Remembering August 22

In ‘Here Lies Love,’ Natalie Cortez sings ‘Just Ask the Flowers’ in remembrance of Ninoy Aquino’s death and a ‘hero’s procession’ (photo below). YouTube photo

By Tricia J. Capistrano

It’s usually a 30-minute drive from Holy Spirit BF Homes, the grade school that I attended, to my parents’ house in Scout Fuentebella in Quezon City. As a fourth-grade school bus rider, however, my commute home from BF Homes Quezon City usually took an hour and a half. 

The bus would drop off a few students in Fairview, Tandang Sora, then to Bliss near UP, and then Teachers’ Village, and then the Times area. My classmate who won the children’s soapbox derby lived there. “My turn,” I thought, I was usually next, but that day–it was a Monday– after dropping off my classmate, the driver stopped at an unfamiliar house, took out all the umbrellas and then the bus mother invited us students to go down. It was only 5 p.m. but it was dark, rainy, and cold. I was tired. I said no. I said I would stay in my seat and wait. Someone famous had died, I gathered, and they wanted to pay their respects.

“I want to go home.” I remember thinking while I put my head against the bus window and waited for almost an hour. I wished they would hurry up.

After dinner that night, while watching the news with my parents, I saw the house where we stopped.

“My school bus went there,” I said. “Everyone in the bus got off except me.”

“Why didn’t you go?” my mom asked.

“I don’t know,” I answered.

There was a lot of whispering among the grown-ups whenever the topic of politics came up. I was not explicitly told that President Marcos imprisoned his detractors. I think my parents wanted to keep childhood rosy for my sister and me.

On TV, I saw that the dead man’s face was bloated and green. I wondered how I would’ve reacted if I joined the others and saw his face up close. I later read that Doña Aurora Aquino wanted everyone to see what was done to her child. He was shot in the back of his head.

I told myself I would pay my respects the next time the school bus made another visit but I learned that there would be no more stops. The lines of people paying their respects had grown to several streets long.

At the end of the week, the body of Ninoy Aquino was put on a flatbed truck. His body was surrounded by flowers and his family. And in spite of the rain, two million people gathered and followed the truck from his home to Manila Memorial Park. It took 10 hours to get to the cemetery 30 kilometers away.

As the protests against Marcos began, I thought about how I could’ve been one of the first ones to visit Ninoy’s body but missed the opportunity. I think it’s one of the reasons why I try to stay politically active in the Philippines and in my current home, the United States. I don’t want to yet again, have sat out a moment in history.

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© The FilAm 2021

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