Thursday, August 6, 2009

From Ninoy to Ballsy

I hope this is not going to intrude into the quiet private life of Maria Elena Aquino Cruz, the eldest daughter of Ninoy and Cory, but in these moments of national grief, I find it appropriate to quote excerpts from a poignant letter written by a father to his eldest daughter.

The letter was written while Ninoy was incarcerated in Fort Bonifacio, one of many the prolific hero wrote in his lifetime. Ninoy would pound on his typewriter so fast, “dut-dot style” words pouring from mind and heart straight into a typewriter. I treasure one particular letter written to me from Boston, but that is not apropos for the occasion of our nation’s grief at the passing into eternity of President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.

“My dearest Ballsy,

“I write you this letter with tears in my eyes and as if steel fingers are
crushing my heart because I wanted so much to be with you as you celebrate
your legal emancipation. Now that you have come of age, my love, a voice
tells me that I am no longer young and suddenly, I feel old.

“An old poet gave this advice very long ago “when you are sad, remember the
roses will bloom in December.” I want to send you bouquet of roses, big red
roses from my dreamland garden. Unfortunately for the present, my roses are
not in bloom, in fact they have dropped all their petals and only the thorns
are left to keep me company. I do think it is fitting to send you a thicket
of thorns on this memorable day!

“I am very proud of you because you have inherited all the best traits of
your mother. You are sensible, responsible, even-tempered and sincere with
the least pretenses and affection, which vehemently detest in a woman. I am
sure like your mother, you will possess that rare brand of silent courage
and that combination of fidelity and fortitude that will be the life vest of
your man in the tragic moments of his life.” (Ballsy married a fine gentleman, Eldon Cruz, in the aftermath of the tragedy that befell the family with Ninoy’s death. and together they have sired very fine children, living quiet and dignified lives away from all the glare of publicity, and never for one moment, even during Cory’s presidency, did they partake of the pelf and privileges of power).

“During my lonely hours of solitary confinement in FortMagsaysay, Laur, Nueva
Ecija last March and April with nothing else to do but pray and daydream,
with only my fond memories to keep me company, I planned a weekend barrio
fiesta for you in Tarlac for your 18th birthday. I fooled myself into
believing that my ordeal would end with the fiscal year. I planned to invite
all your classmates and friends and their families for the weekend.

“The schedule called for an early departure by bus from Manila and the first
stop will be Concepcion, where lunch will be served by the pool. And after
lunch, you were to visit the Santa Rita Elementary School to distribute
cookies and ice cream to the children of that public school where you were
first enrolled.

“I guess sheer nostalgia prompted me to include Santa Rita. We were only
three then: Mommie, you and I. Those were the days of happy memories, little
responsibilities, tremendous freedom, a great future ahead and capped by a
fulfilment of love. You are the first fruit of our union, the first proof
of our love and the first seal of our affections.

“From Concepcion we were to proceed to Luisita for the barrio fiesta. I
intended to invite a friend who could roast an entire cow succulently.
Swimming, pelota, dancing and eating would have been the order of the day.

“Sunday morning was reserved for a trip around the Hacienda and the mill and
maybe golf for some of the parents and later a picnic-lunch on Uncle Tony’s
Island. Return to Manila after lunch. (So very Ninoy. Every detail had to be pat).
I am afraid this will have to remain as one of the many dreams I had in Laur.

“Our future has suddenly become uncertain and our fate unknown. I am even now
beginning to doubt whether I’ll ever be able to return to you and the
family. Hence, I would like to ask you these special favors.

“Love your mother, whose love for you, you will never be able to match. She
is not the greatest mother in the world, she is your sincerest friend.

“Take care of your younger sisters and brother and lavish them with the love
and care I would like to continue giving them but am unable to do so.

“Help Noy-noy along and pray hard that he will grow to be a real, responsible
man who in later years will protect you all.

“You are the model for your three younger sisters. Your responsibility is
therefore great. Please endeavor to live up to our highest expectations. Be
more tolerant to Pinky, more accessible to Viel, our little genius-princess,
and more charitable to Krissy, our baby doll, and make up for my neglect.

“Finally, forgive me, my love, for not having been an ideal, good and
thoughtful father to you all as I pursued public office. I had hopes and
high resolve of making up, but I am afraid my destiny will not oblige.

“I seal this letter with a drop of tear and a prayer in my heart, that
somehow, somewhere we shall meet again and I will finally be able to make up
for all my lapses, in the kingdom where justice reigns supreme and love is

“I love you,


* * *

A personal tragedy struck during the wake of Tita Cory. Ariel Digma of the Kyodo News Agency was returning to his home in General Trias, Cavite, in the early hours of Monday, August 3. He was driving an old Starex van after covering the wake of the beloved president in Greenhills, when a road accident in Bacoor altered what could have been a more brilliant career for this young journalist.

Monday morning, while Cory’s mortal remains were being transferred to Manila, I got a text message from a common friend, informing me that Ariel was fighting for his life in a government hospital. Then in the early hours of Tuesday, he was gone.

Ariel had written for Malaya and the Manila Times. When the latter was sold by the Gokongwei’s in the wake of President Erap’s ire for a picture my friend Ermin Garcia placed in the front page, I immediately got him into my staff at the Philippine Tourism Authority. I had known him when he was covering the Senate, and was impressed by his dedication to craft, his hard-working traits, and above all, his personal integrity. (Ariel created a furor when he returned an envelope of cash that was handed out to him and colleagues by a PR man, courtesy of a well-known politician).

When I walked out one “stormy” Malacanang evening (November 2, 2000) to be exact, when the crisis spawned by Chavit Singson’s revelations had rocked the government, it was partly because Ariel Digma was fighting for his life at the PGH, and needed blood transfusions because of dengue. The other reason was because I had decided to resign from the Estrada government. Ariel got out of that life crisis in time, and later went back to his journalistic career, this time as a foreign correspondent.

We have kept in touch periodically and he helped arrange meetings with the FOCAP for the man I had helped in 2001 when he ran for the Senate, and then in 2004 when he sought the presidency of the land. Like me and others in media, dear friends like Nixon Kua and Raymond Burgos, Ariel was a Ping Lacson believer. Through all these years of Gloria’s bad governance, Ariel could always be counted upon to spread the word for good government.

When Rey Marfil of Abante sent me the text message informing me of the sad news of Ariel’s demise early Tuesday morning, as I was preparing to go to the Manila Cathedral, I could only respond to him, “Diyos ko po! Bakit ba ang mga mababait ang siyang kinukuha ng Panginoon?”

My deepest sympathies go to his wife Grace and his parents. Ariel’s mortal remains, for the information of his many friends, lies in state at the Alvarez Funeral Home in Cavite City until Monday, 10 August, when he shall be interred in Noveleta.

Fare thee well, friend Ariel. Cover Ninoy and Cory up in heaven. And Tito Celing Fernan as well. I am sorry that you will not be with us when we as a people finally redeem this country from its state so benighted. But surely, when such time comes, you will be first to report to the Good Lord.


s1ngl3 m0m said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
s1ngl3 m0m said...

mr. banayo, sana po eh ipagpaumanhin ninyo ang ilalagay ko dito sa comment page ninyo. Marami pong nagbabasa ng blog ninyo kaya dito ko napili na iwanan ang aking saloobin.

Gusto ko rin ho ipaalam sa inyo na napaka ganda ng magkakasulat ninyo ng inyong pag alala kay pangulong Cory. Ako man ay nakilala siya ng personal at 4 na beses na nayakap siya dahil simula ng taong 1983 hangang 1986.

mabuhay po kayo!

Sana may makabasa ng comment ko na ito. sana makarating kita sen roxas at sen villar na instead gastusin nila ang milyon milyon nilang salapi sa mga political campaign ads nila eh mag set aside sila ng funds para sa mga batang lumalapit sa kanila for scholarships. My mother wrote Sen. Roxas a letter asking for help para sa kapatid ko. Pero ang sagot ng office nya eh wala silang budget para sa mga ganung bagay. Sa facebook nakausap ko si Sen Roxas at nagsabi sya na he will see what he can do. After 2 months nag reply ang Gerry Roxas Foundation via email stating the same thing.. walang pera para sa edukasyon ang tangapan nila. nakakalungkot na isipin na mas pipiliin nilang gumastos nga 50-100million para sa commercial na pagpapapogi kesa tumulong sa bata na kinabukasan ng bayan. If you guys wanna see the transcript of the letter and the reply you can visit my blog