PNoy: The man who once made me his ‘boss’

‘…. ibalik natin ‘yung kabutihan na ‘yon sa bayan’

The author (2nd from right) during a rally in 2022 presidential election (Contributed photo)

June 24, 2023, Saturday, marks the second death anniversary of former President Benigno S. Aquino III. Mass will be celebrated at his grave at 10 a.m. at Manila Memorial Park in Sucat, Parañaque.

Below is a remembrance of a 28-year-old Filipino.

Many knew former President Benigno S. Aquino III, or simply PNoy, as the son of two icons of democracy, Ninoy and Cory Aquino. In my case, however, I knew him more as the great man who once made me his “boss.”

I grew up in a politically neutral household, with the exception of my maternal grandmother, whom I have always known as an Aquino supporter. I remember her wanting to go to former President Cory Aquino’s funeral despite her not being able to walk properly without crutches. She and my mom ended up fighting because of this. “How are you going to force your way through the crowd in your condition?” I heard my mom scream in one of their arguments.

When PNoy decided to run for president, I remember watching his 2010 campaign intently with my lola. My lola and I would always bond over PNoy, and it actually became one of my fondest memories of her. She even encouraged me to volunteer for the Youth for Noy movement and to take part actively in the campaign. This may have also fueled my love for activism and socialism and marked the beginning of my political awakening and development.

I was 15 years old when PNoy was elected President. Now, I am neither an economist nor a political analyst, so I will never be able to provide an accurate analysis of his performance as a leader. He was not perfect, that I can say for certain. Like all the other presidents, past and present, he had his flaws and blunders. But l I know for a fact that he did his best and that he always had the country and the best interest of his “bosses” at heart. He appointed officials who were best at what they did. To serve was his number one priority—not just as an afterthought. And earning money was probably just a bonus for him. We were thriving as a nation back then, and it was the proudest I have ever been as a Filipino.

I remember in college, one of my professors at PUP encouraged us to work for the government and to serve the people with integrity and kindness. He reminded us: “’Yung pangulo natin pinagsisilbihan tayo nang maayos, nakakahiya kung hindi natin susuklian ‘yon, ibalik natin ‘yung kabutihan na ‘yon sa bayan (Our President is serving us uprightly. It would be a shame if we didn’t reciprocate and do good for the country).”

PNoy, without him knowing, had inspired not just me, but countless others to do better and be better

PNoy, without him knowing, had inspired not just me, but countless others to do better and be better. Back then, you could feel that people were inspired to work hard because they knew and could see where their hard-earned taxes were being spent. Activists and other critics were not afraid to voice out opinions and criticisms because they knew that the leader they were criticizing listened and would never wish or cause them harm—no matter how harsh and mean-spirited the criticisms were sometimes.

When I found out about PNoy’s death, my world was shaken. I was devastated. I really looked up to PNoy and in many ways, he was my hero. He made me believe things could be better for us genuinely. That there is still hope for the Philippines. That at the end of the day, despite what everyone says, sometimes, good intentions are indeed enough to make a difference.

The day PNoy died, the internet was alight with stories and anecdotes from people who were close to him or had a brief encounter with him—people whose lives he had touched in different ways. All these stories can be summed up easily in one sentence: behind all the power, fame, and wealth was a simple and humble man who championed honesty, integrity, and good governance.

While I have not had the chance myself to meet PNoy or even catch a glimpse of him in person despite volunteering during the 2010 campaign, there is a story I would like to share. This isn’t really a direct anecdote about him, but humor me.

I honestly did not expect his staff to entertain strangers, let alone provide these people with something to get them through the day

When our house was being renovated in 2019, my mom and I opted to stay in the Great Eastern Hotel (Aberdeen Court) instead of renting an apartment. The room we stayed in overlooked the Aquino home on Times Street. As there wasn’t anything else to do in the hotel room, I spent hours looking out the window, observing the dozens of people coming in and going out of PNoy’s home. But I also remember seeing seemingly ordinary citizens knocking outside and then a few minutes later, one of PNoy’s staff would come out and hand them a paper plate full of food, a couple of packed snacks, and a drink.

A house that is heavily guarded and is inaccessible to the public is something you would expect from a former President. I honestly did not expect his staff to entertain strangers, let alone provide these people with something to get them through the day. PNoy’s term was over by then, so these people were obviously not doing it for show. I was in awe of the kindness and generosity that the staff exhibited. Such an attitude can only be a reflection of the kind of person the man of the house was—generous, accessible, and down-to-earth. True to his Atenean upbringing, PNoy always exemplified through his actions what it meant to be a Man of God and a Man for Others.

In last year’s elections, I was given the chance to work on a project with Kiko Aquino-Dee, son of Viel Aquino-Dee and one of the nephews of PNoy, where we interviewed people and turned their testimonials into content to be shared on social media. In the final part of the interview, Kiko would ask the participants: “Ano ang pangarap mo para sa Pilipinas? (What is your dream for the Philippines?)”


The author, a volunteer with Kpop Stans 4 Good Governance, with Kiko Dee (Contributed photo)

Back then, everything was so depressing and bleak that the only thing I could dream of was to at least have a fair and fighting chance of preventing thieves and liars from returning to the ultimate seat of power.

But right now, as I write this piece and look back on PNoy’s leadership, I am once again reminded of my ultimate dream for the country, perhaps even the world. The kind of dream we failed to realize we were already living during PNoy’s presidency, the kind of dream we let pass us by.

This is the dream: the country’s problems are not gone, but the conditions have improved, and it is evident that the people in power genuinely want to solve and eradicate them; those who are very political and vocal about throwing criticisms against the government would not have to worry about being targeted, Red-tagged, or worse, jailed; and those who are disinterested in politics, or just wanted to take a break from it for a while, would not have to worry about perpetuating inequality and injustice through their apathy, because they trust that their leaders will always choose what is best for the people.

Today, this dream seems so distant, merely a bleak mirage of the past. I guess it is true that only when we lose someone or something do we come to realize its importance. Such is the irony of life. But I am not losing hope. None of us should. To quote PNoy himself, “…God has a plan for all us and this will take place in His time. Keep the faith, know that this is just a phase.”

And to that I say: I cannot wait until this phase of our history is over and this dream of mine for our country becomes our reality once more.

About author


The author, 28, is a fraud analyst by profession and an artist by passion. She has an unhealthy addiction to K-pop comics, books and video games. In her free time, she volunteers for K-pop Stans 4 Good Governance and Angat Buhay Bayanihan E-Konsulta.

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