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21 August 2013

"I am Ninoy" (Deconstructing the Ninoy Legacy)

(Note: Re-posted Aug 21, 2014 and August 22, 2015) 

I am Ninoy! This is an accurate statement indeed. Like Ninoy, I am an English-speaking westernized Asian who was educated in a university that put heavy emphasis on the dominance of western civilization.  Ninoy was born in the upper class but he worked like a middle class.  In a way, based on what I read about him, I have always considered Ninoy as middle class unlike the Cojuangcos, his wife's clan.  I am also middle class relatively speaking. After all, my parents were able to send me to university without resorting to prostitution and we were not actually living in the slums, which is now conveniently called “informal settlements.”

I am also political but only out of prestige. I am not really a genuine revolutionary the way Maria Lorena Barros was. If I were, I would have joined the armed rebels in the mountains during my university days even if I was tempted to do so but only because I wanted to avoid my father.  Like Ninoy, I am also a journalist of some sort. Both Ninoy and I  enjoy writing. Like Ninoy, I also went to South Korea.

However, that is the extent of our similarities.  Compared to Ninoy, I am an insect.  Ninoy is a monolithic icon.  Undeniably, Ninoy’s contribution to Philippine politics is remarkable. Some may even argue that we would not be enjoying our current democratic society, notwithstanding the whole pork barrel-Napoles fiasco, if not for Ninoy’s sacrifice. Ninoy’s assassination is tragic and it is a turning point in Philippine history that helped propel his wife to the presidency and end a despotic regime.  Similarly, his wife death also helped put his son, Benigno Aquino III, into the presidency. Still, to lionize Ninoy may also mean to lionize the revolutionary middle class.

Ninoy, like his wife and his son, is my hero indeed. Perhaps, Ninoy is the quintessential hero of the children of the “middle,” meaning young people who are buffered from harm by the upper class at the top and the lower class at the bottom. In effect, whatever politics we play, we play it halfheartedly. Whatever revolution we espouse, it will not pierce deep below or way up. It stays in the middle.  This does not mean that we are insincere; on the contrary, sincerity is the one thing we take to the hilt.  Eventually, the likes of Ninoy and I, including others belonging in the middle class (or resembling like the middle class), must realize that we are products of our upbringing.  

We must ask ourselves. Can we be brave enough to work for fundamental change in society, not just changing our leaders but also changing the whole structure of our society?  Can we turn the boat that keeps the middle class afloat? Are we willing to plunge in the water so we can really join the drowning multitudes? The brutal answer is usually “no.”  The middle class is intelligent but perhaps (emphasis on perhaps) that is all we can be.  Are we real revolutionaries or are we mostly advisers and technocrats? Some of us will stop in the middle and may never fight to the end, unless we give up our status. Jesus was the son of God but he needed to be raised by poor parents before he could understand the plight of the downtrodden and oppressed.  Prince Gautama gave up his wealth and lived like a beggar before he attained enlightenment to become the Buddha.   

I think openly deconstructing the legacy of Ninoy is the best tribute we can offer our hero.  The Aquinos are miles apart from the Marcoses but even the Aquinos are miles apart from the common Filipino. After all, the Aquinos were able to justify keeping Hacienda Luisita for a long time. No matter how benevolent the Aquinos may have managed Luisita, it was still feudalism with a new hat.  In contemporary pop culture, it is very Downton Abbey. See, there you go, middle class popping its nose.

Just observe Ninoy’s son; everything is halfheartedly done. He will not abolish the PDAF (pork barrel)  because abolishing it is so “un-middle class.” (Update August 21, 2104: The Supreme Court declared the PDAF and the DAP as unconstitutional)

Today is Ninoy Aquino’s Day. I am Ninoy. Please do not say you are too. We have enough Ninoys and even worse, in the Me Me Me Generation, with an uncanny propensity for selfies, we may all end up saying “I am Kris.”

This essay is also so "middle class." It is uncommitted and lopsidedly done.

NOTE: The other contributing writers and members of this blog do not necessarily share the opinions of the writer of this article. (Hindi nangangahulugan na sang-ayon ang mga ibang manunulat at miyembro ng blog na ito sa mga opiniyon ng may akda ng sanaysay na ito.)

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