Before I Forget

Kiko Aquino Dee: ‘No sense to worry about not being good enough for the task. No one is’

Ninoy's grandson faces the enormity of what lies ahead—with humble candor

1977 invitation for Ninoy Aquino to South Korea for the memorial of Korea War correspondents. As a 17-year-old, Aquino covered the Korean war.

This is the message of Kiko Aquino Dee, one of Ninoy Aquino’s eight grandchildren, given to mark his lolo’s 90th birth anniversary Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

What follows the message is a brief Q/A with Dee, a teacher, with

Good day, and thank you for joining us to celebrate Lolo Ninoy’s 90th birthday. I’m Kiko, one of his eight grandchildren.

I wish I could share with you some personal story about our Lolo, but sadly, none of us grandchildren ever got to know him personally. Instead, we learn about him from the stories of our parents, Tito Noy, Lola Cory, and also like most Filipinos, we also learn about him from our school teachers, public historians, and even Google. This is why days like Lolo Ninoy’s birthday and death anniversary can sometimes make me feel insecure: I’m his grandkid, but there’s still so much I don’t know about him.

So when I learned this year that there were boxes upon boxes of Lolo Ninoy’s old things that needed sorting, I leapt at the opportunity to get to know him better. Let me share just one of the things I found. Before his political career, Lolo covered the Korean War as a newspaper correspondent. As the story goes, the older reporters were hesitant to go because they had families to provide for. At 17, Lolo had no such worry. Ninoy the teenager probably never imagined though that about a quarter century later, in 1977, he would receive an invitation to fly to South Korea to attend a memorial for Korean War correspondents, and he would receive the letter at his official address: a cell in Fort Bonifacio.

That day, I wondered what the senders of that invitation had thought about one of their honorees being in prison. Then, with some help from Google, I realized that in 1977, South Korea was in the middle of its own struggle against dictatorship. In those days, the Philippines was not alone in its fight for democracy, nor is it alone today. From the grave, Lolo Ninoy still has many lessons to teach.

This past year, people have been asking our family what the plan is to fight the disinformation about Lolo Ninoy, Lola Cory, Tito Noy, and our country’s shared story of democracy. It’s an enormous question, but for me, the first step involves admitting my own ignorance about their stories, about our country’s story, and encountering it through the things that they’ve left behind. The materials that we in the Ninoy and Cory Aquino Foundation are working through—to be honest, they’re covered in dust from the previous millennium, but when they’re presentable, we’re really, really excited to share them with you, so that we can all learn from them.

Today is Lolo Ninoy’s 90th birthday. Next year will be his 40th death anniversary. In days that follow, may we work to do justice to his memory.

Thank you and good day!

Q/A with

How much of a challenge is it to cascade to today’s generation the struggle for democracy, of Ninoy Aquino and his generation? 

It’s a challenge since I’m pretty social-media illiterate by millennial standards. The last time I tweeted was in 2010; I  opened my Facebook account in 2011, and I never opened an Instagram or TikTok account. Since I’ve been teaching for the last seven years, I’m used to having a captive audience and an hour to develop a point, so I’m still learning how to condense an idea into a few seconds while still being attention-grabbing.

On top of that, we grandchildren were taught to just be humble and grateful when people say nice things about Lolo Ninoy, so we’re just learning now how to persuade people to take a look at the things he has done.

Do you find it hard? Is it because today’s generations (millennials and younger)—or your generation—are pampered for choices and have so much going on?

 Maybe this is just me, but I think people my age and younger trying to navigate all the information out there are trying to balance two things. On one hand, we want to be honest and have integrity, but on the other hand, we know that polarization is bad. When we encounter something that runs counter to what we believe to be true, should we reject it outright? If we do, does that mean we’re making polarization worse by staying in our echo chambers? Or should we try to listen and make sense of it? If we do, does that mean that we’re making ourselves more vulnerable to misinformation? Finding a way to tell our story in that environment is a big puzzle.

Do you get a feeling of helplessness? So what do you do?

 Strangely, the enormity of the task is comforting. I can be very self-conscious about my intelligence and competence, but when I think about the problem of misinformation, it’s so huge that I think it would stump even the most brilliant people, so it doesn’t make sense to worry about not being good enough for the task. No one is; all we can do is keep working at it. I don’t think success is guaranteed, but working at it keeps the possibility of a solution alive, and I’m grateful to be able to do that.

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