PNoy’s gift to us on his birthday

Hindi niya hinayaan masilaw siya ng yaman at kapangyarihan’

In 2016, President Aquino in one of his last media interviews in the Palace (Contributed photo)
PNoy’s birthday

In January 2015, President Aquino welcomes Pope Francis to Malacanan Palace. (Photo by T. Sioson)

Nephew Kiko Aquino-Dee on his uncle’s advice in the year before his death

It is only in death that the character and values of the late President Benigno Aquino III are retrieved and dissected by people young and old, rich and poor. Such is the irony of Philippine politics, indeed of life.

Noynoy Aquino or PNoy, as he has come to be called, would have turned 63 last February 8, and as the country marked his birthday barely two years after his death,  not only are people beginning to remember how he turned around the Philippines to be the Rising Tiger of Asia and brought stability to a country weighed down by corruption, they are also missing the decent man that he was, his hard honest work, and the moral fortitude he summoned to govern an ungovernable country. All this, he did in quiet fashion (to his disadvantage eventually, many now say), without the usual trapo/troll drum roll.

But then, he could have been right—that it was not for him to post and repost his legacy, it was for the people to do so, and ultimately, for God, as he’d sometimes say. Indeed that must be what is happening.

Netizens now speak out about how it was in PNoy’s time.

PNoy’s birthday

PNoy’s birthday

“We’re grateful to God that money and power didn’t get to Noynoy. I’m a personal witness to this gift of God to him” said Fr. Jose Ramon “Jett” Villarin, SJ, in his homily in the online Mass to mark Noynoy’s 63rd birth anniversary last February 8. Father Villarin was a classmate of Noynoy at Ateneo de Manila University and was a spiritual counselor to him. “Humility doesn’t come easy to those with wealth and power.”

He added, “Nagpapasalamat ako na hindi niya hinayaan masilaw siya ng yaman at kapangyarihan sa kanyang pamumuno at buhay (I am grateful that he didn’t allow himself to be blinded by money and power, in his governance and in his life).

“Ang pinakaligaya ng taong ito ay ang makapagbigay ligaya sa kanyang kapwa Filipino, lalong lalo na sa mga dehado sa buhay (His source of happiness was to give happiness to his fellowmen, especially to those disadvantaged in life).”

Father Villarin echoed the day’s gospel teaching on how man is “of the earth bound by dust. It is by the breath of God alone that we live,” as applied to Noynoy’s worldly life—“Siguro alam din niya na siya’s hango sa lupa, hindi nalalayo ang tao sa lupa (Most likely he knew how he was of this earth).”

The Jesuit admonished: “Madalas makaligtaan ng tao… lalo na yan malatuko kumapit sa yaman, kapangyarihan, na hindi naman sa kanila (People often forget…especially those who cling to wealth and power that wasn’t theirs to begin with).

“There’s nothing more tragic than this self-appropriation and self-deception…There’s nothing more humbling than to realize that we are dust, and to dust we shall return…. Isinaloob ni Noy ang pagkaugat niya sa lupa (Noy internalized how he was of this earth) …. At dasal pa tayo na dumami pa sila na nakaugat sa lupa (Let’s pray that there will be more of those who are rooted on earth).”

Father Villarin reiterated another Gospel message: “Our dependence on the very breath of God summons us to respect the life of God in our own lives.” Then he talked of the then and now, referring not only to the pandemic and also the recent years: “Ninakawan tayo ng respeto sa sarili, sa kapwa. Nawalan ng galang. Nauso ang gaspang at kawalan pitagan, pag-iralin ang panglilinglang (We were robbed of self-respect and respect for the other. Loss of respect. Crassness and deceit ruled). When we separate ourselves from the breath of God, we die.”

He said that “real evil takes hold in those places in our heart when there’s no respect for truth, for love.” He admonished that we remember “to breathe the same breath that inspired him (Noynoy) to treat people with respect, that befits the dignity of the person created in the likeness of God.”

Earlier, in the morning of February 8, Fr. Tito Caluag celebrated Mass at the gravesite of Noynoy, attended by his family, his former Cabinet officials, and friends. Father Caluag’s beautiful and heartfelt homily arose from the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish. “It is in moment of human scarcity that the abundance of God’s grace comes to the rescue.”

He shared his belief that “there’s a new mission to begin to recommit ourselves to the work of freedom.”

He looked back on 2010, a moment of crisis for the Philippine society “(that was) into a spiral of decay,” and compared that turning point into our modern-day equivalent of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish. He remembered the day he heard on the radio, during his commute on SLEX, the news that Noynoy would run for the presidency. He distinctly heard an interview with the man on the street; the man said, “Pwede na naman mangarap muli…these were moments of hope we experienced, not just imagined.”

‘…The decency which Noy showed us possible in our lifetime’

He added, “We must continue the grace of those moments, to revisit all these moments as we build a society that’s closer to the kingdom of God, a society of justice, equality, truth…. The decency which Noy showed us possible in our lifetime.”

He went back to the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish: “Unless we bring our poverty to the Lord, a miracle will not take place…Noy brought his poverty to the Lord to allow a miracle to take place… We must allow God’s miracle to work once more.”

February 8 was a day of uplifting news on a parched earth. It was PNoy’s very gift to us on his birthday.

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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