August 21st is a celebrated as a National Holiday in the Philippines, commemorating the Death Anniversary of Benigno Simeon "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.
In addition to being the father of current Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III or Noynoy (PNoy) and the husband of former Philippine President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, Ninoy was a former Philippine Senator who formed the leadership of the opposition to the Regime of President Ferdinand Marcos alongside Gerry Roxas and Jovito Salonga.
When Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21, 1972, Aquino was one of the first to be arrested, tried before a Military Commission, and ultimately imprisoned at Fort Bonifacio on trumped-up charges of murder, illegal possession of firearms, and subversion. After 7 years in prison, much of which was spent in solitary confinement, Ninoy suffered two heart attacks and was discovered to have a blocked artery. Instead of submitting to a coronary bypass surgery in the hands of Philippine doctors, due to the fear of Marcos’ “duplicity,” Ninoy instead preferred to either have the operation done in the United States or return to his cell at Fort Bonifacio and die.
After getting operated on in Dallas, Texas, Aquino then went into self-exile and lived with his family in Newton, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. During these three years in the U.S., Ninoy traveled extensively across the country and delivered numerous lectures and speeches that were extremely critical of the Marcos government.
Then, despite knowing full well the dangers that awaited him, Ninoy decided to return to the Philippines to appeal for Marcos to step down from power and return the country to Democracy. He responded to warnings that he would either be thrown back into prison or killed by saying "if it's my fate to die by an assassin's bullet, so be it. But I cannot be petrified by inaction, or fear of assassination, and therefore stay in the side..."
His eerily prophetic declaration, "the Filipino is worth dying for," came to pass when he was assassinated on August 21, 1983. He was shot in the head at the Manila International Airport (MIA), mere minutes after returning to the Philippines. Much like Rizal’s execution in the hands of the Spanish colonizers in 1896, Ninoy’s assassination ultimately became the catalyst for the People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime, ushered his widow Cory into the presidency, and led to the rebirth of democracy in the Philippines.
In Ninoy’s honor, MIA has since been renamed into the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and his image now graces the 500 Peso bill. Beyond that, however, his lasting legacy is that of being willing to sacrifice everything that he had because of his love for the Filipino people.
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