Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hindi ka nag-iisa

During one of the darkest moments of our history, I was privileged to be given by Ninoy’s sister, Lupita, a white T-shirt with Ninoy’s face printed on it. Below the boyish, chubby face of Ninoy read “Ninoy is my hero”. I’d worn the shirt to office on occasion, especially during Saturday dress-down, and often people looked at me with some sense of awe. I understood them, the time was quite perilous then. The shirt was so precious to me but a buddy of mine asked for it. Well, I told my friend you would have it but with one condition: Don’t be afraid to wear it proudly. He said, Yes. I gave the shirt away.

After the military tribunal had sentenced Ninoy to death, he calmly accepted his fate in the hands of Marcos. Ninoy then asked for his favorite outfit to wear before the firing squad. But the dictator backed off. Most of the events that followed have more or less been recorded, including what could be a deja vu when Ninoy was grabbed by the arm inside the airline, absent that respect from the officer Ninoy as a popular senator had been used to. This is it, Ninoy probably thought.

Hey, I gave away a shirt, Ninoy his life. What’s the big deal?

I probably wanted to change a friend and make him believe in my hero. On the other hand, Ninoy aspired to transform a nation and make his people believe in themselves.

Arguably, Cory was among the first to be transformed by Ninoy from a housewife to a transition leader. During an interview in the U.S. a couple of days after Ninoy’s murder, she exhibited the equanimity of a leader. The Filipinos then saw more leadership qualities inhering in her and asked her to lead them. But like many of us, I saw Cory’s leadership as a failure. Expecting her to lead and me to follow, I demanded that she create the vision for our future and us to be dominated by that vision. I didn’t see myself contributing to that vision. On the fifth year of her presidency, I wrote the following
poem:

Cory! Cory!
Glory! glory!

Sorry, Ninoy
Bye-bye, Pinoy.


But Cory could not go it alone as Hindi ka nag-iisa became an empty slogan, a broken promise--from us.

My heroes today are not as big as Ninoy anymore. I also don’t expect to find them during an event as great as the EDSA revolt. My heroes today are the faceless men and women who see the children fleeing from war-torn Mindanao, those abandoned in Payatas or in hospice care, the half-naked Dumagats, the “blueseals” in Olongapo and the Dodongs and Tanias in the street, as their children too. They are the same grassroots leaders who out of their own time and out of sheer labor of love, are looking for the best possible way to transform our nation into productive communities, if not today at least for the next generation. The transformation will require deep caring, creativity, exchange, perseverance and the will to change not only on the part of our bigger-than-life leaders in the public and private realms and the government itself, but also on the part of many, many people. One individual at a time, if need be.


__________

(*In August 2001, this message was posted in one of Pinoy-rin’s folders. On September 2, 2002, iVolunteer.ph reposted it on its website with slight modification to celebrate Ninoy’s martyrdom. It is being re-published on this blogsite to commemorate our everyday heroes on this historic event.)

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