were looking for.
But when the vendor learned that it was for “Tita Cory,” she took back the fruit, went inside a room and produced another watermelon which she said is the freshest in her stock.
Before 12 noon came, Aquino again thanked the crowd for the warm welcome and apologized that unlike his mother who had prepared some food after she left the presidency, he had none to offer.
“I still have to fix the house so maybe we meet again for that sometime.”
Private citizen Noynoy
He stepped out of the stage as Private Citizen Noynoy C. Aquino, and very slowly made his way to the house with the No. 25 on the gate and a large landmark declaring the resident’s place in history. Well-wishers crowded his path to shake his hand and some said “Thank you!”
“I’m really looking forward to a less stressful life,” he told his supporters.
Lechon and hot dog
That “less stressful life” started at No. 25 Times Street after he spoke to the crowd. There, his sisters –Ballsy, Pinky, Viel and Kris – awaited him with other family members and friends like former Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa. A simple lunch with the family’s favorite crispy-skinned lechon was set up for the homecoming.
A hotdog stall was set up for the fast-food loving master of the house and his nephews Josh and Bimby who have expressed willingness to accompany Tito Noy in his renovated home.
Originally a bungalow, the sisters decided to add a second floor to the existing structure. He will have an audio room and an office in front of the house.
The old kitchen has been expanded also. His dependable “yaya” YollyYabes will make sure the boss is well fed. But PNoy said he would haunt the fast food shops again which he used to patronize before he became president.
His sister, Pinky, said that while the structure of the house bears little resemblance to the old one, most of the fixtures like the sofa (re-upholstered) cabinets, dining chairs, etc are from “Mom’s old house..” including some of her paintings.
Before Aquino’s arrival, musician and activist Jim Paredes praised the former President as “the best president” during the mini program on the small stage.
In an interview after the welcome program, Paredes told the Manila Bulletin that Aquino was like the late President Ramon Magsaysay; Aquino was not corrupt and truly cared for the people.
Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement, who was the emcee of the program, thanked Aquino for serving the country and his countrymen well over the last six years.
Some of Aquino’s former Cabinet members were also present, among them former Education Secretary Armin Luistro, former Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles, former Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, and former Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez. (With reports from FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD,VANNE ELAINE TERRAZOLA, and DEEDEE SIYTANGCO)