Dear PNoy, happy birthday!

Ateneo sets up the Benigno Simeon Aquino III Scholarship Endowment. Friends remember a good man now gone

PNoy with PH cheerleading team that won silver in Florida competition, a selfie taken by Didi Lopa

Dear Noy,

Tomorrow, February 8, is your first birthday since you passed away June 24, a departure that sprang a surprise on all of us. You were gone in the dead of night, and we just woke up to the news. We don’t want to linger on the details of that day and soon after, but only on the memory that people, even during a pandemic, queued up at the Church of the Gesu at Ateneo and stepped out on the streets to wave your cortege goodbye on the way to Manila Memorial, with shouts of “Salamat PNoy.”

It is the habits that your friends enjoyed with you which we now continue, albeit involuntarily—like listening to the songs you loved and which were put on the Spotify PNoy Playlist by your former staff; people bringing chicharon, Coke to your site at Manila Memorial; friends asking now and then about Apollo (he’s doing well and is now based in Tarlac)— so many inconsequential things that will not bring you back anyway but nonetheless now seem consequential. They are signs of the painfully slow recognition of your death. A good friend, a good man now gone.

Apollo, PNoy’s German Shepherd, at Manila Memorial Park as PNoy was being laid to rest

In a state called heaven, you must be wanting updates from our space “run like hell by Filipinos” (to quote Manolo’s forebearer). The circus has come to town.

But first, the good news: The Ateneo de Manila University has established a scholarship endowment in your name, the Benigno Simeon Aquino III Scholarship Endowment for the Loyola Schools.

According to the Ateneo website, “The Ateneo de Manila University is deeply honored to have hosted the final homecoming of its distinguished alumnus….and to help keep his memory alive and acknowledge the efforts to transform our nation and elevate its status, has decided to establish a scholarship endowment in his name.

“President Noynoy has always shown compassion for the plight of the masses and had their best interest in mind through programs directed at poverty alleviation and improvement of the lives of the people. The Benigno Simeon Aquino III Scholarship Endowment for the Loyola Schools will thus be Ateneo’s response to continue what he has started by providing financial assistance to deserving students to allow them to study in his alma mater and hopefully become leaders and catalysts in improving the nation.”

In recent years, democracy has been trying to salvage its voice, not in the mainstream media, but in social media and in chat groups. Right before he passed away this year, former diplomat and businessman Bobby Romulo wrote for people to pass around in their chat groups: “….In a span of five years, he has reversed the gains that the Aquino Presidency has bequeathed him—a robust economy, a healthy balance sheet, shrinking poverty levels, the confidence of foreign investors, international credit rating agencies and corruption ranking institutions, and the respect of other countries…. I strongly suggest that you highlight Aquino legacies to your family, friends, and acquaintances….Do not put priority on the ‘winnability’ of a candidate but rather on someone who will bring back competence, dignity, civility and true love of country and her people. Together we can make that candidate winnable….”

Eminent business leader Ramon del Rosario, Jr. wrote what you had been harping on yourself, even in the presence of Pope Francis himself on his visit here, when you decried the “Pajero bishops”: “….Pope Francis has told us Catholics that we should meddle in politics to push for what is good. Our leading bishops have told us that what we face are not issues of partisan politics, but of basic moral questions of good and evil, truth versus lies, of genuine public servants wishing to uplift the lives of our people against a phalanx of liars, plunderers, tax evaders, and traitors who would trade off our national patrimony for greed and personal wealth. Moreover, this fight against fake news and revisionism, for facts, science, and the truth, goes beyond one election and is ultimately a struggle over the soul of our people and nation.”

Ironically, in death, your voice reverberates.

Even given the turn of events, you wouldn’t have lost patience, you would have been disheartened yet in the long run, your tenacity and sense of mission would have carried you through—“slow by slow,” you loved to say, transliterating Tagalog to English, about how democracy worked. People hardly knew how you devoted a great deal of your leadership trying to mobilize factions into a workable whole; how you kept saying that even as unity was elusive, fairness and justice were a core tenet of democracy. You always had a copy of the Constitution by your side.

Perhaps at the expense of your health, you worked to prove that constitutional democracy, no matter how arduous, could work—and did make the Philippines the Rising Tiger of Asia.

Towards the end, you might have begrudgingly realized that you, as people said, “hindi nagbuhat ng bangko,” giving the history revisionists the opportunity not only to underrate your administration’s gains but also to twist history—an indoctrination that has been going on since after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, apparently. So are the 2022 elections nothing but about the best marketing campaign?

The nation is so polarized, the politics adding toxicity to an environment that’s already weighed down by the virus—in short your deep concern then about the growing class divide is so well founded now. Your country is heavily trolled, and there are those who want to migrate, precisely what you hoped wouldn’t happen so that you worked hard for transformative governance.

In his homily in the virtual Mass on your birthday Tuesday, Fr. Jett Villarin dwelt on the mark of your achievements and called on the people not to let the anti-democracy forces “steal your conscience….steal your vote.”

But enough of downers on your birthday. We cannot have with you your favorite Chinese, Japanese dishes and steak today, but here are friends greeting you anyway (unedited, no filter), even as they try to cope with your absence.

These former staff and friends say what they miss most about you:


PNoy with Lacierda and Cabinet members during APEC 2015


PNoy Cabinet meeting


Cabinet intercolor intramural

What I missed most about the President are his admonitions which I call “Aquinomantics.”
Those of us who attended his meetings regularly will likewise miss them. Here are some of them:
a. In the early days of the administration, when we were up against opposition on some decisions of the President that were meant to better the lives of our countrymen, he would say, “We are not here to preserve the status quo, we are here to break rice bowls.” That meant the he would not tolerate the old and usual ways of governance.
b. When we discussed pending projects and the President felt that some projects were taking longer in the drawing board, he would remind the people that “perfect is the enemy of good,” that is, don’t wait for the plan to be perfect, there is never one anyway.
c. In other instances, when a proposal couched in motherhood statement was presented to him, he would immediately ask the question: “How do you operationalize it?” That was almost always a signal that PNoy thought the presenter was bluffing.
In fact, when I was asked how to prepare when presenting before the president, I would always tell them don’t give motherhood statements, he hated that and considered that a waste of time.
d. When a suggestion is made that seemed improbable but could work for the benefit of the people, instead of shooting it down immediately when others would dismiss it, he would exclaim: “Bakit hindi?” On occasion, he saw a silver lining where others didn’t.

e. Finally, after he found a presentation insufficient, he would always remind everyone that “the correct identification of a problem leads to the correct identification of the solution.” It led to better exposition of problems and a more exhaustive discussion of solutions.

These are only some of his unforgettable remarks and for us who regularly attended his meetings, those remarks reminded us of his high degree of preparedness and undivided attention in each policy meeting we had. Whether in small group meetings or Cabinet level meetings, presenting before the President was akin to a thesis defense. Ultimately, it was the country that was better for it. —Edwin Lacierda

JC Casimiro with PNoy

“Sir, happy birthday, your favorite Trijntje Oosterhuis has come out with a new album called Everchanging Times. I imagine you would have loved it.” I do miss his counsel, his stories every time we would call or I would visit, the new albums or songs discovered and auditioned, and the chance to share with him where I am now in my audiophile journey, one he influenced me into.— JC Casimiro

Na miss ko syempre yung tawag nyang sexy. Without fail, yung birthday greetings nya sa akin—and would ask Security and staff nya sa Times to greet me, mga utos nya pag Christmas kung anong food na pwede nya ihanda, and para magpakita ka Christmas sa kanya, waive na lang ba daw gift nyaRochelle Ahorro

Susan Reyes (second from left), Rochelle Ahorro, Rey Marfil (far left) and Sonny Coloma with PNoy at Manila Memorial Park during the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino

Dear Sir, I still have to fully absorb that you have gone ahead so soon. Yet, you remain with us in many ways because you have left an impeccable legacy of what a good President of the Philippines should be … honest, clean and incorruptible, very present yet self-effacing, intelligent, hardworking and above all, DECENT. You have given us Filipino people your all, perhaps at the expense of your own health, and this we will never forget. Thank you, Sir — Susan Reyes

During a break from pictorial in 2010 presidential campaign, PNoy dancing with his grandson Carlo and niece Andrea

Since Taglish ang language of conversation namin ni  Noy (sa text lang minsan nagiging English), please allow me to share my message accordingly: NOYITS , ikaw lang tumatawag sa akin ng “Twice over” dahil mag kamag-anak tayo sa Kapampangan side at  naging asawa pa ng pinsan mong si Rapa. Ikaw lang din ang tumatawag sa akin ng MATINDI instead of my real name Matilde. Sabi mo dahil ito sa dami nang natamo mong bugbog sa “do the bump” ko pagnagsasayawan at nagkakasiyahan na tayo sa mga party. Kaya mo siguro ako  biglang sinasayaw ng swing, kahit hindi ako marunong mag swing alam ko gusto mo lang talaga sumayaw.  Hindi ko din malilimutan na parati kang  present pag may birthday celebration ako kahit na same day ng death anniversary ng daddy mo.  Kaya pinaninindigan ko na ako ang favorite cousin-in-law mo. Sana? Dapat? Walang magrereklamo o tututol! Kaya naman ginawa na rin kitang ninong ni Carlo kahit hindi ka pa masyadong sikat noon (joke).

Naitago ko pa pala lahat ng  cassette tapes na ginawa mo para sa akin mula nuon nasa Tarlac ka pa nakatira.  Every weekend naghihintay na ako kung ano ang nabuo mong selection ng mga kanta na alam na alam mong type ko.

Isa pang hindi ko talaga makalilimutan ay yung panahon na kumakandidato ka para sa Senado.  Madalas nuon dumadaan ka sa PowerPlant sa Rockwell para mag billiards na sabi mo stress reliever mo.  Binigyan mo pa nga ako ng billiard stick para makapag practise. Hindi mo lang siguro masabi na hindi ako magaling.  There was one time dumaan ka at inimbita mo akong manuod ng sine dahil pagod na pagod ka na sa pangangampanya. Pinapili kita kung anong gusto mong panuorin para nga maka relax ka ng konti. Pero bakit naman yung 300 ang pinili mo na saksakan ng bloody at puno ng violence? Tapos tinulugan mo lang at sinabayan mo pa ng hilik.
Nakakamiss din talaga ang mga “Wala Lang” kuwentuhan sessions na paulit-ulit  lang namang kuwentuhan ng mga nakatatawang pangyayari sa inyo ni Rapa at ng mga kapatid niya nuong lumalaki kayo.

Nakakamiss din yung mga palitan natin ng mga mga paborito nating kinakain.  Isa na dito ay yung homemade buko-lychee sherbet na binibili sa tapat ng isang pawnshop sa Parañaque. Gustung gusto mong ikuwento sa iba kung paano binibili yun: Na dahil masikip yung daanan ang kasunduan sa nagbebenta ay kakatuk lang sa pinto ang nagtitinda at sasabihin “Kayo ba bibili ng sherbet?” Tinawag mo na tuloy itong “Shabu sherbet” dahil parang patago ang transaction. Of course, maliban dito proud din ako na favorite mo yung home-made burger ko. Nag reklamo ka pa nga na naiba yung lasa dahil parang umanghang. Ayun pala sabi mo si Yolly ang salarin dahil maanghang yung ketsup na nilagay niya!

Miss na miss kita talaga Noy.  Two days before ka nag goodbye tandang-tanda ko na ang saya-saya mo dahil nabalita ko sa iyo na nakahanap ako ng shopper sa Hongkong na puede bumili ng sigarilyo at ng paborito mong maalat na ham, more popularly known as Jinhua ham. Kuwento ni Yolly nung nagkita kami sa wake mo na abalang-abala ka at maya’t-mayang pinapaalala mo sa kaniya na ipadala sa akin yung picture ng cigarette box kasi madalas nagpapalit ng packaging at baka magkamali kami nang bili. Nag research ka pa kung saan mabibili ang ham. Haay naku, mabuti naman napasaya kita kahit kaunti sa mga last days mo dito sa mundo. Pero siguro sabi ng Diyos, makuha na nga ito si Noy bago pa madagdagan ng usok at nicotine itong lungs niya!

Nakakamiss!!! Lalo na sa panahong iyo. Sabi mo walang iwanan kaya pakibantayan naman kami from heaven! Maraming salamat para sa lahat, Igno! —Didi Lopa

Christmas 2018, their last Christmas with PNoy, counterclockwise, from bottom left, Paul Cabral, the author, Marides Almendras, Margie Mercado, Tet Naguiat

I went there (Manila Memorial) last January 25 because it was Tita Cory’s birthday…. inayos ko pa yung tarpaulin ni Sir kasi pilipit na. Miss him so.—Paul Cabral

I miss eating with him. I love his potato chips and his favorite Chinese food.—Marides Almendras

That’s true. I miss him lalo not that I’m running. He used to ask me how’s the campaign and mag advise pa siya on what to do. I miss listening to his favorite songs in his music room which he loved to do. —Tet Naguiat

PNoy with Kim Henares and shooting club

PNoy and his Saturday shooting club

It has already been almost eight months since sir, PNOY, left us to be with the Lord and his parents, but up to now, it is really hard to believe that he is no longer around to tease me; he is no longer around to discuss things with— from the trivial to the serious matters affecting our nation.  I miss talking to him about trivial matters—the merit of guns that are available in the market, where to eat dinner after our weekly shooting and what food to order, the merit of various breed of dogs, and which one should he breed.  I miss talking to him and asking him about his views about what is happening to our country at any given time.  I miss one of the very rare Filipinos who truly loved  our country and expressed his love through his sacrifices and actions.

What I do not miss is the feeling I have that he was worried about the country and the people he dedicated his life to.  Although he did not at any time express any expectation of being thanked or recognized, I think deep down he was only human to expect some thanks—”I have this feeling that he was affected that some people not only do not seem to appreciate what he has done, but also  made him feel that he has not done anything to improve our country.”   Although I would have liked to have him around to talk to, to go out to dinner with, to go shooting with, I am glad that he is at peace now, and that the burden of feeling responsible for the wellbeing of a nation has been lifted from him.— Kim Henares

During one of his last days in office, PNoy with Nikko Dizon

For many of us the pain of losing you is still fresh. But we console ourselves with the thought that you are now with your dad and mom. We also know that you will continue looking after the Filipino people; that alone makes us feel that we will be okay, no matter what. Thank you for all the wonderful memories. You will live in our hearts forever. Happy birthday in heaven, Sir!—Nikko Dizon

About author


After devoting more than 30 years to daily newspaper editing (as Lifestyle editor) and a decade to magazine publishing (as editorial director and general manager), she now wants to focus on writing—she hopes.

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