[Y-SPACE] AWAKENING: A Tribute to PNoy
By Howard Tuanqui
Rude awakening. It could not have been more literal and accurate two days ago when I woke up to the devastating news of former President Noynoy Aquino's untimely demise. It would set the tone and mood of my day, and the days ahead.
Call me exaggerated or what, but it felt like my life was suddenly caught in a standstill. I haven't felt this much grief and bereavement from the loss of someone other than a family member or a loved one. It's like a part of me died with him. I haven't fully wrapped my head around the ugly truth of it, and it's even perplexed me, thus I haven't been able to muster all the right words for an homage befitting an honorable man. I've been attempting to come up with something, but it's been elusive.
Today, however, the former president was laid to his final resting place, and I thought it would be unforgivable if I don't whip up a tribute before the day ends, not that what I would say would matter to anybody, but it's more of a personal predicament that I would have if I fail to do so. I just hope I give justice to this.
In my lifetime of 25 years to date, there have been 5 presidents in the Philippines so far, from Ramos, to Estrada, then Arroyo, Aquino and now, Duterte. I was still an innocent baby boy and unknowing toddler during the Ramos administration, and a naive and unbothered lad during the short stint of Erap. We know what happened to him which catapulted GMA to the highest position in the land. GMA was president for a decade, and as I was growing older, I became more socially conscious and had more awareness. I started to slowly understand the landscape and dynamics of Philippine politics specifically the national scene because GMA was always in the news as hers was an administration marred by allegations of rampant and blatant corruption, election fraud, and heaps of other nasty stuff.
And then Cory died. And the overwhelming reaction of the nation and the Filipino people towards her death really surprised me as a teenager, and that's when the clamor for Noynoy Aquino to run for president in the next election became more resounding. When he heeded the call and finally declared his intent to vie for the presidency, that's when I realized how bad things were, that he had to throw his hat into the ring to put an end to a decade of despicable governance and leadership.
I guess it's safe to say that I had my political awakening because of PNoy and the brand of governance he promised and ultimately espoused during his tenure. I couldn't vote yet then, but I just found myself glued to the TV screen every time he would speak. I don't know about you, but I think PNoy (and all of his siblings), just like his mom and dad, had the gift of gab, and whenever he would open his mouth, it would compel every listener and demanded attention. As a simple teenager then, I was always in awe of the intelligent bloke.
Fast forward to when he had already won. It was during PNoy's incumbency as president that comprised the mid and conclusion of my teenage years, and the formative years of my adulthood. I was in a long period of self-discovery and a seemingly endless quest towards my purpose in life. It was also during these years that I was starting to find my way in the universe, and began dipping my fingers more and deeper in social issues. In hindsight, I am just grateful that during those crucial times, I had all the liberty to express agreement and dissent to whatever policies or issues were being subjected to public scrutiny.
Those were times when the exercise of our democratic rights was vibrant and thriving. Those were the days when discourse, debates and discussions were possible. All of those without fear of persecution, or crackdown on our rights and civil liberties. PNoy had my share of praises and misgivings, mostly due to some decisions and policies. Facts and figures do not lie, I will not even begin to enumerate his kilometric accomplishments and achievements as it is available in the public domain, and there is no denying that under his nose, the Philippine suddenly became the apple of the eye of the world, we became the center of attention, and this time, for all the good reasons.
It was during PNoy's presidency, I would say, that my fervor and foundations for social and political involvement became more solid and defined. Little did I know that it was like a boot camp for what would, later on, become a very nasty battlefield and bloody warzone.
When the dusk of his Presidency was drawing near, and threats of evil forces reclaiming the Philippines were surfacing, I knew I had to make a decision and do the right thing. It was then that I got myself deeply involved in the campaign, vigorously supporting and campaigning for his anointed candidates. And we all knew what happened.
When PNoy's term ended with flying colors and he stepped down, with the Philippines at a very much advanced position in the world stage than from where he picked up, I told myself that the president deserved some credit, more than what he was getting. I wanted to simply thank him for doing his best and utilizing everything at his disposal to make life better for the Filipinos. I tried reaching out to several people hoping to get some idea on how to reach him, thanks to Secretary Edwin Lacierda he looped me in.
And so I wrote PNoy a letter. Really, I just wanted to express my thoughts, but most importantly, convey my most profound gratitude. I wrote him on 31 August 2016, 2 months into stepping down and reverting to citizen Noy status, not thinking at all if he'd be able to read my letter, more so, receive a reply. To my mind, I just really felt I wanted to thank him, and he deserved it. He delivered more than what he promised. He was not infallible but he also was incorruptible. He was not insulated from flaws and mistakes, but he recognized the humanness of it all.
I almost forgot about it, until 5 months later, I received in my mailbox a dispatch from #25 Times Street, Quezon City. It was a correspondence from no less than PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO, responding to my letter. I was giddy and felt so lucky my letter made it to the desk of the former president, and he even replied! I thought it was very telling of how the gentleman valued feedback and the sentiments of his constituents, by actually hearing them out and making time to address them. In his response, he was as candid as can be, and the language was conspicuously intelligent and dignified.
I thought long and hard about this whether I would share or not our exchange, as this to me is a very private and intimate thing, but I also thought you all deserve to know the greatness of this man.
In his letter, he mentioned that he appreciated the candor of my writing and that it was heartening for him that what he and his administration had done was valued by someone as young as I.
But most importantly, as the situation of the Philippines now may tend to dishearten and demotivate us, myself included, I am reminded by what he said as he concluded his message. "I hope that you will remain optimistic about our nation, just as I continue to believe that THE BEST IS YET TO COME. You and your generation, after all, serve as positive proof to my personal belief that the Filipino is not only worth dying for and worth living for but is TRULY WORTH FIGHTING FOR."
And as I read again this letter from His Excellency, that I will surely treasure until it is my turn and time to die, I shall bear in mind, spirit, and heart these resounding words, to never give up on my country and fellow Filipinos, because while we may be faced with the most demoralizing and heartbreaking tribulations and challenges, it is and will always be an honor to fight for the Philippines and the Filipino people.
With this, I say again, for the last time, President Noy, my endless gratitude to you for your selfless service and devotion to the nation and the Filipino people. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. It is now our time to keep the legacy alive. Requiescat in Pace.
Howard B. Tuanqui is currently taking up his Juris Doctor program at the Bicol University College of Law and is also the pioneer and interim President of the BU College of Law Student Council. He graduated cum laude with a degree in AB Economics last 2016 at the same university. Moreover, he also serves as the Executive Vice President and the concurrent Governor for South Luzon of the Association of Law Students of the Philippines, Inc.
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