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Sunday, September 5, 2010

light and dark

One of the nice things about being in a nation that's taking off is that one is so close to mga bayani or heroes, one can almost touch them. Certainly this was what I felt when I visited the Aquino Center in Tarlac where, in the ennobling space created by Manosa, one can hear the march of history- the cry of a People shouting as one for the light.

Visit it during the day to see the museum and climb the tower for a panoramic view of the farms. Then return at night- on horseback- to see it gently glowing like a candle beneath the moon and the stars.

I was too young to know Ninoy Aquino while he was alive- reared by protective adults, it was only after his death when I learned about Silahis' father and other political prisoners during Martial Law. So it was great to overcome my phobia of the locale and visit the museum- I came away with the sense that, in my lifetime, there existed this extraordinary public servant and human being.

The first thing that struck me when I visited the museum was its first display. It was neither a memorabile of the late senator nor the late President Cory Aquino, but framed opinion articles from the Bulletin on Mrs. Aquino's father Jose "Pepe" Cojuangco, the agriculturalist-banker who founded Hacienda Luisita. Why was this so? I wondered. Later, while viewing the other exhibits, it struck me that, in remembering or assessing the achievements of Ninoy or the contributions of this extraordinary family to the nation, one cannot put the hacienda in a separate compartment- it is part of the cycle, perhaps it was even the material base, of their political life.

Tito Doc said that when he was studying in UP Diliman, he found Ninoy the student to be the most animated person around- he stood out because of the safari shorts he preferred to wear (everyone else wore pants in 1950s Diliman) and often used his hands and arms to communicate.

"He was the most animated person I've met until today," said my uncle.

Certainly, a series of black-and-white pictures of Ninoy as senator supports this claim- a hundred small pictures of the senator's face taken one after the other, each one showing a different facial expression! This was one of my favorite displays.

The senator's speeches, printed in booklet form and framed, were critical of the Marcoses and made me understand the morally righteous- some would say negative- tone of his son's speeches when the latter was still running for the Presidency.

I was moved by the replica of the late senator's jail cell- one can almost envy his rare journey through the depths of despair toward self-enlightenment, as reflected in his existential poems that are displayed on its exterior gray walls. Until one realizes that it was but a microcosm of the journey and process of self-realization that our entire country has gone and is going through.

And I was shocked to find his bloodstained white safari suit in a clear glass case in the heart of the museum.

I took a picture of the memento above because of its caption- it says the image was shot by the grandparents of a friend, J.J. Duque. The photograph shows the patriotic late senator doing his own flag ceremony in his Massachusetts farm. It would've been considered a quixotic, perhaps even crazy, act had he and millions of other Filipinos not proven later on the truth of his words, that we are worth living for- that we have a purpose in the history of humanity. The last mass attended by Sen. Aquino before he returned to the Philippines for his appointment with destiny was celebrated in a Boston church with J.J.'s lola and lolo, Betty and Jose Calderon.

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