Delivered at the Santo Domingo Church
August 21, 1988
This is the first time that the anniversary of Ninoy’s death is commemorated on the day of the week when it occurred: Sunday. A day of quiet when people stay home. Ninoy had made it easier for his executioners.
It is also a day of prayer, when people go out to Mass.
It is, of course, a special day of sacrifice, o the outpouring of blood for the liberation of men – from sin two thousand years ago, from tyranny just five years ago. The formula has not changed: blood for freedom.
On this day, I wish to honor not just my husband Ninoy but his beloved friend who showed him the way.
Like many other Filipinos, he knew Him since childhood from the respectful distance of formal worship. That distance grew with every increase in Ninoy’s fame, power and responsibilities, all of which ended abruptly with Martial Law. And that was when their friendship began to flower.
Ninoy had few visitors in prison. It was not only the fears of his friends but also the restrictions of his captors that kept Ninoy mostly alone in those years. I, the children, his mother, brothers and sisters, the handful of lawyers who remained faithful, gave him what comfort and companionship could. There was, however, one regular visitor to Ninoy’s cell, that neither guards nor high walls could keep our, once Ninoy had let him in. That friend came day after day, night after night, more faithful than any other.
In the solitude of his cell, Ninoy enjoyed His companionship most and made up for the time he had lost away from Him. But deeper friendship was still to come.
Ninoy’s captors, seeking to break his defiance, threw him into what was virtually a box. But unknown to them, his friend had slipped in with him. And there, in the utmost solitude and utter darkness of despair, Ninoy saw more vividly than in the full light of his days of freedom the true face of his friend and savior.
“He stood me face to face with myself,” Ninoy later wrote, “and forced me to look at my emptiness and nothingness, and then helped me to discover Him who has never really left my side; but because pride shielded my eyes, and lust for earthly and temporal power, honor and joust drugged my mind, I failed to notice Him.”
In that moment of recognition, friendship turned to the love that never left Ninoy. Together they embarked upon that long journey which ended on this day of the week, five years ago. He would face even more dangers and difficulties, and suffering worse than any he had endured in Laur, but this time Ninoy had a strength beyond his own. He was not alone. Ninoy liked to quote St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians to describe his new self-assurance: “For the sake of Christ, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Yet Ninoy thought he saw a shortcoming in his friend, for Christ had not revealed to him despite his pleadings, the way by which he, Ninoy, could save his country. But there was still a lot of time for them to spend together, and know more about each other. In the seven more years of imprisonment, and the three of exile, the way was shown to Ninoy. Two thousand years ago, his friend has shown the way to bring peace, reconciliation and salvation for all men – through His death. For these things can only be had as gifts that all save the giver can enjoy. They had to be paid for in blood. As it is written, “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
Five years ago today, Ninoy arrived in Manila.
A shot rang out. A light went out in August, but a conflagration was lit.
According to the experts, when a bullt strikes you in the back of the head, the tendency is for the head to jerk back. So, the last thing that Ninoy saw, before his face slammed on the tarmac and the blood began to form in a pool around his head, was the sky, and the face of his friend who had come to take him home.
The slogan that came from that event was “Ninoy, hindi ka nag-iisa.” The words were like a balm on a wound – for his family. But Ninoy was never alone.
Nor are we. Certainly not in the work Ninoy started, and which we must complete.
I know his friend watches now over every Filipino, awaiting the moment of recognition on his or her part of the larger duties to God, country and fellow man that will finally rescue us from the prison of greed and ambition.
I am certain He walks in our halls and hinterlands, offering love and faith to the rebels, so that one day the destructive courage of their wrong convictions may turn into the constructive energy and commitment without which we cannot restore this nation.
He walks with the poor and meek, seeking to comfort their spirits and give them the strength to stand for their rights and struggle on to the life of abundance on this earth that is meant to be their inheritance.
He marches with our soldiers, giving them courage in the fight and faith in their cause, assuring victory and protection to the righteous, merciful and just.
He walks with our wealthy and powerful, seeking to temper pride with humility, lest it presage their fall, and riches with generosity; and to instill a sense of responsibility for the country and people that create their wealth.
He walks with the corrupt, the libelers, the influence peddlers, the name-droppers, to temper their destructiveness and turn them again towards the exalted purposes for which God placed us on earth.
He walks even with those whose ambition has blinded them to the plight of their country, and its need for a measure of peace in which to heal and grow strong again.
He walks even with those who have destroyed the unity that was the flower that grew from Ninoy’s grave, and became the first casualty after his death.
The unity that poured millions into the streets for his funeral, and again to commemorate the first anniversary of his death, was broken by the second anniversary.
By a miracle, that unity was forged again and held up through the snap election and the EDSA Revolution so that we could say to Ninoy, on the third anniversary of his death, “Thus have we used your sacrifice: We have created a nation that is free again and proud as it has never been, the envy of all the world, and standing on the threshold of progress.”
Yet, exactly a week after the fourth anniversary, the unity that gave this nation the strength to recover its freedom had been lost forever in the brutal coup attempt of August 28. We had meant to commemorate that anniversary again with an offering to his memory of all that we had accomplished together: complete democracy, the restoration of the Congress in which he had taken the greatest pride, the first clear signs of a revived economy. We were reduced to signing instead the dirge of national unity.
Since then we have tried to build a less encompassing unity of those whose commitments have never wavered to God and country and democracy.
That unity is again being tested by those who seek to further reduce it. Who seek to undo the progress we have painfully made, and set this nation back again upon the downward course from which you and I had rescued it.
Every step we have taken towards progress has been challenged, particularly at this time of the year, by those determined to see this nation fail of its destiny. You and I shall not let it.
We will take this nation as far towards recovery and progress as God, duty and the people’s support will let me.
I shall not relent, I shall not rest, for there are too many miles to go to even think of sleeping. Nothing and no one will deflect me from this task. For my mandate is with this nation; not with its enemies. My covenant is with the Constitution, Our contract is with God. Our pledge was to Ninoy.