Towards A New People Power Generation
On the 21st Death Anniversary of Ninoy
August 21, 2004
It is 21 years since the death of Ninoy. An entire generation has passed since he was mercilessly gunned down at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.
We who were in our middle age when it happened are now classified as elderly.
One year ago, I launched the People Power People Movement – to honor Filipinos who have served their countrymen selflessly and well through NGO and foundation work, and to inspire others to follow suit.
I believe that the purest expression of people power is found in people coming together to do good work so that other people might live better lives. Thus, we cited 20 established NGOs and foundations as examples of People Power People, who by their generosity and hard work, have uplifted the lives of their constituents and beneficiaries.
Today, however, I would like to focus on the youth, the new generation of Filipinos, most of whom are too young to have known Ninoy or the national uprising that was triggered by his death. They have no personal memory of Ninoy, or of Edsa and the events that led up to it. These events they know about from their history lessons, and stories of their parents who participated in the protests and in our victory over martial law in 1986.
How do young people today perceive Ninoy? What does people power mean to them? How can this ultimate sacrifice provide them inspiration to give their share in nation building?
I’m afraid that today, among the youth, he is better known as the father of Kris and the husband of Cory. While Kris and I are most honored by the association, I think it might be a trivialization of Ninoy’s life and death.
For Ninoy’s sacrifice to remain relevant, we must make sure the youth of the land can relate to how he lived – and what he died for.
But there is hope. Last January, we in the Benigno Aquino Foundation stumbled on the Youth alliance Philippines, a group of young professionals, men and women, who had come together in August last year to involve the youth in building a nation that every Filipino can be proud of. When I met them, they were educating voters about their rights, encouraging first time voters to register, and fielding volunteers from Namfrel and radio Veritas for the election quick count for the recently concluded May Elections.
I asked them then, “why are you doing this?” They responded that instead of complaining about how bad things are in our country, they decided to do something about it.
Young as they are, these kids have outdone their elders in their understanding of what people empowerment is really all about.
I was impressed with their civic consciousness. And through them, I realized the infinite potential of the youth as agents for the empowerment of our people.
We have also met with some of the best and brightest among the present generation: the Ayala Young Leaders Congress; the Metrobank Alumni Scholars for Service, Excellence and Transformation or ASSET; the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines Alumni; the Children’s Music Library Inc. – Junior Council Alumni Association; Tuklas Katutubo; the Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay – Pag-Asa Youth Association of the Philippines; and the Students’ Actions Vital to the Environment and Mother Earth or SAVE ME.
It has been most gratifying interacting with the youth. Their optimism, their excellence, and their commitment to our country give me much hope for the future.
But there are still thousands of other youth organizations, and millions of other young people out there whom we must reach.
Together with the youth groups present here today, I hope to visit schools and communities where our youth are gathered. I invite those of you who shared the struggle in the past to do the same. We must go to where they are and speak to them in their language. We must try to inspire them to lead useful lives and serve society as People Power People.
Thank you, my friends, for keeping the faith – in Ninoy’s sacrifice and in the force of People Power – through all these years.