What the Aquino assassination meant to them

By Maricar CP Hampton

Thirty years ago this week, the martyrdom of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. set in motion the long and arduous effort to overthrow the Marcos Dictatorship. His death paved the way for the return of Philippine democracy.

FilAms in the Metro D.C. took part in commemorative events remembering the former senator and celebrating the ideals of freedom which he championed. There was a screening of “A Dangerous Life” at the Philippine Embassy on August 20, followed by a discussion on “Remembering Aquino” at the National Filipino American Multi-Cultural Center in Maryland.

The FilAm Metro D.C. spoke to some of the personalities who shared their endearing and memorable recollections of Aquino and his assassination.

Delfin Lorenzana
Retired General, Philippine Army
Former Defense Attaché, Philippine Embassy

I was assigned at operations division of the Philippine Army, during the actual assassination. That was actually a weekend so I was at home. We knew he was coming because we were on red alert. I was a major of the Philippine army then. We were on red because we were anticipating that he would arrive but it got postponed so many times.

So we were kept on camp on rotation basis because marami ng destabilization and then when he was killed we were shocked really. Ang tanong ko sa sarili ko why would he be killed?

Immediately we were called to camp because magulo na noong mapatay siya. After that Cory came back after a couple of days. She followed Ninoy to the Philippines from Boston. Then nagkaroon ng mga protest and civil disobedience that Cory actually asked the Filipinos to stop buying the products of the companies that supported Marcos.

And then our parish priest in Magallanes Village, Father Nico Bautista, always criticized Marcos. Ang tawag nga niya ‘pang gulo’ na yan instead of ‘pangulo.’ I always went to church with my family, and this was the time when they were getting 1 million signatures for Cory to run against Marcos. We signed that.

On Feb. 22, we were playing tennis in Fort Bonifacio with Gen. Patugalan, who was close to Marcos. Suddenly somebody ran to him while he was playing tennis then he left the tennis court and ran out. Hindi namin alam kung bakit. Then when I came home it was on radio that there was an arrest order for Ensile and Ramos and they were holding out in Camp Aguinaldo. We watched the TV the whole night until morning when Ramos went to Crame about noontime. I and my classmates also officers and majors pumunta na kami sa Crame dala-dala namin yung mga baril namin to join Ramos. That’s how we waited out Edsa 1.

We were not happy with what’s happening because we noticed that only those close to Marcos were the ones promoted. Besides He has been there for too long already.

Judge David Valderrama
First FilAm to be elected to the Maryland Legislature.

Ninoy and I are almost like the same age. Born in the Philippines he was way ahead of me when it came to public visibility. As a teenager he was already writing from Korea because of the war and he was being published in the local press. At that time, I was active in school and all that. He was already a household name before I got into politics.

When we started working together and became very close it was during Martial Law. At that time I was already in the States. I was doing TV work as a legal specialist. When he came we sort of worked together having meetings.

All those meetings were very very pitiful for my family because my brother was an ambassador under the Marcos regime, and there I was coddling those so-called antis. I had a TV show and in those days I would have the Marcoses on the TV show but when they declared Martial Law that thing completely stopped. And Ninoy came in because he was exiled to the United States and we worked very closely together.

There was also a point in time that somebody raided my house. It was very strange because when Ninoy and I were working very closely together we would meet at our house and from time to time he would give me all his manuscripts including some copies of his speeches which I stored in my filing cabinet.

Somebody has forced the door of my house open. Strangely enough what was missing was my filing cabinet. They got all the materials that Ninoy had given me. Ninoy wanted me to write about him and all of a sudden all manuscripts were lost.

Maurese Owens
Founding member, National Federation of Filipino American Associations

Photos by Bing Branigin

Photos by Bing Branigin

My family and I were travelling to North Carolina’s beaches for a week’s stay at the beach when we heard on the radio that Aquino had been shot. First I was shocked, then sad. Then I was angry.

Upon our return to the D.C. area, my husband Kevin and I were determined to look for a group of people who felt the same way we did, and we visited with different groups to get their sense of the events. After visiting with different organizations we finally chose to join the Movement for a Free Philippines led by Raul Manglapus.

The next few years became the period of my political education. The goal was “the restoration of democracy to the Philippines.” The method was to call attention to the terrible things Marcos was doing to the country, to get the U.S. to cut aid to the Philippines, to call for Marcos to step down but without violence.

And so I was involved in educating myself by attending forums and discussions. I helped out the organization by being involved in fundraising to finance the movement, calling on congressmen and senators to reduce aid to the Philippines, welcoming visitors from the Philippines who were sympathetic to our cause, helping in research and in whatever was needed that I could do. I was at the time a mother with two kids, and a full time job. My precious extra time was given to the cause.

Alma Conty
Retired World Bank officer
Founder, UP Alumni Association

On August 21, 1983, I was on my way back to the U.S., when Ninoy was assassinated. My family and I spent a few days of layover in Tokyo Disneyland.

We heard the news on Tokyo television and the first thing that came to mind is the Philippines will be free at last from Martial Law. I saw it as the end of the Marcos era and the beginning of a new one for our country. Although I have been detached physically from the Philippines — 15 years at that time — I was always concerned about our country.

Being a staff of a multilateral organization, our work rules prevented me from being actively involved with any political group about the host country as well as my country of origin. However, it did not prevent me from identifying myself against the martial rule of Marcos. I have friends on both sides of the political arena, but I remained on the side for a free Philippines.
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