Filipino Heroism and the iamninoy Campaign
Speech delivered at the Symposium on Filipino Heroism
Marilen Gaerlan Conservatory, De La Salle University
November 27, 2008
Good afternoon, my dear young heroes. Thank you, De La Salle University, for honoring Ninoy with this week-long celebration, which you have aligned with the “iamninoy” campaign.
We in the Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation have always wanted to reach out to the Filipino youth who know very little about Ninoy’s life and legacy outside of what they read in text books or occasional feature articles. When we asked our friends in McCann Erickson to help us in this regard, their young creative team came up with the “iamninoy” campaign that was launched in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Ninoy’s assassination last August 21.
The response to the campaign has truly been heartwarming and I am overjoyed that many of you have embraced it as your own. I am grateful that Filipinos of your age continue to find inspiration in Ninoy and what he has done for our country.
Perhaps it is only fitting that we celebrate Ninoy’s 76th birthday today with this Symposium on Filipino Heroism. And I wish to commend the DLSU Theology and Religious Education Department, the Lasallian Pastoral Office, and your Student Council for embarking on this initiative at a critical juncture in our history.
I understand that this symposium forms part of your school’s Kapihan para sa Malayang Lasalyano (Kamalayan) series, designed to tackle issues that affect the nation and, thereby, to help mold more informed and discerning students who can be active agents of social transformation. This reflects the healthy mix of relevance and youthful energy that officials like Brother Armin and Brother Bernie bring to your University. It also reflects the keen sense of nationalism of your student leaders, who are living up to the proud tradition of great La Sallians like Senators Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada.
As the Aquino Foundation makes the rounds of schools which want to take part in the “iamninoy” campaign, it gives us great relief that there seems to be a strong undercurrent of concern for our nation among young Filipinos. I often wonder what the majority of the present generation of students feels about what’s going on in our country and the rest of the world. Do you bother to read the papers or to track the news on TV or the internet? Which national or global issues surface somehow in your blogs, e-groups, Multiply or Facebook exchanges, and text and instant messages? What kind of leaders are you looking for?
It’s possible that many of you do not bother to speak out because you might feel that your voice wouldn’t be heard anyway. It’s possible that many of you feel misunderstood or underappreciated. If that is how you feel, let me tell you this: you are important—now more than ever before.
Bear in mind that Ninoy set out on his life’s quest at a very young age. At 17, he was covering the Korean War for the Manila Times. By age 35, he was elected the youngest Senator of the Republic. En route, he quickly piled up experience as journalist, farm manager, town mayor, provincial vice-governor, governor, and special assistant to three Philippine Presidents—not to mention husband and father of five children.
Even after gaining prominence as a national figure, Ninoy looked upon the youth as his most important constituency. Drawing from his own experience, he knew in his heart that young people, by and large, were motivated by the purest of intentions, the noblest of ideals, and the clearest of visions. Beyond being idealistic and energetic by nature, the youth are not easily sidetracked by political or financial distractions, nor are most of them burdened by the pressures of raising a family or of running a business. When a critical mass of young people takes on a cause, you can be sure that change on a dramatic scale is under way. You only have to look at the recent Presidential elections in the United States—and its unfolding aftermath—to validate this fact.
Often stereotyped as rebels without a cause, young men and women nowadays tend to be seen more in terms of the norms they want to break in modes of social interaction, study, communication, dress and self-expression. They seem to inhabit a separate universe, characterized by cellphones, iPods, computers, brand icons, and distinct places to “chill” in. Yet, research studies on the youth, such as those regularly conducted by McCann, reveal that beneath the surface, many young Filipinos long to do good for society—they just don’t know exactly how best to contribute in their own way.
I am happy that the “iamninoy” campaign has helped some of you define your own individual expressions of heroism. I hope that this symposium will help deepen your understanding of—and commitment to—your unique calling as Filipinos with talents and resources that can be harnessed to improve the quality of life of our less fortunate countrymen.
None of you can ever know for certain what the future holds in terms of concrete ways by which each of you can make a real difference in the lives of our people. Ninoy’s ultimate dream was to die for his country, but it took a cabal of assassins to help him realize his destiny. Before late 1985, I did not entertain the faintest notion that I would ever run for—much less become—President, yet circumstances inexorably led me down that path. And, when the time came, I could not shirk from the challenge. Looking back, I can only wonder where I got the guts to go head-to head against Marcos and his vaunted political guile and machinery.
I guess the moral of the story is simply this: Be not afraid to do something you believe in. Be true to yourselves and to your faith, and God will do the rest. Your presence in this great University means that you are all gifted in some way and that each of you has something to offer our nation and our people. Just as my own grandchildren amaze me with their prowess and little acts of kindness everyday, you can all stand out as heroes in your own right. How? Well, that is not for me to say but for you to find out for yourselves.
I am here to listen and to learn from all of you. Surprise me. Our nation could certainly use the freshness of your ideas and the inexhaustibility of your energy. I can think of no better gift for Ninoy on his birthday.
Animo La Salle! Mabuhay ang mga kabataang Pilipinong nagmamahal sa ating bayan! Maraming, maraming salamat po.